An evidence-based post mortem – Where did we go wrong in Western Australia?

Mr Paul House1

1WA Police, Australia

In December 2014, a masterclass presented by Professor Lawrence Sherman and attended by more than 100 senior WA Police officers heralded a new way of thinking about police reform. The message was clear – our current policing practises had not changed in many years, supported by research on new research from around the world. Furthermore, current practice could be beneficial or harmful to the community, but we just don’t know.


One month later, the evidence-based policing division was established at Police Headquarters to implement this new way of thinking. A twenty-strong team of police officers, project managers, international experts and analysts were brought together with the remit, funding and executive support to test police practices. Externally, the reviews were glowing, with government agencies, members of the public and researchers supporting this new way of doing things.


Four years on and the enthusiasm had gone, a division was downsized to a unit, then to a team, then an office and finally to a ‘team’ of one.  Was it the political environment, staunch resistance, patch protection, communications failure, appetite for risk, lack of capability or funding?  What lessons can other Police Forces learn from the WA experience to ensure evidence based practices have the best chance of succeeding?


Paul House is the Data Analytics and Assessment Manager within the WA Police Operational Standards Unit. He worked in the Evidence Based Policing Unit from its inauguration in 2015 through to 2018. Paul currently manages a team of analysts and interns who support external researchers and inform the evaluation of operational standards. In 2017 he completed the Master of Studies degree in Applied Criminology and Police Management. Paul has also worked in the Defence Intelligence and Aviation sectors.