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Review and Analysis of Quality Improvement Techniques in Police Departments: Application for Public Health

Riley, William PhD; Brewer, Russell DrPH, CHES

Journal of Public Health Management and Practice: March-April 2009 - Volume 15 - Issue 2 - p 139–149
doi: 10.1097/01.PHH.0000346012.97393.89

This qualitative study reviews and analyzes quality improvement (QI) techniques in police departments as a background for assessing ways to introduce QI into public health departments. Police departments and public health departments have many elements in common. These findings provide some understanding of how public health departments can incorporate QI methods as well as learn about the potential barriers to implementing QI projects that are inherent in government agencies. The study consists of extensive interviews of informants from academic settings and police departments across the nation. The findings describe (1) the extent of QI diffusion into police departments, (2) barriers and enablers of QI diffusion in police departments, (3) a typology of QI diffusion, and (4) the metrics and incentives to promote QI in the absence of profit motives. Seven specific recommendations are made to promote the application and adoption of QI in public health: (1) implement QI as a comprehensive management approach, (2) top official involvement, (3) a broad focus on mission and vision, (4) lessons for overcoming barriers, (5) how to find resources, (6) how to integrate proven methods, and (7) how to build on existing capabilities.

This study analyzes quality improvement techniques in police departments as a background for assessing ways to introduce quality improvement into public health departments.

William Riley, PhD, is Associate Dean, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. Interim Executive Director of Public Health Accreditation Board.

Russell Brewer, DrPH, CHES, is Program Manager, Center on AIDS and Community Health, Academy for Educational Development.

Corresponding Author: William Riley, PhD, Division of Health Policy and Management, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, 420 Delaware St SE, MMC 729, Minneapolis, MN 55455 (

This project was funded through a grant to the University of Minnesota School of Public Health from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). An earlier version of the article was presented at “Adapting Quality Improvement to Public Health,” an RWJF-sponsored conference held on February 7, 2007, in Cincinnati, Ohio. The authors gratefully acknowledge the cooperation and insights of the 12 informants, the guidance of Pamela Russo, MD, MPH, Carol Chang, MPA, MPH, at RWJF, and Susan Nwoke, MPH, for her research assistance.

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.