1st Edition

The Wicked Problems of Police Reform in Canada

    134 Pages 9 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    134 Pages 9 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book looks at police reform in Canada, arguing that no significant and sustainable reform can occur until steps are taken to answer the question of 'What exactly do we want police to do?' Adding challenge to this is that setting boundaries on what we expect the police to do requires grappling with the complex social problems we ask them to resolve. In public policy language, these are ‘wicked problems’ – social or cultural issues frequently seen as intractable.

    Authors Huey, Ferguson, and Schulenberg, all policing scholars, draw on a unique collection of data to explore these issues: over 20 years of research (2000– 2021) ranging from in-depth interviews, surveys, and field observations to document analysis and systematic social observation. Pooling this data generates a national-level picture of changes in the policing operational environment over these decades. This book focuses on four particular wicked problems (mental health, substance misuse, homelessness, missing persons) with causes and potential preventative treatments that lie primarily outside the criminal justice system and yet continue to be treated as 'policing problems.' Bringing about changes in public policing requires changes in public policy, and these are precisely the types of wicked problems that need innovative policy solutions.  

    This book is suitable for a wide range of audiences within and outside Canada, including law enforcement and community leaders; scholars and policy experts who specialize in policing; students of criminal justice, organizations, and management; and citizen-consumers of information about policing.



    1. The Policing Mandate and the Question of Reform

    2. Wicked Problem 1: Mental Health

    3. Wicked Problem 2: Substance Misuse

    4. Wicked Problem 3: Homelessness

    5. Wicked Problem 4: Missing Persons

    6. One Year Later

    Conclusion: Moving Forward

    Appendix: The Studies



    Laura Huey is Professor of Sociology at the University of Western Ontario, Editor of Police Practice and Research, Chair of the Working Group on Mental Health and Policing of the Royal Society of Canada, and the former Executive Director of the Canadian Society of Evidence-Based Policing. She is also a member of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists of the Royal Society of Canada, and a Senior Research Fellow with the National Police Foundation.

    Lorna Ferguson is a PhD(c) in the Sociology Department at the University of Western Ontario, Canada, and is the Founder of the Missing Persons Research Hub. Lorna has a broad interest in policing research and developing evidence-based approaches to policing and crime prevention, including issues related to cybercrime and persons with mental illness. Currently, she focuses on police responses to missing person cases across Canada. Lorna's most recent research has appeared in Criminology and Criminal Justice, Policing & Society, and Policing: An International Journal.

    Jennifer L. Schulenberg is Associate Professor at the University of Waterloo. In 2019, she was an EU Erasmus + Teaching Fellow at the University of Graz. Working closely with police practitioner communities, she is also the author of several government reports and has either consulted with various community crime prevention groups or sits as a committee member on community safety advisory panels. The author of peer-reviewed publications in policing and research methods – among other topics – her work has appeared in The Journal of Crime & Delinquency, Criminal Justice and Behavior, the Journal of Experimental Criminology, and Police Quarterly, among others.