Improving Policing: A Problem-Oriented Approach

25 Crime and Delinquency 236 (1979)

Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1336

24 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2014 Last revised: 30 Jan 2015

See all articles by Herman Goldstein

Herman Goldstein

University of Wisconsin Law School


The police have been particularly susceptible to the "means over ends" syndrome, placing more emphasis in their improvement efforts on organization and operating methods than on the substantive outcome of their work. This condition has been fed by the professional movement within the police field, with its concentration on the staffing, management, and organization of police agencies. More and more persons are questioning the widely held assumption that improvements in the internal management of police departments will enable the police to deal more effectively with the problems they are called upon to handle. If the police are to realize a greater return on the investment made in improving their operations, and if they are to mature as a profession, they must concern themselves more directly with the end product of their efforts. Meeting this need requires that the police develop a more systematic process for examining and addressing the problems that the public expects them to handle. It requires identifying these problems in more precise terms, researching each problem, documenting the nature of the current police response, assessing its adequacy and the adequacy of existing authority and resources, engaging in a broad exploration of alternatives to present responses, weighing the merits of these alternatives, and choosing from among them.

Improvements in staffing, organization, and management remain important, but they should be achieved - and may, in fact, be more achievable - within the context of a more direct concern with the outcome of policing.

Keywords: Police authority, Policing, Law Enforcement, Problem-oriented

Suggested Citation

Goldstein, Herman, Improving Policing: A Problem-Oriented Approach. 25 Crime and Delinquency 236 (1979), Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1336, Available at SSRN:

Herman Goldstein (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin Law School ( email )

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