Risk prediction and decision making in policing – humans, algorithms and data (a study of processes at Bedfordshire police, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire constabularies)

This study will explore the collection and management of information in policing and its use in risk assessment and decision making.

Key details

Lead institution
Principal researcher(s)
Miss Ganiat Kazeem
Police region
South East
Collaboration and partnership

Centre for Police Research and Learning.

Level of research
Project start date
Date due for completion

Research context

Policing is a specialised area of work with complex legislation, policy and procedural limitations alongside high levels of public accountability and scrutiny. Day to day policing involves conducting continuous risk assessments and decision making by control room staff, response officers, community policing officers, senior police officers and fleet policing staff.

The information collected in the process enables them to prevent and fight crime and police analysts produce advanced metrics from the same to support strategic planning for use of resources. There is an increased interest in the relevance and impact of data and information collation and use for risk assessment and decision making.

This inductive interpretivist study focuses on understanding the police process of information collection/acquisition, management and exploitation risk assessments and decision making in the counties of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire located outside the metropolitan area.

Cutting across the fields of information systems, informatics, policing, criminology and organisations, it will seek to characterise the rigors of police work, processes and practices.

It will examine the role of 'humans' in the production (through interactions with staff in police control rooms), generation (during day-to-day policing) and creation (through intelligence collected via community policing and detectives investigating focused criminal issues) of information, developing an understanding of the information cycle in policing and nature (culture, context, practices, processes) of information collection, management, use and exploitation. It will examine how these shape the use and exploitation of data generated including the critical issues related to use of information for risk assessment and decision making in policing using advanced metrics or statistics, algorithms and other advanced technologies.

It is anticipated that by exploring the interlocking of people, policy and public service with respect to the flow, use and governance of data, information, management of information and balanced decision making and risk evaluation this study will bridge gaps in current research corpus. This will enable understanding of the work of policing, information and data movement in the process of risk assessments and decision making in policing and inform policy and practice in policing and contribute to the wider research community.

Research methodology

This research adopts an inductive interpretive research paradigm. It engages an iterative pattern to root theory in data and vice versa. This approach is underpinned by an interpretive philosophical approach, using cultural frame of analysis.

It takes an approach that accentuates the representation of individuals and their lived experiences, exploring concepts such as sense making and identity using interviews to give voices to participants and observations to highlight routines, artefacts and the environment with a focus on ways of working and interaction patterns.

The research uses multisite ethnography through observations and interviews at multiple locations/departments across roles and ranks.

Purposive sampling has been used due to complex organisation structure and the need to limit disruption to policing activities. In the main, the participating officers will be recruited by advertising for participants through team and business leaders.

Thematic analysis will be engaged to identify themes and subthemes while considering assumptions, inconsistencies and ideas with attention to prevalence, authenticity, value and representativeness. Emergent themes and or incidents that characterise key activities related to the research questions and research scope will be highlighted.

Member validation methods will be engaged during this process alongside prolonged engagement, audit trails, member checks and persistent observation support axiology and data rigor. Analysis will be paced to allow for re-interviewing and re-immersion to ensure that the inductive research process is followed and that observed phenomena continue to align with themes whilst giving attention to the possibility of new themes emerging within themes.

Interim reports or publications

Kazeem, Ganiat (2021): Digital transformation and managing risk – data use challenges in police forces in England in British Society for Criminology, Annual Conference Proceedings, Crime and Harm: Challenges of social and global justice, July 07-09, 2021.

Kazeem, Ganiat O (2021): Navigating the ethnographic field – immersed or inserted? ACM Conference Proceedings: Exploring ethnographic work in the context of complex field settings.. In Coping with messiness in Ethnography ’21: ACM Chi Conference on Human factors in computing systems, May 08–13, 2021, Yokohama, Japan

Kazeem, Ganiat Omolara (2020): Risk prediction and decision making in policing – Humans, Algorithms and Data. (A study of processes at Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire police) In: Proceedings of the 18th European Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work: The International Venue on Practice-centred Computing on the Design of Cooperation Technologies, Reports of the European Society for Socially Embedded Technologies (ISSN 2510-2591), DOI: 10.18420/ecscw2020_dc04

Ganiat Kazeem (2020): Ethnographic intricacies and non- Western settings. In: Coping with messiness in Ethnography Workshop; Proceedings of the 18th European Conference on see Computer-Supported Cooperative Work: The International Venue on Practice-centred Computing on the Design of Cooperation Technologies – Exploratory Papers, Reports of the European Society for Socially Embedded Technologies

Risk prediction and decision making in policing – humans, algorithms and data: A presentation of a three phase research design engaging police, citizens and systems thinking to Citizen Forensics project team, Open University July 2019

Research participation

Individuals who may wish to contribute to the study at the respective forces are advised to contact the office for their chief constable and assistant chief constable to indicate awareness of the ongoing research and they will be put in touch with the researcher.

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