The ‘Collective Impact’ of law enforcement and public health

Dr Sancia West1, Dr Isabelle Bartkowiak-Theron1, Prof Roberta Julian1
1University Of Tasmania, Sandy Bay, Australia

There is a long history of engagement between law enforcement and public health.  Police officers are as much interventionists on the public health continuum (such as helping an intoxicated young person to a place of safety), as health practitioners are stakeholders in public safety (such as assessing the risk of a mental health patient in crisis). Yet, despite these synergies their approaches remain largely siloed.

The nexus of law enforcement and health has been at the centre of finding new ways to create better collaboration, and how to more effectively integrate service delivery. Policy makers, practitioners, academics have been conscious of situations where vulnerable people have ‘fallen through the cracks’, where vulnerabilities have been misidentified or identified too late, or where siloed delivery of support services hindered help.

Collective Impact is a model where entities come together with a shared agenda and aligned effort. Tasmania is rich with examples of such Collective Impact, where Tasmania Police have joined with the Department of Health and Human Services to address public health issues, such as the Safe At Home program to address family violence, Inter-Agency Support teams to identify youth at risk, and the Safer Hobart Community Partnership to reduce anti-social behaviour and improve public safety.  A recent survey found over 75 such examples in Tasmania, with varying degrees of coordination between police and health organisations.

This paper will explore the potential benefits, as well as the challenges, of a Collective Impact initiative in law enforcement and public health in Tasmania.


Sancia West is an Associate Lecturer in Police Studies at the University of Tasmania and is the Course Coordinator of the Tasmania Police Professionalisation Program (TP3). The TP3 allows current serving police officers to apply prior work experience and academic study in order to complete a specialised Bachelor of Social Sciences (Police Studies). Dr West is also a Registered Nurse, with a background in health policy, providing her with perspectives on both sides of the issue of law enforcement and public health.

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