Policing and public health: Not quite the right analogy

Evan Anderson, Scott Burris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Policing matters to public health, and it makes sense to consider how greater cooperation and even integration between health and law enforcement systems might lead to new and better approaches to chronic problems at the intersection of health and security. The fact that policing is important to public health does not mean, however, that police work is ‘like’ public health work, let alone that police agencies and public health agencies share important features in culture and methods that might support better alignment. It may be more useful to focus on the similarities between policing and medicine. Medicine and policing devote most of their energies to addressing the acute needs of individuals, and have relatively little capacity to change upstream structural factors. Each is a source of considerable incidental harm. Past and current efforts to align public health and medicine provide useful insights into work at the intersection of policing and public health. In this paper, we pursue analogies between policing and patient-centred care, preventing medical error, reducing overutilisation, and focusing care on high-risk patients. We conclude with an exploration of what a ‘culture of health’ would add to current police culture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)300-313
Number of pages14
JournalPolicing and Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 3 2017


  • Public health
  • law
  • law enforcement
  • medicine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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