Beyond the evidence: implementation science insights from a decade in policing

Dr Karla Lopez1

1Centre For Evidence And Implementation, Carlton, Australia


Implementation science, simply put, is the scientific study of methods to promote the systematic uptake of research findings and other evidence-based practices into routine operations*. The merit in using research evidence to address operational policing challenges is irrefutable to anyone involved in SEBP. But in the context of increasing scrutiny, shrinking budgets and stretched resources, how do we ensure that evidence-based practice (EBP) remains in place with reasonable fidelity after we walk away?

To enable scientific or field trials and the emerging evidence to lead to sustained change and continuous improvement in policing practice, it is necessary to understand not only which interventions work but how. Implementation science enables the understanding of the impact of interventions as well as the specific conditions under which they work. Being intentional about testing and measuring the intervention as well as its optimal implementation conditions is the best way to support scaling up of EBPs.

This paper takes explores practical implementation strategies, to support the endeavour of capability uplift within policing. Evidence is not enough to lead to behaviour change.  But hybrid design trials can test the efficacy of interventions, along with factors that support and sustain their utilisation. Beyond the evidence and internal executive sponsorship, there are practical ways to maximise the impact of EBPs by being intentional in the way they are implemented.

This presentation outlines, practical implementation strategies that I wish I had known during my decade in policing, and which can be applied immediately to embed EBPs in policing.


Dr Karla Lopez has over 20 years’ experience in forensic psychology across multiple settings, including policing, corrections and community health. She is passionate about the use of evidence in practice through her current work with the Centre for Evidence and Implementation. Previously specialising in work with sex, violent and recidivist offenders, Dr Lopez worked closely with Victoria Police to develop their offender management framework designed to guide the risk management of sex offenders in the community as well as in the development of risk management strategies in covert policing. She has consulted across a number of Australian jurisdictions on matters of offender risk assessment and management and led the research on Victoria Police’s dynamic risk assessment tool which has now been implemented by most other Australian law enforcement agencies.

Dr Lopez is an experienced trainer, supervisor and coach dedicated to assisting in the professional development and mentoring of others in evidence-based practices. She routinely contributes to professional conferences and maintains regular training assignments in police, corrections and child protection settings.