Problem Solving Checklists

Towards Checklists to Reduce Common Sources of Problem-Solving Failure


Policing (2012) DOI: 10.1093/police/par054


Aiden Sidebottom, Nick Tilley, and John E. Eck

Problem solving is widely advocated in contemporary policing and crime prevention. Despite its appeal, carrying out effective problem solving is a complex and challenging task. Much can go wrong. Hence difficulties and failures are often encountered. Such types of problem are not unique to policing and crime prevention. They are also often avoidable. In other substantive fields for problem solving, the formulation and use of well-designed, evidence-based checklists have been found helpful in managing complexity, reducing error, and improving outcomes. While checklists are already employed in policing and crime prevention, there is no evidence that they have been developed and evaluated for outcome effectiveness in the same systematic manner as observed recently in allied fields, although we argue they could be. Drawing on cognate developments in sister areas of practice, notably health, this article provides examples of checklists whose systematic further development, piloting and application could inform improvements to the delivery of various aspects of problem-oriented policing and thereby also its outcome effectiveness.

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