Policy Memo: Policy memo is a document used to help people make policy decisions

Policy Memo: Policy memo is a document used to help people make policy decisions. In the real world your policy memo might be one of several policy memos received by city leaders. 

You MUST use the memo format shown on the next page.  This assignment is a critical thinking assignment where you put some of the research methods skills into action.  Hint—hint: you might want to write up the executive summary after you complete the policy memo analyses. 

I want you to select two problems that you found in the Ferguson Report and use those problems as the basis for your policy memo.  The Ferguson Report discusses issues with the police department and with the municipal court.  Your two problems must both relate to police OR court.  I do not want one of each!

Consider the following:

Who are you writing the memo to/for?  This is important for you to keep in mind because the audience will determine the tone of your memo.  Your audience will also determine the approach you will use.  Is your memo addressed to an elected official?  Is your memo addressed to co-workers?  Is your memo addressed to subordinates?

  • State the problem clearly and concisely.  The problem statement is the main reason that you are writing the memo in the first place.
    • Analyze the problem.  Remember that the purpose of the memo is help people make decisions.  You will need to present your position as well as alternative positions. 
    • Use statistics or other examples to illustrate what action needs to take place.  Make sure that you cite to the sources in your memo using APA formatting.
    • It is a good idea to explain the problem and the reason for a new or different policy agenda.
    • Don’t be shy—state the policy choice that will solve the problem.  Make sure that you explain why this choice is preferable to other choices.  Make sure that your solution does not violate laws or constitutional guarantees. 
    • Policy memoranda are concise and to the point.  Keep in mind that concise isn’t a synonym for short.  It just means that you do not have to be overly wordy and repeating yourself.  Most policy memos are addressed to the decision makers.

Format your policy memorandum as you would any memo.  State who it is to, who it is from, the date, and the subject.  A memo is not very long—a couple of pages.  But, you have to cover a lot of material in those pages.  You should include subheadings to make your memo easier to read.

Your memo should have one inch margins throughout.  Your memo must have correct spelling and punctuation.  Always right click on any red or green lines in your papers.  If the word is spelled correctly then add that word to your dictionary so that the red line goes away. 

Format for Policy Memo:







The Executive Summary should succinctly summarize the issue in review and state the recommended policy. It is important to understand that you might not actually analyze a policy in effect. Many times, there is no policy in effect and your responsibility is to recommend the establishment of a policy in response to a particular issue.


In this section of the Memorandum, you should elaborate on the problem encouraging the need for policy implementation. It is important to be as specific as possible when you identify the problem. A general statement of a problem does not encourage reaction among the administrators you are attempting to persuade. You should state any evidence you have that a problem actually exists. If you choose to include statistics, it is important that you include the source of those statistics, particularly for credibility purposes. The more evidence you can present here, the better!


You are ready to suggest policy options. This is the section of the Memorandum where your ideas and recommendations are showcased. You should identify and explain each policy option in response to the specific problem.  Do not mention the benefits of the policy options at this time, as you will include both the pros and cons of the policy options during the next components of the Memorandum. 


It is very important to remain objective as you create this component of the Memorandum. It is sometimes difficult to state the negative implications (the cons) of our own idea. However, proper analysis of a Criminal Justice Policy and competent communication require objectivity.  This section of the Memorandum forces you to analyze the policy and identify potential problems with your recommendation. This is also a helpful measure in appreciating the perspective of the inevitable opponents of your policy recommendation.

Positive implications (of your policy)

                This is where you state the benefits of your policy.  Show who will benefit and how.

Negative implications (of your policy) 

                    This is where you state the possible problems and issues with implementing your   



Finally, you will conclude your Memorandum with a short summary of your recommendation/s.

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