CACP Bulletin

Summer 2015

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6 CACP Summer 2015 P rofessionals in police services make crucial decisions every day that balance needs with available resources. How should they approach these decisions, and how can they justify the decisions they make? In their manual The Right Decision: Evidence-based Decision Making for Police Service Professionals, authors Paul Maxim, Len Garis, Darryl Plecas and Mona Davies explore the what, why and how of evidence-based decision making. The manual and companion workbook were commissioned by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police Research Foundation, and are the second title in the Right Decision series on evidence-based decision making. The authors bring extensive research and industry experience to the topic: Maxim, a Professor in the Department of Economics and Balsillie School of International Affairs at Wilfrid Laurier University, is a well known researcher in the area of criminology and other topics; Garis, an Adjunct Professor at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV), Fire Chief for the City of Surrey and Past President of the Fire Chiefs' Association of British Columbia, focuses on addressing public safety challenges through evidence- based decision making and innovation; Plecas, Professor Emeritus and former head of the UFV's School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, is a renowned researcher and authority on public safety and criminology issues; and Mona Davies is a legal analyst with a background in both the private and public sector. "While understanding the invaluable role of police services, both the public and municipal leaders are asking that significant decisions be based on hard evidence," the authors note in the manual. "The days are gone—if, indeed, they ever existed—where government and taxpayers take a request for more equipment and more personnel at face value." Published in February 2015, The Right Decision strips evidence-based decision making down to the basics, providing police professionals with an effective tool to help them justify a particular approach or choice. Readers are guided through the process of finding and using the information needed to make evidence-based decisions, and then positioning their decisions in a way that will convince others of their merit. Policing examples sprinkled throughout the chapters help to link the concepts to the real world. The authors make a strong case for taking an evidence-based approach to making decisions, pointing out that policies and programs that are not guided by sound evidence frequently cost too much, waste resources and yield poor or unknown results. As well, those in charge of approving police budgets may not support requests that lack compelling evidence. On the other hand, evidence-based decisions often produce better results, which can increase organizations' credibility and support. ORIGIN OF EVIDENCE-BASED APPROACHES The manual traces the origins of today's evidence-based approaches back to the 1980s, when the government of the United Kingdom, faced with significant financial challenges, started to emphasize the need to support policies and best practices with hard data and research. It was felt at the time that decision makers were wasting resources by basing their decisions on personal preferences, traditional practices and trendy ideas. The resulting evidence-based approach influenced many other fields, including the health sciences, where researchers could directly link poor practices to increased levels of harm for patients. But in trying to apply the research to improve outcomes, health care practitioners encountered numerous challenges, including trying to shift entrenched attitudes and behaviours while staying current with the latest research, creating change in the face of evolving technology and budget constraints, and inspiring system-wide support for a new vision. Ultimately, the emerging lesson was that despite the obstacles, things can be improved. Improvements will come over time through a succession of actions, but people should not wait to solve everything to improve some things. They should also be modest and realistic about their insights and abilities. Most of all, nothing will change in the absence of informed action – which is where evidence-based decision making comes in. These are all lessons that are relevant in today's policing environment. MAKING GOOD DECISIONS People make decisions all the time in their private and profes- sional lives. These decisions are mostly based on what they have learned in their training, on conventional wisdom, or on traditional practices. Often, questioning common practice only leads to rediscovering the wheel. MAKING BETTER DECISIONS: Book promotes evidence-based approach By Len Garis and Bob Downie

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