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Police social work and social service collaboration strategies one hundred years after Vollmer: A systematic review

George T. Patterson (Hunter College, Lois V. and Samuel J. Silberman School of Social Work, New York, New York, USA)
Philip G. Swan (Hunter College Libraries, Hunter College, CUNY, New York, New York, USA)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 27 September 2019

Issue publication date: 2 October 2019

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to report on a systematic review that examined police social work and social service collaboration strategies implemented to address social problems.

Design/methodology/approach

A systematic review was conducted to identify the components of police social work and social service collaboration strategies. A total of 11 databases were searched. The inclusion criteria centered on the social problem, focus population, service providers, collaboration components and geographic location. Any methodological approach was included provided that a collaboration between police and social service providers focused on addressing a social problem was implemented and described.

Findings

The database searches identified 3,065 hits. After first eliminating duplicate titles, then reviewing and eliminating titles and abstracts that did not met the inclusion criteria, 119 full-text studies were reviewed. Among the 81 studies included in the systematic review, 83 implemented collaborations were found. The most collaborations were implemented in the USA, whereas only one implemented collaboration was found among the majority of the countries. Interpersonal violence was the most frequent social problem addressed by the collaborations followed by mental illness, crime, juvenile delinquency, and alcohol and substance use and abuse. Interventions were predominantly delivered by social workers who provided referrals and collaboration with social service agencies that assisted adults.

Practical implications

Given that police officers are first responders to a wide range of social problems, investigating and disseminating information about the characteristics of police social service collaboration strategies is an important endeavor. Whereas investigating the effectiveness of collaborations was not the aim of this review, several practical implications can be derived from the findings. These findings show the types of social problems, partners and tasks that comprise the collaborations. The present findings suggest that law enforcement agencies do not have accessible name brand social work and social service collaboration models that can be replicated. The majority of the collaborations found appear to be unique models implemented between law enforcement and social service agencies. More outcome studies are needed that investigate whether the social problem has improved among citizens that received services from the collaboration.

Originality/value

This paper is the first systematic review focused on police social work and social service collaboration strategies implemented to address social problems.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors thank Jacob Gutter for preparing the flow diagram.

This paper forms part of a special section on “Social Police Work and Police Social Work: 100 years after August Vollmer's speech”.

Citation

Patterson, G.T. and Swan, P.G. (2019), "Police social work and social service collaboration strategies one hundred years after Vollmer: A systematic review", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 42 No. 5, pp. 863-886. https://doi.org/10.1108/PIJPSM-06-2019-0097

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited