Police

Research within LCAPS

Liverpool Centre for Advanced Policing Studies

Liverpool Centre for Advanced Policing Studies research interests and expertise 

LCAPS research agenda is themed around a number of dynamic research clusters which reflect the primary and secondary interests of our staff.

Current research activities are themed around the following research clusters:

  • Serious and organised crime
  • Evidence-based policing and practice
  • Intelligence analysis  
  • Counter-terrorism 
  • Domestic violence

Our research clusters enable us to engage in the co-creation of knowledge alongside industry stakeholders. We do this by addressing contemporary issues within policing and broader human security domains. In addition to this, our research initiatives and aspirations enable us to play a strong role in the Research Exercise Framework.

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Find out more about our research by taking a look at the sections on our projects and expertise below.

Our expertise

LCAPS brings together research-active staff from across the University. Our expertise draws on the following disciplines:

  • Policing studies
  • Criminal justice
  • Criminology
  • Law
  • Psychology

The Centre also carries out work within the following research areas: serious and organised crime, intelligence analysis, domestic violence, evidence-based policing, human trafficking, counter-terrorism. In bringing together leading researchers from these fields, the Centre produces sector-leading research that addresses the needs of modern policing, law enforcement and security.

Our projects

From crime prevention to skills gaps, the Liverpool Centre for Advanced Policing Studies undertake a number of projects that relate to their research agenda. In addition to the Police Knowledge Fund (see below), academics from LCAPS are undertaking the following projects.

Police Knowledge Fund

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 project 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 and 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 and 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 ongoing challenge of delivering a first-class service to the community we serve.”

An Exploration of the Criminal, Dangerous and Anti-Social Use of Motorcycles Across Merseyside

Academics from the Centre have recently conducted a research project, commissioned by jointly by LJMU and Merseyside Police, exploring the criminal, dangerous and anti-social use of motorcycles across the county. The issue of motorcycle-enabled crime has recently become a national concern for Policing, with Merseyside experiencing a high volume of issues with off road motorcycles in particular. Despite successful seizures and crack downs of motorcycles, Merseyside have still experienced mass ride outs and also fatal incidents to both riders and members of the public.

The motorcycles under scrutiny in this research, but not limited to, are off road motorcycles such as scrambler bikes, racing bikes and at times quad bikes. The research, led by Charlotte Watkinson and supported by Dr Matthew Millings and Dr Daniel Silverstone, undertook a qualitative nature and aimed to examine the perspectives and experiences of: professionals including serving police officers, community leaders and also riders themselves. The research also engaged with national leads and forums.

The headline findings from this project uncovered both key messages from police officers and also rider perspectives. Focusing on officers, there was a sense of operational anxiety in combating this issue and one that was deemed to require a national response. It was apparent in the research the scale of community concern around the recklessness of the behaviour also. Whilst on the other hand, riders exploited the weaknesses in current legislation and conveyed reasons for riding such motorcycles to fit in to three categories; the thrill and excitement of the motorcycle, the exponents of cycle craft and at times the links to organised crime. The research has been presented to a multi-agency forum and outputs from the research will follow in due course.

For further details contact Charlotte Watkinson.

Disrupting the Routes between Care and Custody

Duration - three years from 2019

Dr Jude Towers is an expert adviser to the Nuffield Funded Disrupting the Routes between Care and Custody research project that is running between 2019 to 2021.

The research prioritises the specific experiences of care-experienced girls and those in custody, giving voice to views that are rarely heard to help ensure that policy and practice responses are sufficiently informed by a service-user perspective. 

The research will interview women in custody with experience of the care system to help identify what needs to change within both the care and criminal justice system to disrupt the pathway between care and prison. Interviews will also be conducted with a range of professionals and practitioners working within the care and justice systems, including care workers and police, to explore their perspectives and recommendations for reform. Exploratory work on the quantification and measurement regimes that enable to links between care and custody to be explicated and interrogated will also form part of the research agenda.

For further details contact the Project PI Dr Claire Fitzpatrick.

Evidence-based practice in public protection and crime prevention

The College of Policing are at the forefront of efforts to embed evidence-based thinking in policing practice development in England and Wales. Together with HEFCE (Higher Education Funding Council for England) and the Home Office, the College – through The Police Knowledge Fund – supported 15 projects to stimulate innovative working practice between police professionals and academic institutions. Our Merseyside-based project, one of those being supported, brings together LJMU, Merseyside Police and the Police and Crime Commissioner for Merseyside.

As a multi-disciplinary project team comprising of seconded police officers and research-active University staff we work collaboratively to deliver postgraduate research training and supervision to police officers/staff and manage practice-based research. Our activities facilitate knowledge transfer and implementation through developing mechanisms to commission and evaluate research evidence. We work to develop the research skills of each of the 70 police officers/staff we have engaged and support them in producing research outputs capable of contributing to policy development within the following priority areas: child exploitation, crime prevention, hate crime, and cyber-crime. Student projects have supported the development of evidence-based practice in respect of police-led missing from home debriefing interviews and the enhanced targeting and management of domestic violence perpetrators. Other projects have explored police engagement strategies with a range of vulnerable groups including young people in police custody, sex workers, criminally exploited children, and victims of disability hate crime.

Quantitative and spatial analytical skills

There are a number of cultural shifts taking place within UK policing and broader human security domains for which quantitative skills are integral. The College of Policing has called for increased focus on quantitative techniques in police training. Additionally, the increased emphasis on evidence-based practice requires effective methods for deploying, appraising and monitoring policing innovations and interventions.

In 2016, Dr Adegbola Ojo secured a British Academy Skills Innovator Award for a research programme designed to respond to a critical gap in graduate and practitioner quantitative skills. Research activities have been designed to be relevant to both parties as well as up-skilling social science researchers.

A network of researchers has been established bringing together stakeholders from a range of allied human security disciplines who aim to contextualise some of the key debates on evidence-based practice in policing and broader human security; scope the possible limits and boundaries of evidence-based practice in policing; articulate the broader implications of deficiencies in the use of empirical approaches in understanding what works and what does not work; and clarify understanding of evidence-based policing in an international context. In addition to the activities of the research network, the research programme also embeds at least four ongoing research projects including: space-time configuration of insurgency and terrorism for emergency response preparedness, developing a simplified framework for evidence-based policing, understanding the spatial dimensions of journeys to crime, and social media text mining for evidence-informed decision-making.

The Consortium for Criminological Research on the Powerful (CCRP)

The Consortium for Criminological Research on the Powerful (CCRP) is a cross-university research group which aims to challenge and conceptualise ‘the powerful’ by advancing qualitative and quantitative methodology in order to gain valuable insights into the social realities of those in power. CCRP is an affiliation with Ghent University, the University of Porto and the Liverpool Centre for Advanced Policing Studies which developed following the Summer School on Elites and Experts as Subjects of Qualitative Research: Challenges in Design, Execution and Analysis that took place at Ghent University, 30 May – 1 June 2017.

The group provides members with opportunities to exchange and cooperate in improving research on the powerful in order to create possibilities for discovering, discussing and overcoming common conceptual and methodological challenges and controversies. It does this by facilitating seminars, conferences and seasonal specialist courses for criminological research and increase interdisciplinary thinking, sustained by close networking and cooperation on research and education projects that focus on the powerful. Members exchange information, especially through social media, on relevant (scientific) events, publications, and funding opportunities relating to criminological research on the powerful. CCRP is also connected with the Working Group on Qualitative Research Methodologies and Epistemologies of the European Society of Criminology.

CCRP is open to students and scholars from a wide array of social sciences, including criminology, sociology, political science, law, communication studies, as well as to criminal justice and policing professionals outside the academic domain.

N8 Policing Research Partnership

Duration - five years from 2015

Dr Jude Towers is the Training and Learning lead for the N8 Policing Research Partnership.

The partnership is between eight universities and 11 police forces across the North of England. It was founded in 2013 as a platform for collaborations between universities, PCCs, police forces and partners across the north of England, with the current phase being funded by a HEFCE Catalyst Grant 2015-2020.

The aim of the partnership is to harness the skills, capabilities and resources across the North of England; to engage multi-disciplinary expertise in problem-solving; and to deliver at a scale with real impact by fostering cross-force collaborations. The priorities of the partnership are: to building research co-production capacity; to test mechanisms for exploiting knowledge and expertise to strengthen the evidence-base on which policy, practice and training are developed; and to support innovation and the professionalisation of policing.

The objectives funded under the current HEFCE Grant are:

  • To produce high quality, independent research
  • To build policing research and knowledge exchange capacity in HEIs
  • To enhance the quality, integrity, scope, synthesis and exploitation of  datasets
  • To develop capacity and resources in (a) policing research and (b) police and crime data analytics
  • To encourage and foster the development of national and international links
  • To develop and disseminate a transferable model of practice

More information: www.n8prp.org.uk.

Violence, Abuse and Mental Health Network

Duration - four years from 2019

Dr Jude Towers is a Co-Investigator on a four year the UKRI-funded Violence, Abuse and Mental Health Network, starting in 2019.

The network aims to reduce the prevalence of mental health problems among children, adults, and the elderly, by bringing together experts with different ways of thinking about violence, abuse and mental health – including those expert by experience, others with expertise from the work they do, and survivor researchers with both forms of expertise. We aim to understand, prevent and reduce the impact of violence and abuse on mental health. 

The work of the Network is subdivided under three themes:

  1. Measurement: measuring the extent and impact of domestic and sexual violence in relation to mental health
  2. Understanding: understanding the pathways that lead to domestic and sexual violence and their relationship to mental health problems
  3. Intervention: Planning interventions and services to prevent, reduce and address domestic and sexual violence in people with mental health problems or at risk of developing mental health problems

More information: www.vamhn.co.uk.