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Community Problem Solving (CmPS)

Community Problem Solving

Ever Thought About Making a Difference in Your Community?

Community Problem Solving (CmPS) bridges the gap between school and the real world.

Students involved in CmPS learn powerful lessons about creating change, about dealing with local authorities and organizations, and about making a positive impact.

What is Community Problem Solving (CmPS)?

By providing a framework to move beyond traditional service learning, students apply the problem solving process to identify and address local, state, national or global issues that result in measurable outcomes. Projects may focus on categories such as Civic and Cultural Issues, Education, Environment, Health Concerns, and Human Services. The top projects are invited to the International Conference each year in June.

Community Problem Solving

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Learn More About CmPS Here

Future Problem Solving students from more than 37 states and 14 countries .

Over 250,000 students globally have participated in the last decade!

Promotes Written and Verbal communication skills.


How to Solve Problems

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To bring the best ideas forward, teams must build psychological safety.

Teams today aren’t just asked to execute tasks: They’re called upon to solve problems. You’d think that many brains working together would mean better solutions, but the reality is that too often problem-solving teams fall victim to inefficiency, conflict, and cautious conclusions. The two charts below will help your team think about how to collaborate better and come up with the best solutions for the thorniest challenges.

First, think of the last time you had to solve a problem. Maybe it was a big one: A major trade route is blocked and your product is time sensitive and must make it to market on time. Maybe it was a small one: A traffic jam on your way to work means you’re going to be late for your first meeting of the day. Whatever the size of the impact, in solving your problem you moved through five stages, according to “ Why Groups Struggle to Solve Problems Together ,” by Al Pittampalli.

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Pittampalli finds that most of us, when working individually, move through these stages intuitively. It’s different when you’re working in a team, however. You need to stop and identify these different stages to make sure the group is aligned. For example, while one colleague might join a problem-solving discussion ready to evaluate assumptions (Stage 3), another might still be defining the problem (Stage 1). By defining each stage of your problem-solving explicitly, you increase the odds of your team coming to better solutions more smoothly.

This problem-solving technique gains extra power when applied to Alison Reynold’s and David Lewis’ research on problem-solving teams. In their article, “ The Two Traits of the Best Problem-Solving Teams ,” they find that highly effective teams typically have a pair of common features: They are cognitively diverse and they are psychologically safe. They also exhibit an array of characteristics associated with learning and confidence; these teammates tend to be curious, experimental, and nurturing, for example.

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As you and your colleagues consider these ideas, think about the last problem you had to solve as a team. First, map out what you remember from each step of your problem-solving. Were all of you on the same page at each stage? What aspects of the problem did you consider — or might you have missed — as a result? What can you do differently the next time you have a problem to solve? Second, ask where your team sees themselves on the chart. What kinds of behaviors could your team adopt to help you move into that top-right quadrant?

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Problem Solving Resources

Case studies, problem solving related topics.

What is Problem Solving?.

Quality Glossary Definition: Problem solving

Problem solving is the act of defining a problem; determining the cause of the problem; identifying, prioritizing, and selecting alternatives for a solution; and implementing a solution.

Problem Solving visual

Problem Solving Chart

The Problem-Solving Process

In order to effectively manage and run a successful organization, leadership must guide their employees and develop problem-solving techniques. Finding a suitable solution for issues can be accomplished by following the basic four-step problem-solving process and methodology outlined below.

1. Define the problem

Diagnose the situation so that your focus is on the problem, not just its symptoms. Helpful problem-solving techniques include using flowcharts to identify the expected steps of a process and cause-and-effect diagrams to define and analyze root causes .

The sections below help explain key problem-solving steps. These steps support the involvement of interested parties, the use of factual information, comparison of expectations to reality, and a focus on root causes of a problem. You should begin by:

2. Generate alternative solutions

Postpone the selection of one solution until several problem-solving alternatives have been proposed. Considering multiple alternatives can significantly enhance the value of your ideal solution. Once you have decided on the "what should be" model, this target standard becomes the basis for developing a road map for investigating alternatives. Brainstorming and team problem-solving techniques are both useful tools in this stage of problem solving.

Many alternative solutions to the problem should be generated before final evaluation. A common mistake in problem solving is that alternatives are evaluated as they are proposed, so the first acceptable solution is chosen, even if it’s not the best fit. If we focus on trying to get the results we want, we miss the potential for learning something new that will allow for real improvement in the problem-solving process.

3. Evaluate and select an alternative

Skilled problem solvers use a series of considerations when selecting the best alternative. They consider the extent to which:

4. Implement and follow up on the solution

Leaders may be called upon to direct others to implement the solution, "sell" the solution, or facilitate the implementation with the help of others. Involving others in the implementation is an effective way to gain buy-in and support and minimize resistance to subsequent changes.

Regardless of how the solution is rolled out, feedback channels should be built into the implementation. This allows for continuous monitoring and testing of actual events against expectations. Problem solving, and the techniques used to gain clarity, are most effective if the solution remains in place and is updated to respond to future changes.

You can also search articles , case studies , and publications  for problem solving resources.

Innovative Business Management Using TRIZ

Introduction To 8D Problem Solving: Including Practical Applications and Examples

The Quality Toolbox

Root Cause Analysis: The Core of Problem Solving and Corrective Action

One Good Idea: Some Sage Advice ( Quality Progress ) The person with the problem just wants it to go away quickly, and the problem-solvers also want to resolve it in as little time as possible because they have other responsibilities. Whatever the urgency, effective problem-solvers have the self-discipline to develop a complete description of the problem.

Diagnostic Quality Problem Solving: A Conceptual Framework And Six Strategies  ( Quality Management Journal ) This paper contributes a conceptual framework for the generic process of diagnosis in quality problem solving by identifying its activities and how they are related.

Weathering The Storm ( Quality Progress ) Even in the most contentious circumstances, this approach describes how to sustain customer-supplier relationships during high-stakes problem solving situations to actually enhance customer-supplier relationships.

The Right Questions ( Quality Progress ) All problem solving begins with a problem description. Make the most of problem solving by asking effective questions.

Solving the Problem ( Quality Progress ) Brush up on your problem-solving skills and address the primary issues with these seven methods.

Refreshing Louisville Metro’s Problem-Solving System  ( Journal for Quality and Participation ) Organization-wide transformation can be tricky, especially when it comes to sustaining any progress made over time. In Louisville Metro, a government organization based in Kentucky, many strategies were used to enact and sustain meaningful transformation.


Quality Improvement Associate Certification--CQIA

Certified Quality Improvement Associate Question Bank

Lean Problem-Solving Tools

Problem Solving Using A3

NEW   Root Cause Analysis E-Learning

Quality 101

Making the Connection In this exclusive QP webcast, Jack ReVelle, ASQ Fellow and author, shares how quality tools can be combined to create a powerful problem-solving force.

Adapted from The Executive Guide to Improvement and Change , ASQ Quality Press.

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One Community

10 Community Problems and 10 Solutions

We all live and interact in communities of various sizes. Our towns and cities are the communities most people think of, but we also work in communities, go to school and/or take our kids to schools that have their own community structures, and we usually belong to various social and recreational communities too. As a person and parent living on this planet of finite resources, I’m very focused on solutions and approaches that make our communities more sustainable. As the Director of the One Community Global nonprofit , I’m also interested in community solutions that can be applied globally.

With this in mind, here are 10 common community problems and 10 solutions. If you’d like information on how One Community is integrating these into ultra-sustainable communities that will function as self-sufficient and self-replicating teacher/demonstration hubs , click the related icons.


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Duplicable food infrastructure designed to produce food that is grown on-site. Food grown this way will be fresher and can be produced without pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. In addition, it will be more diverse than what people find in the grocery store because it is grown as part of our open source botanical garden model .


highest good energy, off-grid energy, solar power, wind power, water power, energy efficiency, hydronic, electricity, power, fuel, energy storage

Duplicable energy infrastructure including solar , wind , and hydro to help people eliminate their power bills and be a source of revenue for those still connected to the grid. Also, built to evolve and grow with the evolution and expansion of new technologies too.


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If the above plugin doesn't allow fullscreen, try a different browser. If that or anything else still isn't working for you, you can download a copy of the above book here:  Book PDF download (128 MB)


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Duplicable education models designed for all ages, built to exceed traditional educational standards, and modifiable for application in a homeschooling environment, a traditional schooling environment, or for use as a complete community-based private schooling program.


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Duplicable social architecture and recreation models built within “ True Community ” and designed to provide a more enriching and fulfilling living experience . All on-site, freely available, and providing more activity diversity than most metropolitan areas.


Highest Good for-profit economics, Highest Good non-profit economics, open source business, One Community entrepreneurial model, making money at One Community, sustainable business

Duplicable for-profit and non-profit business infrastructure that prioritizes cooperation and collaboration over competition. Resource based economy application and a model for sharing it globally .


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Duplicable “Highest Good” approaches to all aspects of life . This includes community and individually applicable lifestyle considerations and small and large-scale recycling, reuse, and repurposing options for all areas: paper , plastic , glass , polystyrene/styrofoam , clothing/cloth , food and other perishable items , and even non-recyclables .


Transportation is another common community challenge. It includes cost of ownership and maintenance, parking and other space needs, and vehicle contributions to the climate crisis. Co-ownership, ride sharing, alternative transportation (bike, scooter, moped, etc.), and public transportation are all common solutions to this. The larger the community participating, the more effective and convenient these solutions all are.

DIY duplicable housing infrastructure designed to demonstrate community and localized living with almost everything a person needs or would want within walking distance. Models like these will eliminate the need for regular car use, but everyone will still have access to a car anytime they need or want one.


Values differences are arguably the most destructive community challenge. Religion, politics, lifestyle preferences, dietary preferences, how to raise kids, pets, etc. can all be areas where people passionately differ in their opinions and perspectives. If unresolvable conflicts are arising, your values differences may not be sustainable. One way to address this is to choose to focus on the areas you agree. A second way is to be more transparent with your values and primarily build community with others who share them.

Duplicable and adaptable values structures based on compassion, kindness, and what we call living and creating for “ The Highest Good of All .”

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Almost everyone can look at the list above and see something they would like to implement but find really challenging. Some would even like to implement all of these ideas, but how? Local, national, and global communities are the answer. Groups of people will find it easier to implement these solutions, even the individual ones. Find a group or start one, there are so many resources out there and every action makes a difference. The bigger the community, the bigger the difference.

Click these icons if you’d like to learn more about our community :

One Community Purpose, Mission, Vision, and Values Page


Jae Sabol - One Community Executive Director




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One Community’s Principles to Success

"In order to change an existing paradigm you do not struggle to try and change the problematic model. You create a new model and make the old one obsolete. That, in essence, is the higher service to which we are all being called."

~ Buckminster Fuller ~

One Community Global, One Community logo, open source sustainability, sustainable living, green living, eco-village creation, Highest Good of All, sustainable housing, sustainable energy, sustainable economics, sustainable energy, sustainable education, sustainable stewardship, earthbag village, straw bale village, aircrete village, cob village, compressed earth block village, shipping container village, recycled materials village, tree house village, earthbag construction, straw bale construction, aircrete construction, cob construction, compressed earth block construction, shipping container construction, recycled materials construction, tree house construction, earthbag housing, straw bale housing, aircrete housing, cob housing, compressed earth block housing, shipping container housing, recycled materials housing, tree house housing, sustainable living, green living, eco-village construction, community living

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2009 Senior Grand Champion

Pecatonica High School

Blanchardville, Wisconsin

A survey showed that an alarming number of our high school students engaged in risky driving behavior. Our project DRIVE – Driving Responsibly In Vehicles Everywhere - aimed to increase driving safety in our student population. Events included a DRIVE Day with a speaker and activities that showed students how certain behaviors can affect one’s ability to concentrate while driving. We also taught students at the elementary school the importance of being a good passenger and buckling up. Our final event involved more speakers and a mock accident staged with the help of local emergency services and law enforcement agencies.  

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2008 Senior 2nd Place

Luxemburg-Casco High Sch

Luxemburg, Wisconsin

To honor Luxemburg’s Centennial, our team transformed our outdated, unsafe, and rarely-used village park into an inviting location for family recreation. We demolished old park equipment, spread two semi loads of mulch beneath new equipment, built ten children’s picnic tables, painted recycling barrels, and constructed park benches and a project sign. We constructed a fire truck climbing toy, painted the older play equipment and the park shelter, and sealed/painted the basketball court. We obtained funding for new lighting and a security camera. In May, we encouraged public participation with our second “Music in the Park” event.  

community for problem solving

Community Problem Solving (CmPS)

What is Community Problem Solving?

Community Problem Solving (CmPS) is a team or individual activity in which students identify real problems in their school or community and implement real solutions.  Students use the steps and skills of the problem solving process from the Future Problem Solving Program as they work on their project.  However, since real life is not always as organized as an academic exercise, the process may not proceed neatly from step one through step six.  Also, projects may not be completely wrapped up by the time they must be submitted, and some projects may even take more than one year.

Why Community Problem Solving?

Today’s students will be running the world in the 21st century.  What better way to prepare them than by teaching them to think systematically about problematic situations, to gather information to understand the situation, and to evaluate multiple solutions in order to best address the situation?  Students involved in Community Problem Solving learn very powerful lessons about creating change, about dealing with local authorities and organizations, and about making an impact.  The implementation of real solutions gives students a strong sense of accomplishment, and helps them to see the practical applications of the processes and skills that they have been learning.

How do students participate in Community Problem Solving?

Individuals or teams of any size may participate in Community Problem Solving in three divisions: Junior (grades 4-6), Middle (grades 7-9), and Senior (grades 10-12).  For a team, you may want at least 3 or 4 students, and for large projects groups of up to 15 are possible.  You may have more than 15 students involved; however, please note that a maximum of 15 students may participate in the CmPS competition at the International Conference if the team qualifies. Since CmPS projects are long-term activities, lasting up to a year or more, students need to be committed to following through with the activity.  Complex projects may take quite a bit of organization, with tasks divided among the participants.  Having a background in the Global Issues competition or curricular components of FPS is a great start for students in CmPS, but it is not required.  If they have not been involved with FPS, students do need to be taught the problem solving process as part of their community problem solving experience.  

How can I get started with my students?

Training in the problem solving process is important for coaches of Community Problem Solving groups. Workshops are usually scheduled for fall in Wisconsin. (Please call March-September for more information.) If you are not able to attend a training workshop, resources are available to help you “train yourself.” Check the sales page under Coaches for essential publications available from fpspimart.org. Publications for Global Issues Problem Solving teach the problem solving process. You will also find publications for CmPS. Also download the CmPS information on the Registration and Fees page.  If you wish, we can put you in touch with other adults who have coached CmPS groups and have taken teams to both State Bowl and the International Conference.

See REGISTRATION & FEES for project information and entry forms

How do I register students for Community Problem Solving?

CmPS Coach and Project information, entry forms and due dates are available on the Registration and Fees page. Wisconsin also has a supplement to the project requirements. Contact [email protected] for this information. Let the office know if you would like to be put in touch with an experienced CmPS coach. The entry fee is submitted along with the entry materials, which must include a written report, addendum pages, and a scrapbook as described in the CmPS materials. The postmark date is in mid to late February. Students may continue to work on their projects after the initial submission date.

How are community problems evaluated?

CmPS projects are read by a state evaluator in early March.  The aspects considered are the written report (overview of the project, implementation of the action plan, and project outcomes), the addendum, and the scrapbook.  Winning individuals and teams in each division are invited to attend the opening ceremony of the State Bowl to set up a visual display and give an oral presentation about the project.  First place projects with enough points may qualify for the International Conference; this determination is made by the CmPS evaluation coordinator.  High quality second place projects may sometimes be submitted to the international office for an additional consideration .

Problem Solving Process

Develop an Area of Concern

1 - Identify Challenges

2 - Select an Underlying Problem

3 - Produce Solution Ideas

4/5 - Use Criteria to Evaluate Solution Ideas

6 - Develop an Action Plan

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Home Publications Professional Learning Community: Improving Mathematical Problem Solving for Students in Grades 4 through 8

Professional Learning Community: Improving Mathematical Problem Solving for Students in Grades 4 through 8

REL Southeast developed this facilitator's guide on the topic of mathematical problem solving for use in professional learning community (PLC) settings. The facilitator's guide is a set of professional development materials designed to supplement the What Works Clearinghouse practice guide, Improving Mathematical Problem Solving in Grades 4 Through 8 (Woodward et al., 2012). The practice guide provides research-based recommendations for teachers to incorporate into their classroom practice. The facilitator's guide is designed to complement and extend the practice guide by providing teachers in a PLC setting with additional, step-by-step guidance for the best ways to implement some of these evidence-based recommendations.The facilitator's guide focuses on three of the five recommendations from the mathematics problem solving practice guide to ensure in-depth coverage of the topics and to provide ample practice opportunities and time for reflection. The three practice guide recommendations on which the facilitator's guide is based are: teach students how to use visual representations (Recommendation 3), expose students to multiple problem-solving strategies (Recommendation 4), and help students recognize and articulate mathematical concepts and notation (Recommendation 5). REL Southeast chose these three recommendations because they are interrelated and include critical content to address the two high-leverage regional needs communicated by the Improving Mathematics Instruction Research Alliance which include improving classroom discourse in mathematics and enhancing students' mathematical problem-solving skills. [This report was prepared with assistance from John Woodward. For the companion piece, "Professional Learning Community: Improving Mathematical Problem Solving for Students in Grades 4 through 8. Participant's Activities," see ED595203.]

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Southeast | Publication Type: Tool | Publication Date: January 2019

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Chapter 3 Sections

Communities have problems, just like people

Problems are part of life. We all deal with individual problems, families have family issues, and communities have community problems. Communities must come together to solve their problems, just like families.

When communities try to solve problems, they start just like individuals do. They must reflect and analyze the issue to help come to a solution. But, before discussing solutions, problems must be identified.

So, after discussing a little bit about what problems look like, this section will explain what analyzing community problems is about, why it can be helpful, and then how to do it.

What is a community problem?

Problems can arise in any part of a community and come from any aspect of community life. There's a long list of nominees, and you probably know some of the main contenders. Can you name the leading problems in your community? Chances are you can at least start the list.

Below are examples of community problems:

Example Community Problems: Adolescent pregnancy, access to clean drinking water, child abuse and neglect, crime, domestic violence, drug use, pollution, mismanagement of resources, lack of funding for schools and services, ethnic conflict, health disparities, HIV/ AIDS, hunger, inadequate emergency services, inequality, jobs, lack of affordable housing, poverty,  transportation, violence, racism and police brutality.

What others would you add?

Rather than aim for a complete problem list, here are some criteria you may consider when identifying community problems:

This last criterion, perception, is an important one, and can also help indicate readiness for addressing the issue within the community.

What is seen as a problem can vary from place to place and group to group in the same community. Although there's no official definition of a community problem, the above examples and criteria above should help you begin to name and analyze community problems.

Why should I analyze a community problem?

Analyzing community problems is a way of thinking carefully about a problem or issue before acting on a solution. It first involves identifying reasons a problem exists and then, identifying possible solutions and a plan for improvement.

Example: The downtown area of a community is declining. Stores are closing, and moving out; no new stores are moving in. We want to revitalize that downtown. How should we do it?

Our thinking here is simple:

Starting with an analysis can help…

To better identify what the problem or issue is.

Kids gather on the street. Sometimes they drink, and sometimes, they get rowdy. What is the problem here? The drinking, the rowdiness, the gathering itself? Or, is it possible that kids have nowhere else to go and few positive alternatives for engagement? Before looking for solutions, you would want to clarify just what is the problem (or problems) here. Unless you are clear, it's hard to move forward.

Problems are usually symptoms of something else. What is that something? We should find out.

To determine the barriers and resources associated with addressing the problem.

It's good practice and planning to anticipate barriers and obstacles before they might arise. By doing so, you can mitigate them. Analyzing community problems can also help you understand the resources you need. The better equipped you are with the right resources and support, the higher your chances of success.

To develop the best action steps for addressing the problem.

Having a plan of action is always better than taking a few random shots at the problem. If you know where you are going, you are more likely to get there.

Having a deeper understanding of a problem before you start trying to solve it helps you cover all of your bases. There's nothing worse for member involvement and morale than beginning to work on a problem, and running up against lots of obstacles, especially when they are avoidable.

When you take a little time to examine a problem first, you can anticipate some of these obstacles before they come up, and give yourself and your members better odds of coming up with a successful solution.

When should I analyze a community problem?

Every community problem benefits from analysis. The only possible exception is when the problem is an immediate crisis that requires action at this very moment . And even then, reviews should be conducted after to help plan for the next crisis.

However, there are conditions when an analysis is especially critical:

How should I analyze a community problem?

The ultimate goal is to understand the problem better and to deal with it more effectively, so the method you choose should accomplish that goal. We'll offer some step-by-step guidelines here and go over a couple of specific ways to determine the causes of the problem.

1. Justify the choice of the problem .

Apply the criteria we’ve listed above – frequency, duration, range, severity, equity, perception – as well as asking yourself whether your organization or another can address it effectively, in order to decide whether the problem is one that you should focus on.

Let’s take the problem we used as an example earlier: The percentage of overweight and obese children in the community has been steadily increasing, and now approaches 25%. Since we know that childhood obesity tends to lead to adult obesity, and that obesity and being overweight are linked to chronic conditions – diabetes, heart disease, stroke – this is a problem that needs to be addressed now. Our organization has the will and the ability to do it.

2. Frame the problem .

State the problem without implying a solution or blaming anyone , so that you can analyze it without any assumptions and build consensus around whatever solution you arrive at.  One way is to state it in terms of a lack of a positive behavior, condition, or other factor, or  the presence or size of a negative behavior, condition, or other factor.

There are too many children in the community who are overweight or obese. The problem is particularly serious among low-income families.

3. Identify whose behavior and/or what and how environmental factors need to change for the problem to begin to be solved.

This can be as straightforward as individuals changing their behavior from smoking to not smoking, or as complex as persuading legislators to change laws and policies (e.g., non-smoking ordinances) in order to change others’ behavior (smokers don’t smoke in buildings or enclosed spaces used by the public) in order to benefit yet another group by changing the environment (children are protected from secondhand smoke in public.)

All, and particularly low-income, children should have the opportunity and the motivation to eat more healthily and exercise more. Parents may need to change their children’s – and perhaps their own – diets, and schools may need to adjust their lunch programs and exercise schedules. In low-income neighborhoods, there needs to be greater access to healthy food and more safe places for children to play or participate in sports, both outdoors and indoors.

4. Analyze the root causes of the problem.

The real cause of a problem may not be immediately apparent.  It may be a function of a social or political system, or may be rooted in a behavior or situation that may at first glance seem unrelated to it. In order to find the underlying cause, you may have to use one or more analytical methods, including critical thinking and the “But Why?” technique .

Very briefly, the latter consists of stating the problem as you perceive it and asking “But why?” The next step is to answer that question as well as you can and then asking again, “But why?” By continuing this process until you get an answer that can’t be reduced further, you can often get to the underlying cause of the problem, which will tell you where to direct your efforts to solve it.

The difference between recognizing a problem and finding its root cause is similar to the difference between a doctor’s treating the symptoms of a disease and actually curing the disease. Once a disease is understood well enough to cure, it is often also understood well enough to prevent or eliminate. Similarly, once you understand the root causes of a community problem, you may be able not only to solve it, but to establish systems or policies that prevent its return.

There are too many children in the community who are overweight or obese . The problem is particularly serious among low-income families. (But why?) Because many low-income children don’t eat a healthy diet and don’t exercise enough. (But why?) Because their parents, in many cases, don’t have the knowledge of what a healthy diet consists of, and because, even if they did, they lack access in their neighborhoods to healthy foods – no supermarkets, produce markets, farmers’ markets, or restaurants serving healthy food – and therefore shop at convenience stores and eat out at fast food places. Kids don’t play outside because it’s too dangerous – gang activity and drug dealing make the street no place for children. (But why?) Parents may never have been exposed to information about healthy food – they simply don’t have the knowledge. Market owners view low-income neighborhoods as unprofitable and dangerous places to do business. The streets are dangerous because there are few job opportunities in the community, and young men turn to making money in any way possible. By this point, you should have a fair understanding of why kids don’t eat healthily or get enough exercise. As you continue to question, you may begin to think about advocacy with local officials for incentives to bring supermarkets to low-income neighborhoods, or for after-school programs that involve physical exercise, or for parent nutrition education or for anti-gang programs…or for all of these and other efforts besides. Or continued questioning may reveal deeper causes that you feel your organization can tackle.

5. Identify the restraining and driving forces that affect the problem .

This is called a force field analysis. It means looking at the restraining forces that act to keep the problem from changing (social structures, cultural traditions, ideology, politics, lack of knowledge, lack of access to healthy conditions, etc.) and the driving forces that push it toward change (dissatisfaction with the way things are, public opinion, policy change, ongoing public education efforts, existing alternatives to unhealthy or unacceptable activity or conditions, etc.) Consider how you can use your understanding of these forces in devising solutions to the problem.

Forces restraining change here include: The desirability and availability of junk food – kids like it because it tastes good (we’re programmed as a species to like fat, salt, and sugar), and you can get it on every corner in practically any neighborhood. The reluctance of supermarket chains to open stores in low-income neighborhoods. The domination of the streets by gangs and drug dealers. Some forces driving change might be : Parents’ concern about their children’s weight. Children’s desire to participate in sports or simply to be outdoors. Media stories about the problem of childhood obesity and its consequences for children, both now and in their later lives. A full force field analysis probably would include many more forces in each category.

6. Find any relationships that exist among the problem you’re concerned with and others in the community.

In analyzing root causes, you may have already completed this step. It may be that other problems stem from the same root cause, and that there are other organizations with whom you could partner. Understanding the relationships among community issues can be an important step toward resolving them.

We’ve already seen connections to lack of education, unemployment, lack of after-school programs, and gang violence and crime, among other issues. Other organizations may be working on one or more of these, and a collaboration might help both of you to reach your goals.

7. Identify personal factors that may contribute to the problem .

Whether the problem involves individual behavior or community conditions, each individual affected by it brings a whole collection of knowledge (some perhaps accurate, some perhaps not), beliefs, skills, education, background, experience, culture, and assumptions about the world and others, as well as biological and genetic traits. Any or all of these might contribute to the problem or to its solution…or both.

A few examples : Genetic predisposition for diabetes and other conditions. Lack of knowledge about healthy nutrition. Lack of knowledge/ skills for preparing healthy foods.

8. Identify environmental factors that may contribute to the problem.

Just as there are factors relating to individuals that may contribute to or help to solve the problem you’re concerned with, there are also factors within the community environment that may do the same. These might include the availability or lack of services, information, and other support; the degree of accessibility and barriers to, and opportunities for services, information, and other support; the social, financial, and other costs and benefits of change; and such overarching factors as poverty, living conditions, official policy, and economic conditions.

Sample environmental factors : Poverty Lack of employment and hope for young men in low-income neighborhoods Lack of availability of healthy food in low-income neighborhoods General availability – at school as well as elsewhere – of snack foods high in salt, sugar, and fat Constant media bombardment of advertising of unhealthy snacks, drinks, and fast food

9. Identify targets and agents of change for addressing the problem .

Whom should you focus your efforts on, and who has the power to improve the situation?  Often, these may be the same people. The best solution to a particular problem may be policy change of some sort, for instance, and the best route to that may be to mount an advocacy effort aimed at officials who can make it happen. People who are suffering from lack of skills or services may be the ones who can do the most to change their situation. In other cases, your targets may be people whose behavior or circumstances need to change, and you may want to recruit agents of change to work with you in your effort. The point of this step is to understand where and how to direct your work most effectively.

Targets of change might include : Parents of children in low-income neighborhoods (or all parents in the community) for education purposes The children themselves Elementary and middle school teachers School officials responsible for school food programs Executives and Public Relations officers of supermarket chains Gang members and youth at risk of becoming gang members A short list of potential agents of change : Parents of children in low-income neighborhoods (or all parents in the community) as controllers of their children’s diets The Superintendent of Schools, School Committee, and school administrators, as well as those directly responsible for school food programs Local public officials who could create incentives for markets to move into underserved neighborhoods Community Recreation Commissions, school officials, YMCAs, and other entities that might create safe outdoor and indoor physical activity programs for children Community hospitals, clinics, and private medical practices Public relations offices of national or regional fast food restaurant chains

With your analysis complete, you can develop a strategic plan that speaks to the real causes of the problem and focuses on those targets and/or agents of change that are most likely to contribute to improving the situation.

Going beyond the basics -- does analysis really work?

Try this analysis out with a current problem in your own community setting.

What do you conclude? We hope you'll find some value in analysis. We do know that when we have tried this method with real problems in our own communities, we have drawn some additional conclusions of our own, going beyond the basics:

When analyzing real community problems, the analysis may show multiple reasons behind the problem. The analysis may not always be easy. The solution may be more difficult still.

But that's why problems are problems. Community problems exist precisely because they often resist clear analysis and solution. They persist despite our efforts. They can be real challenges.

Yet this doesn't mean we are helpless. Analysis, including the analytic methods we have described, can take you a long way. With good analysis, some resources, and enough determination, we believe even the most troublesome problems can be addressed, and ultimately, solved.

Online Resources

Assessment Primer: Analyzing the Community, Identifying Problems and Setting Goals  is provided by the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America and the National Community Anti-Drug Coalition Institute. This helpful primer is designed to provide clear guidelines for anti-drug coalitions in defining their communities and assessing the real needs within them.

Best Practices to Address Community Gang Problems from HealthyPeople.gov is a report that provides guidance to communities that are considering how to address a youth gang problem.

Framing the Issue , by Trudy Rice, Cheryl Burkhart-Kriesel and Karla Trautman, is a useful resource that explains how to analyze community problems and access community data. It includes a detailed step-by-step presentation.

Print Resources

Avery, M., Auvine, B., Streibel, B., & Weiss, L. (1981).  Building united judgement: A handbook for consensus decision making . Madison, WI: Center for Conflict Resolution. (Available from the Center at P.O. Box 2156, Madison, WI 53701 -2156).

Cox, F. (1995). Community problem solving: A guide to practice with comments. In Rothman, J., Erlich, J., & Tropman, J. (eds.),  Strategies of community intervention  (5th ed., pp. 146-162). Itasca, IL: F. E. Peacock.

Dale, D., & Mitiguy, N. (1978).  Planning for a change: A citizen's guide to creative planning and program development . Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts, Citizen Involvement Training Project.

Johnson, D., & Johnson, F. (1997).  Joining together: Group theory and group skills  (6th ed.) Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Lawson, L., Donant, F., & Lawson, J. (1982).  Lead on! The complete handbook for group leaders . San Luis Obispo, CA: Impact Publishers.

Mondross, J., & Wilson, S. (1994).  Organizing for power and empowerment .  New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

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is Good News


Community Problem Solving

How can the problems of a global community be solved.

Who is brave enough to tackle the problems of children being ripped from abusive homes with only a black garbage bag and five minutes to grab what they can? Who will tackle the homeless population that lives under the bridges in their hometown? Who will tackle the growing problem of opioid addiction in the United States?

Evidently, we adults have not successfully addressed these problems. However, Community Problem Solvers from around the world are not afraid to go where adults have feared to tread. Together, they tackle these problems daily in communities globally with amazing results.

Meaningful leadership can result in positive change – especially in the lives of teens. Teams in 37 states and 14 nations are making positive changes in their communities through critical thinking opportunities provided by the Community Problem Solving (CmPS) component of Future Problem Solving Program International (FPSPI).

This program provides the tools and strategies students need to face the challenges of today and of the future. What better way to prepare students for their potential futures than teaching them to think systematically about problematic situations, to gather information, to understand the situation, and to evaluate multiple solution ideas in order to best address the situation?

Mahwah High School students in New Jersey are one representative of these global problem solvers. Their project along with approximately 100 other individual and team projects were showcased at the 2018 International Conference of Future Problem Solving. They chose not to accept the fatalistic idea that the problems of opioid addiction cannot be solved. As far as they were concerned, it was their task to solve problems that adults only talked about. They were tired of the rhetoric and wanted action now – not at some time in some distant future.

The result of their determination became a project that addressed opioid addiction in New Jersey – Project KNO-pioid.

How did Mahwah High School Community Problem Solvers attack this staggering challenge? The answer is, with the tools and skills provided through Community Problem Solving. However, you need to feel their passion. You need to hear their words. You need to see their actions.

Excerpts of their project report; “As high school students, we all know of someone – whether personally, or through a friend or family member – who has succumbed to the ever-present opioid epidemic. Bergen County, New Jersey – our home county – has been significantly negatively affected by the opioid epidemic.”

“In 2016, there were 320 total drug overdoses, 98 of which were fatal. As of October 18, 2017, Bergen County has already exceeded the number of overdoses in 2016, by reaching 375, with 73 being fatal. According to the Mahwah Municipal Alliance, a local volunteer organization, two-thirds of the drug-related deaths in our state involve prescription drugs. This statistic is especially worrisome when considering the prevalence of opioid prescriptions among the population. We, in high school, see this prescription surge even at our age – namely after sports injuries, or wisdom tooth operations. People do not know that users can become addicted and ultimately overdose, or that they can even move on to more dangerous drugs, like heroin. Lastly, there is also a significant negative stigma that exists about people who abuse opioid prescriptions. Since it is a difficult subject to talk about, many conversations about these dangers are being avoided. Even worse, this stigma can lead to information not being received by the people who may need it the most.”

The Problem Solving Process

As you can imagine, exposure to this daunting problem could evoke many emotions and reactions – yet, participation in Community Problem Solving empowered them to take positive action. By following the problem solving process, teens become equipped to take meaningful action. This process in Community Problem Solving includes:

And most importantly, putting that plan into action to complete their goals and solve their community’s problems.

Mahwah High School CmPSers identified various challenges and determined the Underlying Problem facing Bergen County, New Jersey:

Due to the fact that many people are unaware that using legitimate prescription opioids, such as oxycodone, can lead to addiction and use of illegal drugs, such as heroin; in what ways might we, the Community Problem Solving team of Mahwah High School, raise awareness of the potential dangers of using prescription opioid drugs, so that the Mahwah community can make wiser pain management decisions, now and in the future?”

As shown in their development of the Underlying Problem, they were able to identify one aspect of the immense opioid problem and chose a way to take action – through raising awareness.

Over the course of the year, these students were guided by a teacher/coach to implement solution ideas by achieving the following:

In addition to the documented action, the students reflected on their efforts. “ Project Kno-pioid has done several things to create awareness about the opioid crisis in Bergen County, and New Jersey as a whole.

We feel as though our project has had an immense impact on a community that was, for the most part, completely uneducated about the growing opioid crisis. We have utilized our timeline that has been effective in keeping us on track and setting the pace for the rest of the school year. Awareness has begun to manifest in the community, and it will only continue to grow as a direct result of our project, as well as other local organizations invested in creating awareness about the crisis. While accomplishing our solutions so far, we have tackled a few obstacles, with one being the heaviness of the topic of the opioid crisis.

Because of the negative stigma associated with the opioid crisis, many people do not want to outwardly speak about it. We have had to be more vocal and open about the crisis and how prevalent it is in our community. Additionally, we have been reaching out to local doctors’ offices, but they have not been as responsive as we had hoped. We have only had one office respond back to us willing to display our pamphlet in their office, and are waiting for more responses from other offices.” This team of teens articulated successes and disappointments in their endeavors – all of which are experienced in real-world applications.

Project KNO-pioid is only one of the hundreds of projects created and implemented by students across the globe each year in the Future Problem Solving Program. Through CmPS students may find they have talents and abilities previously undiscovered. They learn communication skills that prove invaluable for the completion of their project, and indeed even into their futures.

In our current educational climate, the importance of project-based learning is being emphasized. Schools are responding by supplying service learning opportunities. However, Community Problem Solving moves service learning and project-based learning to the highest levels by applying critical think skills to the process. In a document prepared for coaches, teams, and evaluators, FPSPI defines the intricate differences between these learning opportunities.

Community Problem Solving and Community Service – Not the Same Thing!

“Community Problem Solving expands community service as participants apply their problem solving skills to current problems.

By participating in the CmPS component and completing a CmPS project, students will have gone above and beyond the parameters of traditional community service projects. Students refine critical and creative thinking skills, focus on a student-identified need, and become actively engaged in solving the area of concern. As students plan, develop and implement the project’s goals, they will find they have provided an invaluable service. The impact of the project will reap immeasurable rewards to the people within the community who will benefit from the students’ actions.”

Students involved in the Community Problem Solving (CmPS) component of FPPSI learn powerful lessons about creating change, how to address local authorities and organizations, and make a positive impact for their community. Dr. Donald Treffinger points out that “application” is the final and most crucial step in the thinking process. That is, if the student can apply the problem-solving process to resolve a real-world problem, it should follow that motivation to learn will occur. (1993) Learning, and applying that learning to the problems faced in the local, regional, or global communities, are the goals of the Community Problem Solving component of FPSPI.

The future – that unknown world that beckons young and old alike – is unpredictable and always changing. Surrounded by “what ifs,” boundless opportunities, and desires to soar beyond the constraints of plans and programs – our teens need an approach to solve problems. They require an outlet to lead, an outlet to make a difference, and an outlet to impact their communities. A visionary educational leader, Dr. E. Paul Torrance, recognized this when he began the Future Problem Solving Program in 1974 with a small group of students from Athens, Georgia. Those students are now the educators, doctors, and lawyers that they dreamed of being so many years ago. Little did they know that their steps into the realms of thought would help Dr. Torrance develop a program that now includes young adults from all corners of the globe! Even though Dr. Torrance’s work occurred nearly 50 years ago, the benefits to students in their teenage years provide a framework of skills for leadership growth.

More information and how you can get started with Community Problem Solving can be found at www.fpspi.org.

Community Problem Solving: A “Real World” Experience . (2010). Melbourne, FL: Future Problem Solving Program International. Community Problem Solving: Preparing Students to Become Active Problem Solvers . (1993). Ann Arbor, MI: Future Problem Solving Program. Treffinger, D.J. & Jackson, J. (2009). FPSPI: Past, Present, and Future (2nd edition, updated, and expanded) . Future Problem Solving Program International, Inc.

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community for problem solving

Community Policing: Much More Than Walking a Beat

May 2018 | Volume 11 | Issue 5

As Chief of the Arlington Police Department , I am often asked if community policing really works. And the short answer to this question is yes. There is research to demonstrate that community policing is effective in reducing crime, and the Arlington (TX) Police Department (APD) can support these findings in our jurisdiction.

To assess the value of any policy or procedure, our department uses a comprehensive set of measures—a blend of statistics, hard data, community surveys, and what we hear from our officers. Judging from these measures, I can say unequivocally that community policing has helped to increase public safety and order in Arlington, Texas. Just as importantly, it has improved officer safety and led to a more positive work environment.

The long answer to questions about the effectiveness of community policing is that when properly implemented, it provides many advantages. To begin with, local people are more likely to cooperate with police, keep a watchful eye over their neighbors, and report suspicious individuals or criminal incidents when they know and trust us. And these benefits extend to a wide variety of safety concerns.

community for problem solving

However, patrolling a neighborhood and talking to its residents is not nearly enough. A critical element of community policing is problem solving. Officers are expected to be proactive and creative not only in addressing, but in preventing, problems.

To implement this approach, APD uses a geographic policing model, assigning officers, beat sergeants, and sector lieutenants to a predetermined geographic boundary. These individuals keep their assignments for long periods to forge relationships with neighbors, business owners, and the faith community. Working with them, officers apply problem-solving methods to reduce crime and disorder while improving the overall quality of life in their beats. As each officer’s rank increases, he or she becomes responsible for more neighborhoods—not only for responding to crime, but for maintaining communication and engagement.

Increased safety for the community and officers

But these officers do more than meet and greet people; they take the time to share information and learn what is of interest in different sub communities within their area—geographic, business, ethnic, age related, and otherwise. Many of them get deeply involved, especially with the kids. Some teach special projects in the local school and many mentor young people. Others are involved in athletic mentor coaching programs, which are especially important because athletes are often the most respected leaders in their schools, but are just as often at risk for disruptive behavior.

Building relationships like these helps us all in the long-run. Young people develop a positive image of police and officers are safer when they are known and respected. Officers also enjoy the feelings of goodwill, personal connection, and individual accomplishment. This leads to more job satisfaction.

But, ironically, these relationships can negatively skew the data on crime rates. Because residents trust the police, they are more willing to report crime or suspicious behavior. Increases in arrests can be interpreted as increases in crime. This demonstrates the difficulty of trying to “measure” the positive effects of community policing.

Combining preventive and investigative methods

Another distinguishing feature of community policing is that it emphasizes proactivity rather than just reactivity. Our focus is on preventing crime—solving problems by getting to the underlying cause. One of the tactics we use is the SARA method: scanning, analysis, response, and assessment, a method which has been determined to be successful in reducing crime and increasing officer awareness of community issues. 1 By defining the problem, analyzing its cause and effects, our team can not only respond more effectively, but evaluate the outcome of our response in order to prevent future incidents.

Technology and data sharing plays a large role in this, as does collaboration—both within the agency and outside—with social service providers, educators, health and other professionals, local government, and state and federal law enforcement. We have found that these partnerships increase our resources and our ability to solve problems.

Collaboration and data sharing

In 2016, APD upgraded our records management system, transitioning from summary crime reporting to incident-based reporting (IBRS). This enables us to more fully explore victim and incident information. With IBRS, officers must provide more detail surrounding an incident, enabling us to determine underlying causes. As a result, we can tailor our responses to each crime, react faster, and even predict overall crime trends.

To take advantage of all of our internal resources and promote the kind of synergy that leads to well-informed decisions, we have also decentralized our operations to a certain extent, which allows different areas to work together. Though we do have individual departments—homicide, for instance, is in its own physical space—conversation related to these and other crimes are in a virtual space where we can get input from many other specialists.

Everybody has an important role to play

The success of community policing depends upon the ability of individual officers to build positive relationships and take the initiative to solve problems. But everybody at APD has an important role to play in maintaining a positive public image, regardless of rank, assignment, or task. Non-sworn APD employees are as important as the officers in building community relationships. Good personal communications and the establishment of trust are as necessary at the records counter as in dispatch and the detention center.

Public communications are equally important. Everybody associated with our department, including our citizen volunteers, is also taught how to communicate and monitor information effectively through social media training. This is particularly important because we are constantly confronted with misinformation—some of which is deliberate, from individuals who want to promote divisiveness.

To counteract this after a serious incident such as a homicide, we institute community restorative efforts by flooding the neighborhood and initiating conversation with the residents, ensuring that they know exactly what happened. We connect with them virtually as well, asking them to share this information with their community and to let us know if they get misinformation. We also use social media to humanize the public image of our officers and law enforcement.

Successful enforcement operations

A good example of how community policing principles come in to play in an enforcement operation is our Operation Safety Net (OSN) program. Launched in 2016 after we noticed that robbery and aggravated assault crimes were trending up, OSN was a multidisciplinary approach combining intelligence, investigations, and field operations to form one team working on the same goals: reduction of robberies, assaults, and gun crime. Operations were based on weekly intelligence reports that provided field officers with information on areas and persons of interest, determined from "hot spot" mapping.

community for problem solving

In 2017, we launched a second initiative aimed at curbing gun crime. This program, known as the Violent Crime Task Force (VCTF), involved saturation patrols and zero tolerance, limited to targeting of enforcement of violent offenders and offenses. At its conclusion, violent crime involving guns had fallen to average levels, and later UCR summary reporting showed that violent crime fell six percent in our community.

A common denominator in these, as in all other operations, has been the support of our community. When we are proactive and approachable, citizens are more likely to cooperate and support the police. And we continue to work to earn that support—every single day.

Community support for police operations

So back to the original question—does community policing reduce crime and improve the quality of life in our city? The Arlington Police Department has experienced several great successes in our commitment to community policing. Most importantly, APD has the support of Arlington’s various communities when there are incidents and events that warrant police intervention.

We’ve also had a great deal of positive feedback from our outreach efforts, our partnerships with the faith-based community, and our citizen volunteer and participation programs. This is in addition to good reports from our patrol officers, who say that the members of their community—residents and small business owners alike—are aware of challenges of maintaining order and public safety, and satisfied with the strategies we’re using.

And here’s one more way I measure the success of our community policing model. One of the applicants for a job at APD was not only from out of state, but without any personal ties to Texas. When asked why he wanted to become an APD officer, he replied that an online search showed that we encourage our officers to invest in youth and participate in other programs that give officers the ability to work closely with the community. “I want to be part of that,” he said. At APD, we are all involved in building good community relationships—and take pride in what we’ve accomplished.

Chief Will Johnson Arlington Texas Police Department

Resources: COPS Office Officer Safety and Wellness Resources https://cops.usdoj.gov/default.asp?Item=2844

References: 1 Maguire, Edward R., Craig D. Uchida, and Kimberly D. Hassell, “Problem-Oriented Policing in Colorado Springs: A Content Analysis of 753 Cases,” Crime and Delinquency 61, no. 1 (2015): 71–95.

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Educating Police Executives in a New Community Problem-Solving Era

By Michael J. Jenkins, Ph.D., and John DeCarlo, Ph.D.

Stock image of a person taking notes in a meeting with two other people.

In today’s new community problem-solving era, there are four interrelated elements that characterize the policing environment: 1) integration of rapidly evolving technology, 2) financial constraints, 3) emphasis on evidence-based practices, and 4) a readily accepted community problem-solving function. 1 Police training and education requirements must adapt to this new environment. Despite their potential role in bringing change to police departments, candidates for executive positions in law enforcement rarely undergo additional training or education. 2 Studies have found that chiefs who have some college education or have graduated from the FBI National Academy scored higher on positive leadership indicators. 3 However, limited research exists on the effects of education level on police executive performance. 

Historical Perspective

Formalized policing in the United States began in the 1800s and evolved in a noncentralized and largely unplanned nature. Unlike other occupations with educational or professional licensure prerequisites, the police were unskilled watchmen recruited more for their brawn than their brains and selected based on their political connections. 4 In 1905 the chief of the Berkeley, California, Police Department championed the fledgling police reform movement and instituted police schools (the precursors of academies) to teach fundamental policing skills to officers. 5 The police chief had no degree, but became the first professor of police science in the country. 6 In spite of this influence and advocacy of police education, the cultural precepts that founded American policing resisted substantive change, and organizations held fast to tradition. 

Embedded Impediments

Police reformers in the first half of the 20th century agreed that law enforcement organizations should be controlled tightly and militaristically, officer’s duties were merely functionary, and they should have limited or no discretion in their assignments. 7 The resultant organizational atmosphere did not encourage the hiring of educated officers. 8

In 1931 the Wickersham Commission reported inefficient crime reduction strategies, inadequate police administration, poor communication, an alliance between corrupt police and criminals, shady politics, and a lack of police response to a changing society. 9 Police misconduct in the 1960s indicated the need to seek out and abate such behavior. In 1967 a report from the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice reminded police they needed to change.

The Commission’s report influenced important legislation that formed the National Institute of Justice, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the Law Enforcement Education Program (LEEP). 10 To improve the efficiency and integrity of police, the act allocated funding for officers to begin attending college. The commission hoped to require a bachelor’s degree as the minimum educational requirement for employment as a police officer. 11 Until this time a scarcity of college-educated officers made it difficult for researchers to reach empirical conclusions about the effects of increased education in policing. 

IACP Review

Several years after the formation of the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) and LEEP, an assistant director of the professional standards division of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) cautioned that the standards passed by LEAA should yield control to local governments. 12 The IACP determined that the responsibility of educating police officers fell with those who hired them, not with national commissions.

Dr. Jenkins

Dr. Jenkins is an assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Scranton, Pennsylvania. 

Dr. DeCarlo

Dr. DeCarlo is a retired police chief and an associate professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, New York.

Police training academies for new hires did not become common until the mid 1960s after six states instituted them. Presently, every state mandates initial training at an academy, although not all states require regular recertification training. There are 600 police academies in the United States, but there is no universal college education requirement for academy instructors. Only 11 percent of police academy staff hold 4-year college degrees. In 2003 merely 1 percent of police departments required a degree for employment selection. 13

A 1990 study by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) on the evolution of higher education in law enforcement revealed that the percentage of college-educated officers increased steadily over the preceding 20 years. Though only a miniscule percentage of departments required a degree, the majority of them found ways, such as tuition reimbursement and educational incentive pay, to make obtaining a college degree beneficial for everyone. 14 Some agencies even allowed officers to attend classes while on duty. The study consistently reported one negative aspect—educated officers were more likely to leave their departments for better jobs.

Meta-Analysis Results

Meta-analysis of 30 years of studies on educational requirements for police officers has organized the empirical research on the matter. The study revealed that college-educated police officers—

Supervisors also consistently rated college-educated officers higher on performance evaluations than those with less education. Notably, majoring in criminal justice instead of another major did not correlate to performance as a police officer.

Educational Requirements

Research has suggested that education impacts positive police performance; however, the profession has few formal educational requirements. Change interventions encounter political, organizational, and operational barriers. Perhaps, the way to approach police education is from the top down. 16

The most significant case law validating a college degree requirement concerns promotion, not employment. 17 Given the power of a police executive to change a police department, raising the educational requirements for these positions could benefit the profession. Presently, there are no mandatory national standards for law enforcement as there are for other public service occupations—the American Bar Association, American Medical Association, and American Psychological Association, for example. Additionally, police structure in the United States is essentially a municipal endeavor with no national hiring standards. There are many small police departments in the country and no established method to set broad policy.

Program Opportunities

The practical limitations of a college degree requirement for police executives prompted universities and other police groups to create avenues for educating law enforcement leaders. Table 1 lists 23 programs, all of which fall within one of three categories of sponsorship—government, professional, and university—and focus on students from various ranks within police departments. The courses extend from 3 1/2 to 40 days, with costs ranging from $495 to over $34,000. Nine of the 23 programs offer continuing education credits.

Of the 12 programs that accept only top-level police leaders in senior administrative positions or above, three require travel outside of the United States, and two accept students solely from the largest law enforcement agencies. These programs focus on hot issues, such as future trends, counterterrorism efforts, and the four policing environment elements of the new community problem-solving era.

Table 1. The Rank Focus and Sponsorship of Select Police Training and Education Programs

*This table is not all inclusive. Other programs may exist that are not listed here.

Evolving Technology

Education and training programs for law enforcement leaders emphasize the need to share information on the role of technology in fulfilling their responsibilities. For example, information on each program’s website describes online social media, online learning, and predictive analysis aspects of the courses. Police departments of all sizes are incorporating social media to interact with their communities. In 2012 the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Police Department added its own police news website that refers citizens to the source for unfiltered information regarding the department. 18 Computer technology allows for the collection, storage, and analysis of massive amounts of data on crime and disorder, to the point of predicting the probable times and locations of offenses.

Financial Constraints

The authors’ 2012 review of these programs unveiled the emphasis on doing more with less—a common refrain among law enforcement leadership. Police departments, easily one of the largest budget items for any municipality, felt the shocks of the economic downturn. The turmoil forced layoffs; personnel demotions; and funding cuts for professional development, equipment, and technology.

Police departments in Newark and Camden, New Jersey, each cut over 167 officers and experienced a corresponding reduction in arrest rates—down 16 percent in Newark and 43 percent in Camden. 19 To properly plan for similar situations, training and educational programs cover budgeting in a challenging economy, resource allocation, and financial management. One police lieutenant stated, “The golden rule is having the police officers to cover the city.” Developmental programs for police leaders must continue to educate and train officers to ensure the necessary resources for maintaining safe and orderly communities.

Evidence-Based Practices

The pull of economic restraint and the push of readily available technology coincide with the call for implementing evidence-based police practices. The community and its leaders want to know that a new strategy is worth the expense of executing it. New technology assists police officers in analyzing data to make their case on the effectiveness of a plan. The academic community—through institutes and centers, such as those listed as university sponsors in Table 1—encourages these practices and disseminates relevant research findings to police leadership. Universities sponsor many of the programs included in this study. The goals and course descriptions maintain a strong focus on the most current literature and best practices to measure police performance and teach research methods in public service. The curricula turn police leadership’s attention to the value of evidence-based practices.

Problem Solving

Today most police departments follow a community problem-solving strategy, though the extent to which each organization does so varies. 20 Creation of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Police Services resulted in increased funding, training, and education in community oriented policing and problem solving starting in the 1990s. Research has indicated that these increases produced positive change toward community problem solving and that police departments with an organizational history of such adapt better to innovation. 21 Training and educational programs for top law enforcement leaders reflect the importance of this police function. These programs cite partnering with criminal justice agencies, working with local communities, addressing community needs, and maximizing relationships to indicate the focus on community problem solving.

Research established positive effects of education and training on police officers’ behaviors and actions. However, limited studies exist on the relationship between education and senior law enforcement executives’ responsibilities. By recognizing the need for training in this new community problem-solving era, law enforcement and academics may seek out and create new opportunities for establishing, teaching, and learning about researcher-practitioner partnerships. To maximize performance, police training and education requirements must adapt to this new environment.

For additional information contact Dr. Jenkins at [email protected] or Dr. DeCarlo at [email protected] 

1  G.L. Kelling and M.H. Moore, U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, The Evolving Strategy of Policing (Washington, DC, November 1988).

2  J. Skolnick and D. Bayley, The New Blue Line: Police Innovation in Six American Cities (New York, NY: The Free Press, 1986).

3  J. Krimmel and P. Lindenmuth, “Police Chief Performance and Leadership Styles,” Police Quarterly 4, no. 4 (December 2001): 469-483.

4  R.B. Fosdick, American Police Systems (1920; repr., Montclair, NJ: Paterson Smith, 1969).

5  S. Walker, The Police in America: An Introduction , 3rd ed. (New York, NY: McGraw Hill, 1998).

6  B. Vila and C. Morris, The Role of Police in American Society: A Documentary History (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999).

7  G.L. Kelling and J.K. Stewart, “The Evolution of Contemporary Policing Management,” in Local Government Police Management , 3rd ed., ed. W.A. Geller (Washington, D.C.: International City Management Association, 1991).

8  K.J. O'Brien, California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, Recruitment and Retention Best Practices Update (April 2006).

9  National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement, Report on Police (1931).

10  M.A. Wycoff and C.E. Susmilch, “The Relevance of College Education for Policing: Continuing the Dialogue,” in Police Work: Strategies and Outcomes in Law Enforcement , 3rd ed., ed. D.M. Peterson (Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications, 1979): 17-35; B. Vila and C. Morris, The Role of Police in American Society ; and H. Goldstein, Policing a Free Society (Cambridge, MA: Ballinger Publishing, 1977).

11  D.L. Carter and A.D. Sapp, “The Evolution of Higher Education in Law Enforcement: Preliminary Findings from a National Study,” Journal of Criminal Justice Education 1, no. 1 (1990): 59-85.

12  J.W. Sterling, “The College Level Entry Requirement: A Real or Imagined Cure-All,” Police Chief , August 1974, 28-31.

13  M.J. Hickman and B.A. Reaves, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Local Police Departments , 2003 (NCJ 210118), May 2006.

14  D.L. Carter and A.D. Sapp, “The Evolution of Higher Education in Law Enforcement: Preliminary Findings from a National Study.”

15  M.G. Aamodt, Research in Law Enforcement Selection (Boca Raton, FL: Brown Walker Press, 2004); J. Genz and D. Lester, “Military Service, Education, and Authoritarian Attitudes of Municipal Police Officers,” Psychological Reports 40, no. 2 (1977): 402; J.O. Finckenhauser, “Higher Education and Police Discretion,” Journal of Police Science and Administration 3, no. 4 (1975): 450-457; W.R. Scott, “College Education Requirements for Police Entry Level and Promotion: A Study,” Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology 2, no. 1 (1986): 10-28; and J. Michaels and J. Higgins, “Effects of Education Level on Performance of Campus Police Officers” (paper presented at the annual Graduate Student Conference in Industrial/Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, Chicago, IL, 1994).

16  D.L. Carter, A.D. Sapp, and D.W. Stephens, “Higher Education as a Bona Fide Occupational Qualification for Police: A Blueprint,” American Journal of Police 7, no. 1 (1988).

17  Davis v. Dallas , 777 F.2d 205 (5th Cir. 1985).

18  Milwaukee Police News, “Home,” Milwaukee Police Department, http://www.milwaukeepolicenews.com/#search=a&menu=home-page (accessed February 3, 2014).

19  J. Queally, “After Heavy Police Layoffs in 2010, Arrests Plunged in Newark and Camden in 2011,” The Star Ledger , May 1, 2012.

20  M.J. Hickman and B.A. Reaves, U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Community Policing in Local Police Departments: 1997 and 1999 (Washington, DC: February 2001).

21  M. Moore, D. Thacher, F. Hartmann, C. Coles, and P. Sheingold, “Case Studies of the Transformation of Police Departments: A Cross-Site Analysis,” (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government, 2009), http://hollis.harvard.edu/?q=Case Studies of the Transformation of Police Departments: A Cross-Site Analysis (accessed February 3, 2014). 

“Police training and education requirements must adapt to this new environment.”

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