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Police Knowledge Fund

Liverpool Centre for Advanced Policing Studies

Police Knowledge Fund: Outcomes

LJMU and collaboration partners Merseyside Police and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside were successful in being one of 15 projects funded nationally through the Police Knowledge Fund Project

Projects were funded to operate between August 2015 and March 2017 working towards the realisation of the following three objectives:

  • build sustained capability amongst officers and staff to understand, critique and use research, including the potential for officers and staff to carry out research and reviews of the evidence
  • embed or accelerate understanding of crime and policing issues, and evidence based problem-solving approaches
  • demonstrate innovation in building the research evidence base and applying it through knowledge exchange and translation across all levels of policing

The largest project the centre has been involved in recently is the Police Knowledge Fund, which took two years to complete and ended with:

  • 68 police officers becoming Practitioner Fellows and graduating from LJMU with PG Certs in policing and a big research project under their belts
  • significant research impacts communicated to the sector and academics; and led to ongoing development of more educational programmes in related areas

“Embedding Evidence Based Practice in Public Protection and Crime Prevention: A multi-disciplinary partnership”

Merseyside-based partners worked collaboratively to develop the Merseyside Police’s capacity to engage with research evidence in helping to positively influence the decision-making practices and organisational working culture of the service. The project has had a catalytic effect in stimulating the enhancement of evidence-based approaches and in developing the confidence of officers and staff to critically engage with research evidence.

A multi-disciplinary project team consisting of three LJMU-based Research Fellows and three Advanced Practitioners (Police Officers seconded part-time from Merseyside Police) developed and delivered a bespoke package of accredited research training and supervision to a total of 71 police officers and staff. The project team also worked with Senior leaders within Merseyside Police to develop mechanisms for facilitating, commissioning, and evaluating research within the organisation to help embed the engagement with research evidence within Merseyside Police (objectives realised through the establishment of Merseyside Police’s Evidence-Based Steering Group and Evidence-Based Knowledge Hub). 

Running alongside these activities has been the Police Knowledge Fund-led stimulation of research networks and opportunities between wider members of the LJMU research community (from the fields of Criminology, Computer Science, Applied Mathematics, Media Studies) and Merseyside Police partners. These relationships are on-going and evidence the longer-term ambition of LJMU to work collaboratively with criminal justice partners to develop teaching and research activities within the sector that stimulate efforts to reduce reoffending, better support vulnerable people/groups, understand the complexity of criminal justice operational practice, and improve public safety. 

Project impacts

  • Merseyside based PKF partners have worked together to develop Merseyside Police’s Evidence-Based Steering Group, a mechanism that governs how the organisation engages, commissions and implement research-informed evidence. Chaired by an Assistant Chief Constable and meeting monthly, the Group brings together Senior Responsible Officers in key areas of the force’s business and representatives from local Universities to govern activities concerned with advancing the research capacity of Merseyside Police.
  • 68 police officers and staff from Merseyside Police and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside will have graduated from LJMU with a Postgraduate Certificate in Advanced Policing Studies during the lifetime of the PKF. The bespoke programme of study demonstrably develops student’s ability to identify and engage with research evidence; builds their confidence to design and plan research; and sees students complete and present to Senior Officers research on priorities identified by the Merseyside Police performance management framework: child exploitation, effective crime prevention and hate crime.
  • The Merseyside PKF project has supported the development of Evidence-Based Practice Champions within Merseyside Police. Most explicitly this has been through the professional development of three Advanced Practitioners, seconded police officers who have been based at the University part-time for the duration of the project. As members of a multi-disciplinary team and working alongside University based research fellows the Advanced Practitioners have demonstrable experience of planning and delivering teaching; conducting original research; mentoring officers; and in promoting research leadership through their involvement in supporting efforts to develop mechanisms that embed evidence-based thinking within the organisational working of Merseyside Police. The legacy of the PKF will be sustained as skills and experiences developed through the project are taken back into force through the leadership positions in Organisational Development and the Training Academy the officers has assumed.
  • Merseyside PKF partners have, and continue to work in partnership to engage in knowledge exchange activity that has stimulated the development of networks nationally and internationally. A four person strong PKF team of University based Research Fellows and Advanced Practitioners presented a session at the American Society of Criminology Conference in New Orleans in 2016 drawing out learning from on-going research and reflecting on the experience of collaborating more generally. A series of themed workshops have been delivered (exploring such issues as looked after children’s experience of the criminal justice system and child sexual exploitation) and academics and practitioners engaged in the production of other collaboratively produced outputs from the project.
  • The experience of the PKF has led to the development of educational provision with a specific emphasis on practitioner-led research. A Postgraduate Diploma in Evidence-Informed Practice building on the good practices of the bespoke educational provision developed through the PKF has been developed that will support the advanced development of the research skills of criminal practitioners in the sector.
  • The development of practitioner-led research activity through the PKF, and its ability to develop richer understandings of crime problems and solutions to them, has complimented the University’s wider engagement with the current training and development needs of the sector. The Liverpool Centre for Advanced Policing Studies (LCAPS) delivers a range of undergraduate, postgraduate, and professional programmes designed to equip graduates with a range of key academic and technical skills. The ability of research activity stimulated by the PKF to feed into the design of the programme will help emphasise the importance on evidence-based practice and using research evidence to stimulate policy and decision-making processes.
  • At the project’s conclusion collaboration partners all agreed that the PKF initiated activities have been catalytic in securing a significant enhancement in the Merseyside Police approach to Evidence-Based Policing. Merseyside Police’s engagement with Evidence-Based Practice is much more robust and consistent than was the case in August 2015, prior to the commencement of the PKF. 

“A catalyst…”

The project has been the catalyst for a range of activities that are continuing to help positively shape how the force is developing its efforts to embed research-informed thinking and weave evidence-based practice into the organisation’s working culture. 

There is now stable leadership of the force’s Evidenced-Based Policing strategy with the engagement of staff at all levels of the organisation shaping this work. 

The engagement with stakeholders is built into the approach and the infrastructure developed during the lifetime of the PKF will ensure that this is sustainable into the future. The strong force engagement with the PKF evidences how much of a ‘questioning culture’ has developed within the organisation and how willing Merseyside Police is to engage in critical reflection and draw organisational learning from research. 

How it all worked

Chief Inspector Karen Dowden, Merseyside Police and PKF Project Advanced Practitioner

“An 18 month secondment into an academic environment after the constant demands of managing the operational policing side of serious and organised crime, Protecting Vulnerable People and Local Communities was a diverse and challenging time initially. Understanding the context and landscape of academia, and the transition into a different working pace, as well as becoming immersed in university culture whilst developing personal and professional knowledge to support the Police Knowledge Fund programme was stimulating and demanding. 

The slow realisation that universities, academics and academia held such a wealth of knowledge, understanding and evidence to support police officers, police staff and policing was revealing of my own limitations as well as the significant opportunities available. Personal and professional reflections on policing style, culture and environments provided a drive to be innovative and lead the organisation through change to incorporate evidence based practice, influence decisions, policy and processes that could provide cost savings, improve efficiency and deliver higher performance and therefore increased customer satisfaction around all areas of crime and disorder and community policing.”

Inspector Carl McNulty, Merseyside Police and PKF Project Advanced Practitioner

“Given the climate of change within policing, it is essential to allow officers to gain valuable experience in gaining research skills and academic knowledge. By allowing officers to focus these transferable skills into an area of interest to both them and the force, we have experienced a higher level of insight and understanding in the issues affecting both local and national forces. 

In turn this has helped to embed a change of culture, to appreciate the value of evidence based Policing and how it can support current and ever changing policies and practises. This has been evidence throughout the various ranks within Policing that have actively engaged with the project.”

D/Constable Paul Doran, Merseyside Police and PKF Project Student Officer

“I was extremely grateful for the opportunity I was given to conduct an academic study into an interesting and engaging area of police business. I gained valuable knowledge and learned the skills required to conduct meaningful and useful research. I also gained an external, university level qualification and produced a piece of work which is useful not only to Merseyside police but to forces across England & Wales. 

Further to this, the study led to interest from the top ranks in Merseyside Police who met with me to discuss the findings, which made me feel valued and appreciated. Evidence based policing is essential to the future of policing, it allows policy makers to make informed decisions on the implantation and changes to policy & procedure based on evidence. My study led to me securing a further funded position on an ‘MSc’ course in ‘advanced policing’ at LJMU.”

Inspector Andy Creer, Merseyside Police and PKF Project Student Officer

“The Police Knowledge Fund project has afforded me the opportunity to engage with academia and higher education for the first time since leaving school. It has undoubtedly allowed me to develop myself both personally and professionally and obtain new research and critical evaluation skills that I now use in the workplace. 

The project has encouraged me to review current practice and policy and seek to improve the way in which we police, but based on evidence and not opinion. In times of change and reduced resources but with increased demand, the skills that colleagues and I now have, will no doubt assist the force in meeting the on-going challenge of delivering a first class service to the community we serve.”