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To what extent is evidence-based practice currently a reality in UK policing?

This project will explore how successfully forces are employing an evidence-based approach to policing.

Key details

Lead institution
Principal researcher(s)
Mike Hope
Police region
South East
Level of research
Project start date
Date due for completion

Research context

The project aims to gather data to contribute to the understanding of how well evidence-based practice (EBP) is currently being adopted by UK police forces.

The research seeks to identify if barriers exist to prevent EBP becoming embedded in a force and what can be learnt where EBP has been successfully embedded in a force. The research will also explore the role of organisational culture in the adoption of EBP by forces along with leadership, training and whether some policing functions are more suited to EBP than others. ‚Äč

As part of the research process, the researcher is undertaking a self-service web-based survey, which is being distributed across different UK police organisations. The purpose of the questionnaire is to capture participant understanding and experience of evidence-based practice in their workplace. There are also questions regarding their knowledge, experience and opinion of related matters such as professionalization, police training and academic research. 

If you have any questions, please email [email protected]  

Research methodology

The study will use a mixed methods approach, undertaking a quantitative survey as the first stage of the process, followed by ethnography comprising of observations and semi-structured interviews using a case study method.

The researcher proposes to use a quantitative survey in the first stage of the project.  The survey will be distributed electronically via e-mail to participants in different UK police organisations. The survey will be distributed to police officers of all ranks. The survey has drawn on existing literature and been designed to capture views on several subjects which are of relevance to EBP.

The data obtained from the survey will act as a 'bridge' between what we currently know about the challenges of embedding EBP in policing and the second phase of the research, by providing more current data to inform the preparation of interview questions. The survey may also identify additional matters worthy of further exploration when undertaking the ethnographic fieldwork.

The qualitative research phase will use the case study method to assess the impact of EBP in specific policing functions. The functions identified for case studies are football policing, neighbourhood policing and the response function. A case study approach will enable detailed data to be obtained in a small number of specific settings.

It is proposed the second part of the research will use an ethnographic approach. The use of ethnography in police research enables the researcher to go 'behind-the-scenes' to get an understanding of the realities of routine police activity, which will be important in helping to answer the research questions.

Employing ethnographic methodology in this project provides an opportunity to observe how officers perform their role to gain a greater understanding of the extent to which EBP is a consideration for them in everyday practice. Semi-structured interviews will be completed with research participants in the forces where case studies are taking place to gather data on the thought processes and views which inform how they operate.

The researcher intends to conduct the fieldwork over a twelve-month period as this will allow for flexibility in moving between research sites to maximise the potential for meaningful observational work. For example, the observation of football policing operations will be restricted to the football season.

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