Bridging the Theory/Practice Gap in Policing: ‘What Matters’ versus ‘What Works’ in Evidence-Based Practice and Organizational Learning

Tomkins, Leah (2020). Bridging the Theory/Practice Gap in Policing: ‘What Matters’ versus ‘What Works’ in Evidence-Based Practice and Organizational Learning. CPRL.

Abstract

This research paper exposes differences between the theory and the application of EBP. Whilst the preeminent academic literature considers EBP to be a ‘broad church’ of approaches and framings, understandings in practice seem to be somewhat narrower. The paper highlights some of the implications of this gap for organizational learning at MPS.

We suggest that the catchy ‘what works’ slogan may be distorting efforts to improve organizational learning by downplaying culture, context, values and emotions, not least because ‘what works’ is often short-hand for ‘what works everywhere’, i.e., ‘one size fits all’.

We draw on Punch (2015) to argue that learning from ‘what matters’ is equally important in policing; and we illustrate why focusing on ‘what matters’ is necessary with two vignettes from the MPS front-line.

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