Why Did The Policeman Cross the Road?

By Stevyn Colgan

Not so much police intelligence as intelligent policing

Friday, 11 July 2014

The difference between problem solving and not problem solving

I'm just writing a chapter of the new book that defines what we did in the Problem Solving Unit. Here's an extract:

'There is an oft-told parable – popularised in the 1930s by social reformer Saul Alinksy - about a group of campers on a river bank who notice that a baby is in the water and drowning. After pulling the infant ashore, the campers notice another baby in the river in need of help. Before long, the river is filled with desperate babies, and more and more rescuers are required to assist the campers.

Unfortunately, not all the babies can be saved. And, tragically, some of the brave rescuers occasionally drown. But the rescuers manage to mould themselves into an efficient life-saving organisation and, over time, an entire infrastructure develops to support their efforts; hospitals, schools, foster carers, social services, trauma and victim support services, life saving trainers, swimming schools etc.

At this point one of the rescuers starts walking upstream. ‘Where are you going?’ the others ask, disconcerted, ‘We need you here! Look how busy we are!’ The rescuer replies: ‘You carry on here … but I’m going upstream to find the bastard who keeps chucking babies in the river.’

It's a nice allegorical story and, in the book, I provide other examples of how people 'went upstream' to tackle problems as varied as snake bites, burglaries, anti-social behaviour, and chewing gum.

16% and rising ... this book edges ever closer to becoming a reality ;)

Sx

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