About the Better Policing Toolkit

This toolkit has two parts. The first part provides information on policing strategies and guidance on how to implement them. We provide both strategy guides (which can be thought of as one- or two-page reference cards) and in-depth essays on the strategies. These are intended to address needs identified by RAND’s Priority Criminal Justice Needs Initiative, which found that existing references are too hard for law enforcement to locate and use (for example, many are blocked by paywalls). Our guides and essays provide descriptions, needed resources, process steps, key things to do and things to avoid, and illustrative examples on a range of policing strategies that are likely to help reduce crime and/or improve relationships with communities. We also provide articles on some strategies to avoid, and why. Our inspirations for the toolkit include recipe cards and the For Dummies or Complete Idiot’s Guide series of instructional books.

The second part of the toolkit provides information on change management and guidance on implementing new strategies in general. This part is in response to law enforcement needs for developing adaptive leaders and change management skills. It also reflects our finding that articles reporting highly problematic implementations usually did not reduce crime.


For an in-depth explanation of our methods, download the Better Policing Toolkit technical appendix (PDF).

To create the strategy guides and essays, we started by reviewing past survey studies examining large groups of policing intervention studies. Most of these were funded by the Campbell Collaboration, a nonprofit organization that reviews social and economic interventions. We examined key findings in these survey studies plus other key resources on past policing studies, such as CrimeSolutions.gov. We looked at the studies individually, finding key characteristics that set different interventions apart. We then used machine-learning techniques to identify characteristics associated with distinguishing higher-performing interventions from lower-performing ones. We also found illustrative examples of things to do (and not do) when implementing the strategies. We then assembled our findings into the strategy guides and essays found in this tool.

To create the resources on change management and other tips for implementing new strategies, we first gathered findings on implementation from our reviews of policing strategies. We also assembled key findings from well-known literature on general implementation barriers and solutions from the fields of implementation science, business process management, operations and service management, and project management. Our tips are further shaped by decades of collective experience in working with various organizations to help them implement new strategies and overcome barriers to change.

The Better Policing Toolkit is a work in progress and does not yet represent all the research on effective policing. We anticipate adding additional strategies, studies, and details over time, in subsequent versions. Some content will likely change as we add new studies. Known limitations in this initial version include the following:

  • This initial version covers only strategies that are focused on law enforcement agencies. Strategies that focus on other parts of the criminal justice system (for example, diversion programs and community investment initiatives) are not covered in this initial release.
  • This version of the toolkit provides detailed reviews of just four strategies—one for interventions in areas (problem-oriented policing), one for interventions with people (focused deterrence), one for improving community relations (legitimacy policing), and one for what not to do, why it shouldn’t be done, and what to do instead (zero tolerance and aggressive policing).
  • The analyses cover studies in meta-analyses. Studies conducted within the past few years and studies not qualifying for the meta-analyses but that might provide insight have not been included.
  • The toolkit does incorporate some material on data security, equity, privacy, and civil rights considerations and protections, with a heavy focus on alternatives to zero tolerance policing and another focus on legitimacy policing. However, we anticipate that future versions of this toolkit will cover these protections in more detail.

Help Us Improve the Better Policing Toolkit

As noted, this initial version of the toolkit is a pilot. A big part of being able to improve the toolkit over time is incorporating feedback from the community. If you have comments on what we should add or how the presentation can be improved, we would very much like to hear from you.

Funding for This Project

The RAND Corporation is a research organization that develops solutions to public policy challenges to help make communities throughout the world safer and more secure, healthier and more prosperous. RAND is nonprofit, nonpartisan, and committed to the public interest.

Philanthropic contributions support our ability to take the long view, tackle tough and often-controversial topics, and share our findings in innovative and compelling ways. RAND’s research findings and recommendations are based on data and evidence, and therefore do not necessarily reflect the policy preferences or interests of its clients, donors, or supporters.

Funding for this research initiative was provided by gifts from RAND supporters and income from operations. Additional support to the project came from a Strategies in Policing Innovation grant to the City of Chicago awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, a component of the Office of Justice Programs, in cooperation with the Chicago Police Department and City of Chicago. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.