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Policing research partnership brings lasting impact

Posted on March 17th 2017

A collaborative study between the University of Exeter and Devon and Cornwall Police has fostered a long-term partnership to bring evidence and research into policing.

The Exeter Policing, Evidence and Research Translation study (ExPERT) was set up to take the lessons learned from evidence-based practice in medicine and apply them to policing.

Funded by the College of Policing as part of a national drive to boost the decision-making process in law enforcement, ExPERT is led by the Policing and Evidence Group – an interdisciplinary team of researchers at the University of Exeter, with expertise in criminology, law, public health, psychology and sociology – and includes PenCLAHRC researchers Iain Lang, Mark Pearson and Kath Wilkinson.

'Evidence-based practice' is a familiar concept in clinical professions, where it is used to ensure treatments are based on robust research findings and a proven understanding of 'what works'. The ExPERT team have developed a programme of training, based on PenCLAHRC’s Making Sense of Evidence workshops, to help police staff feel confident identifying, critically assessing and using research evidence in their work.

Sessions have been attended by members from several police forces in the South West, including frontline staff, senior officers and analysts. They describe their experience of the project in the video below: 

The benefits of ExPERT are not confined to the duration of the study - through activities designed to promote discussion, problem-solving and networking, the project is building a community connected by evidence.

This includes a number of sessions involving the police and members of the community, with the aim of helping the ExPERT team identify the most relevant areas of policing and crime reduction to focus on in future research. These 'Project Generation Forums' are generating proposals that can be submitted for further funding, helping to launch meaningful new initiatives that continue where this project finishes.

Alexis Poole, Head of Performance and Analysis at Devon and Cornwall Police, said:

“We’re really excited about where the relationship has got to and what might happen in the future. We are working with the University in a number of areas, both within ExPERT and beyond it, and we’ve got some research projects that will carry on for quite some time after ExPERT has ended.”

Hear more from Alexis in this short video interview.

ExPERT is also bringing long-term benefits to policing via a secondment programme. This has been set up to allow police staff, researchers and University of Exeter students to work together on key issues in crime reduction. These placements are helping the police to develop their 'hands on' data analysis and research skills, as well as giving students valuable workplace experience and providing academics with a unique insight into 'real world' problems.

The teams are tackling issues which include domestic violence and child sexual exploitation, and Devon and Cornwall Police are optimistic that the secondment programme and the skills-development it enables will continue for ‘the foreseeable future’.

Neil Ralph, Detective Chief Inspector at Devon and Cornwall Police said:

"The academics that I’ve been involved with have been fantastic and I would absolutely recommend anyone – not just police officers – in any form of profession, to make that link with academia. We've formed a really strong alliance between the University of Exeter and Devon and Cornwall Police… and I have no doubt we'll build on these strong foundations."

ExPERT is supported by the College of Policing, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the Home Office under a grant from the Police Knowledge Fund. Find out more about ExPERT in our multi-media case study on evidence-based policing, or visit the project website and PenCLAHRC project page