Policing and Public Health — Strategies for Collaboration
By Prof Jon Shepherd and Dr Steve sumner
Policing and public health have largely been perceived by clinicians, researchers, and policy makers as 2 entirely separate approaches to reducing violence. This long-standing tradition, reinforced by the different languages of criminal justice systems (eg, deterrence, culpability, victimhood, and offending) and public health systems (eg, injury, risk factors, and epidemiology), has perhaps contributed to limited collaboration between local law enforcement agencies and public health to prevent violence. It has also probably limited collaboration between criminologists and population health researchers relative to other cross-discipline areas such as road traffic safety, prisoner health, and prevention of substance abuse.
Yet the safety of populations and individuals is a chief concern of both policing and public health. Furthermore, both citizens and law enforcement officials experience morbidity and mortality from violence, and policing actions can directly affect the provision of public health services.1 In light of the need for improved multisector efforts to prevent violence, there have been calls for greater collaboration between the various disciplines that are tasked to prevent and respond to violence. However, most health professionals have limited knowledge about the rationale for partnership between the health sector and police, and how this might be done. This Viewpoint discusses strategies for such work.
Based on the discovery that official police reports contain limited information about the precise nature of each homicide, homicide review commissions have emerged in some US cities over the past 2 decades, although the number and extent of such partnerships have not been quantified.2 These multisector boards, which are often convened by mayoral offices or police departments and which can include health professionals, review each homicide death. Based on the detailed knowledge that emerges, they seek to devise locally relevant prevention strategies.