Research Projects

Research takes place through a genuinely collaborative working relationship, bringing together the key knowledge, skills and experience of academics and practitioners. This collaboration is important to allow police and academics to jointly identify and analyse research questions which will contribute to improving policing. Research projects can come from a range of sources; police practitioners may identify real-life, operational or organisational issues to research, or academics may suggest topics which will benefit from practical research. The priorities are discussed by the Consortium Steering Group and the feasibility, timescale and outputs of the research assessed. After that, suitable projects commence

We aim to be realistic and ‘fleet of foot’ – which means judging in a timely manner whether ideas can be transposed into practical research projects and will reap sufficient practical benefit. Those research projects that are accepted are project-managed to their conclusion to ensure that evidence-based practice can be translated into the workplace. The research projects are overseen by a Steering Group which comprises both academics and policing partners.

All research projects are in three main themes below:

Implementing the Transformation of Police Learning and Development.

These films are about the action research to enhance the training, learning and development function in English and Welsh police forces, ready for the policing challenges of the future.  MOPAC and The Open University’s Centre for Policing Research and Learning (CPRL) are working together, on a Police Transformation Fund grant from the Home Office.  

The project is called Implementing the Transformation of Police Learning and Development.   

This initiative derives from Policing Vision 2025, which recognises that the policing challenges of the future are changing in scale and nature, so training, learning and development (TLD) will need to also change in order to nurture a learning, problem-solving taskforce working not only with craft skills, but with a scientific evidence base. 


The four short videos below include comments from some of the key stakeholders giving an explanation of what this aims to achieve, how we are doing it, and what the outputs will be.


Dream - the vision of the project

Dialogue - engaging with the program

Design - approach taken by the project

Deliver - Outcomes of the project



MOPAC and The Open University hosted the first L&D National Learning Network event at City Hall Friday 9th November 2018.

With over 60 attendees representing 30+ forces; the College of Policing, Police Now, the APCC, Police Federation and the Home Office  meant there was great energy in the room, with some really interesting discussions, and we thought that the Network got off to a very good start.

The feedback we’ve received so far has been very positive, with people commenting that highlights for them were the opportunity to talk to colleagues, meet new people and refresh old network connections.  The panel discussion with representatives from Paramedics and Nursing was particularly well-received.  The message made clear the length of journey to expect, and pitfalls along the way already experienced by paramedics and nursing.

We are following up the success of the first event with a second, to be held in Manchester at the Greater Manchester Police Training Centre in May 2019, and a final event in Sept 2019 before handing the organisation of further NLN meetings back to the forces themselves to build on.

One of the attendees – Chief Inspector and Head of Operational L&D at West Midlands; Allan Green has written a blog on the event itself:

Click the link to read:

Detecting and investigating crime

Projects in this theme examine questions varying from how citizens use tools to prevent and detect crime, how eye-witness identification procedures can be improved, and what is the future of forensics markets in the UK.

  • Lead academic : Professor Graham Pike Lead academic :
    Professor Graham Pike
  • Contact via the Centre
  • Research team: Dr Chrisothea Herodotou, Dr Virginia Harrison, Dr Catriona Havard, Dr Hayley Ness and Dr Zoe Walkington. Dr Alisa Strathie, Stephanie Richter, Charlotte Gaskell, National Crime Agency (PhD Student), Jane Birkett, National Crime Agency (Senior Pracitioner Fellow 8/8/16 - 7/11/16)
  • OU location: Department of Psychology
  • Lead Police Partners: Gwent Police

Social media use has increased in the UK since 2008 (Crump, 2011). Whilst there has been some limited quantitative research into this phenomenon there has been very little qualitative examination of how these sites are working to shape the identity of the forces. This study explores the action orientation of small stories on the Facebook sites of two UK police forces. The research recognises that increasingly, through the use of Facebook, ‘networked narratives’ (Georgakopolou, 2007) are constructed collectively by multiple narrators (both the formal police posts, and the comments of the public). Given the ability of narrative to both ‘tell’ and ‘sell’ versions of events, and of social media to perform ‘identity in interaction’ this research considers how the police forces are positioned, and repositioned by this social media activity.

As well as considering how the police forces are positioned and repositioned by the public in the stories they tell, the research will consider the following research questions:

RQ1. To what extent are the narratives “networked”, dialogic and jointly constructed? RQ2. What work do the narratives do regarding identity? To what extent are stories modified through co-creation? RQ3.What are the implications of networked narratives for public engagement via social media? RQ4. What suggestions can be made regarding encouraging positive engagement with the public?


Pike, G. (2015). Public and police perceptions of psychology and the law. Symposium convened & chaired at the European Association of Psychology and Law, Nuremberg, 2015.

Briggs, G. and Pike, G. (2015). Identity, citizenship and engaging with the criminal justice system. Paper presented at the European Association of Psychology and Law, Nuremberg, 2015.

Pike, G. (2016). Policing engagement, enquiry and investigation: An interdisciplinary perspective. Symposium convened & chaired at the European Association of Psychology and Law, Toulouse, 2016.

  • Principal Researcher: Professor Bashar Nuseibeh Principal Researcher:
    Professor Bashar Nuseibeh
  • Contact via the Centre
  • Research team: Arosha Bandara, Blaine Price, Thein Tun and Yijun Yu
  • OU location: Faculty of Maths, Computing and Technology
  • Lead Police Partners: Gwent Police, Metropolitan Police

The increase in cybercrime is raising new challenges for policing, particularly as the methods that cyber criminals use are increasingly complex and often unfamiliar to both victims and law enforcement agencies. Challenges posed to researchers, practitioners and policing, include:

  • what evidence to collect and analyse and what data to collect proactively before a possible criminal activity takes place;
  • how non-specialist front-line police officers collect the appropriate digital evidence from a witness or crime scene;
  • how to trade off forensic evidence collection against privacy concerns of system and data owners; and
  • how to recognise cyber-enabled criminal activity soon after (or in some cases even before) harm is done?

This research project aims to address these challenges. Based on historical examples of criminal activity and an assessment of digital investigation processes and capabilities - the action research project will develop a framework for cybercrime forensic investigations (CFI) that addresses the following objectives to support the development of a “forensic-aware” digital evidence collection tool:

  • to recognise criminal activities defined by existing legal cases and legislation, by automatic computer processing and preparing an evolving repository of digital, potentially criminal, patterns of events;
  • to support forensic investigators in determining what evidence needs to be collected and analysed, by applying formal reasoning based on our prior work on using "structured argumentation";
  • to support the trade-off between forensic arguments and any privacy requirements, policies or laws that protect individuals, by quantifying and contrasting associated risks;
  • to instrument existing and new logging and surveying systems so that they are more “forensically ready”, by incorporating explicitly “forensic requirements” that become the focus of argumentation and inference;
  • to develop and evaluate a prototype demonstrator advisory system that provides timely guidance and recommendations during a ‘live’ cybercrime investigation for both non-technical front-line police and specialist forensic investigators.

The research is partly technical, investigating the development of software tools that will aid forensic investigators to identify the appropriate evidence to collect, taking into account issues of cost effectiveness of collection and maximising benefit to the investigation. The research is also partly empirical, to evaluate the effectiveness of the software tools with real (or realistic) data sets.


Pasquale, Liliana; Yu, Yijun; Salehie, Mazeiar; Cavallaro, Luca; Tun, Thein Than and Nuseibeh, Bashar (2013). Requirements-driven adaptive digital forensics. In: 21st IEEE Requirements Engineering Conference, 15-19 July, 2013, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (

  • Lead academic: Gary Bandy Lead academic:
    Gary Bandy
  • Contact via the Centre
  • Research team: Loua Khalil, Jean Hartley
  • OU Location: : Department of Public Leadership and Social Enterprise
  • Lead Police Partners: Dorset Police

The re-prioritisation of and reduction in police budgets since 2010 and the reduction in reported crime as well as the changing nature of crime has impacted on the amount the police spend externally on forensic services. In 2010/11 police forces in England and Wales spent £127.4m on forensics, excluding employee expenses (CIPFA, 2011). The budgeted expenditure for this in 2015/16 is £96.3m (CIPFA, 2015). This is causing changes to the structure, process and behaviours within individual forces and across the wider police service. The challenge and re-prioritisation of police budgets has impacted on the amount the police spend on forensic examinations, which has an impact on the parallel development of a forensic services providers market with the closing of the Forensic Science Service (FSS).

Police forces carry out some forensic work in-house as well as commissioning private sector providers of forensic services through a national framework contract. The reduction in police external expenditure on forensic services has therefore reduced the value of the market and may influence its structure longer-term.

The requirement for police forces to reduce their spending still further leads to a potential scenario where forces maintain the level of forensic testing for major crimes and seek to reduce their spending on forensic services in connection with volume crimes. A contributing factor could be that budget decisions by individual police and crime commissioners (PCCs) and chief constables do not take into account the cumulative impact of their decisions on the market. Is there, in effect, a critical minimum amount of forensic services that have to be commissioned to sustain the market. This research will also consider how the market might change as a result of reduced external expenditure.

The research therefore considers three related research questions:

  1. What is the current and predicted level of demand for forensic services in England and Wales across all crimes in the medium-term?
  2. What might that level of demand mean for police forces and forensic service providers?
  3. How effective are forensic services in terms of contributing to criminal justice outcomes?

The research has included a short systematic review about forensics markets, and a series of interviews with the police, the regulatory bodies and forensic science companies.

  • Lead academic : Catriona Havard Lead academic:
    Catriona Havard
  • Contact via the Centre
  • Research team: Graham Pike, Hayley Ness, Catriona Harvard and Virginia Harrison
  • OU Location: School of Psychology
  • Lead Police Partners: Greater Manchester Police

An evaluation of current visual identification procedures in the UK suggests that they do not represent evidence based practice and indeed contradict many of the recommendations made by researchers (e.g. through the British Psychological Society or the American Psychology and Law Society). Unlike many areas of policing, this cannot be attributed to either equivocal research results or the complexity of the recommendations - as the recommendations are both simple and robust, and generally fairly easy to implement (for instance that the officer conducting the parade should not know the identity of the suspect). The aim of the current project was, therefore, to determine what barriers there might be to implementing the findings from research and the recommendations of established research bodies. Two specific factors were focused on: whether research evidence is being communicated to policing personnel effectively; and whether the methods used by researchers in this area lead to effective application. These factors were based on previous research evaluating the problems encountered when trying to translate research on visual identification procedures into practice at the time of the last major change to Code D of the PACE Codes of Practice, which regulates visual identification evidence, in 2003.

The project comprised of surveying the experiences and opinions of policing personnel regarding research on visual identification procedures. In an initial phase, an online questionnaire was constructed and disseminated through the policing partners in the consortium. The final version of the questionnaire included amendments and additional items suggested by the consortium steering group members and the expert personnel they consulted. The questionnaire was completed by 215 respondents from many different forces as well as the NCA - about half worked in ID suites or their equivalent. The second stage of the project comprised focus groups that were conducted with officers working in ID suites in the London Metropolitan and Greater Manchester Police forces. Whilst the online questionnaire asked relatively broad questions about experience and opinions of relevant research, research methodologies and research engagement, the focus groups explored one particular, recent evidence-based recommendation involving the use of the 'Mystery Face Procedure' - a technique designed to reduce misidentifications by placing a silhouette of a head in a video parade to allow witnesses to indicate a negative response in the same way as they would a positive response. In particular, the focus groups were designed to explore the opinions of the officers to the procedure and the research conducted on its use, and to determine what additional work would be needed to translate the research evidence into practice.

This project was part of a programme of research on 'Facing the Evidence' which won an Open University Engaging Research Award in February 2015, for the excellence of the collaborative research conducted between the research team and practitioner members of the consortium.


Havard, C. (2014). Are children less reliable at making visual identifications than adults? A Review. Psychology, Crime and Law, 20, 372-388.

Pike, G., Havard, C. and Ness, H. (2014). Putting Research Evidence into Practice using The Mystery Face Procedure. Report to the College of Policing.

Harrison, V. and Pike, G. (2015). Police perceptions of eyewitness evidence and research. Paper presented at the European Association of Psychology and Law, Nuremberg, 2015.

  • Lead academic : Professor Graham Pike Lead academic:
    Professor Graham Pike
  • Contact via the Centre
  • Research team: Hayley Ness, Catriona Harvard and Virginia Harrison
  • OU Location: School of Psychology
  • Lead Police Partners: Greater Manchester Police, Merseyside Police

Our previous project conducted in collaboration with our policing partners explored the links between research evidence and current police practice with regards to eyewitness identification evidence, and found that the large majority of policing staff were not aware of the existence of contemporary research evidence, let alone the recommendations made by researchers. This project seeks to build on the previous project by examining to what extent current police practice in this area is evidence based, and which procedures 'work'. In addressing this issue, we plan to incorporate the following elements:

  • the policing and procedural perspective: through liaison with our policing partners we will design questions to examine what works in policing terms, and will then survey relevant policing staff.
  • the psychological perspective: there is evidence that witnesses do not understand and/or remember key instructions given to them and, perhaps more worryingly, have a tendency to reinterpret what they are told. We have already begun to conduct pilot research on this topic, which suggests this is a real and pressing problem, and one that could potentially be addressed fairly simply. This issue would be studied by surveying witnesses and members of the general public.
  • the social perspective and expectations: research evidence exists that suggests the 'averaged' statistics usually reported for identification procedures mask some problematic trends for certain types of witness - the over-45s for example. We have already collected data that goes beyond standard mean values, which demonstrates problems exist and have begun to pilot surveys to explore these issues in more depth. We would explore this issue through a combination of surveys and data recorded at ID procedures.

The above would be studied using a combination of three surveys:

  • A questionnaire to be completed by policing staff,
  • A questionnaire to be completed by witnesses/the general public,
  • A tool to record additional information about identification procedures (based on versions previously used with several forces, most notably GMP).

Together these methods would reveal a rich picture about contemporary policing practice, the evidence base of identification procedures and help identify what works and what does not.


Pike, G. (2015). Facing criminal justice: face perception research and the criminal justice system. Symposium convened & chaired at the European Association of Psychology and Law, Nuremberg, 2015.

Pike, G. & Harrison, V. (2015). How to improve identification evidence: Practitioner hits and academic false alarms. HERC Online Series, 09/15,, G. (2016). Face recognition in forensic settings. Symposium convened & chaired at the European Association of Psychology and Law, Toulouse, 2016.

Pike, G. (2016). Perceptual impacts on eyewitness identification. Symposium convened & chaired at the European Association of Psychology and Law, Toulouse, 2016.

Pike, G. & Clark, C. (in press). Identification evidence. In A. Griffiths and B. Milne, Investigation: Psychology into practice. Routledge.

  • Lead academic: Dr Hayley Ness Lead academic:
    Dr Hayley Ness
  • Contact via the Centre
  • Research team: Professor Graham Pike and Catriona Havard
  • OU Location: School of Psychology
  • Lead Police Partners: Greater Manchester Police, Dorset Police

Online social networking has had a profound effect on society, including the criminal justice sector. One largely unexplored aspect of social networking is its role in citizen investigation of crime. A victim or witness may appear at a police station with the name, photograph and location of a suspect, which they have discovered using social networking sites. For example, even without the actual content of any messages posted, FaceBook contains a number of features that are very useful to a potential citizen detective. This includes posts tagged with a time stamp and GPS style location, the "check-in" feature which also includes a location, photographs that include identifying tags and a record of who the user was with. Using such features together with online pleas to friends and friends-of-friends who may have seen something, it is fairly straightforward for someone to determine who was at the party, with whom and at what time, what they may have done and what they look like. Such cases are already occurring.

Informal discussions with policing personnel suggest this is becoming ever more prevalent and that current guidelines and codes do not have adequate, if any, provision for such activity. One major concern for the police is how such citizen investigation impacts on formal investigation. For example, if a witness has spent hours looking through photographs, this could severely jeopardise the accuracy and reliability of any further visual evidence. Moreover, although PACE does contain guidance on prior viewing of visual material, the codes were not designed to cover an instance where a witness has discovered and studied a photograph of the suspect by themselves. Any identification procedure that then features this suspect is at best redundant and at worst producing evidence-in-chief that is extremely suspect.

Psychologists at the OU are seeking to discover and map the types of citizen-led enquiry that online social networking is being utilised for, what impact this is having on police investigation, what changes to guidelines may be needed and how these may be integrated into the practices of policing. The research is now well underway, with academics keen to link into police practitioners to take the work forward.


Ness, H., Pike, G. and Havard, C.. (2016). Social media and citizen enquiry. Paper to be presented at the European Association of Psychology and Law, Toulouse, 2016.

Technology, data and knowledge management

How can the police service use technology, data and knowledge management to best effect in the fight against crime? And what is the evidence-based for making these important operational and budgetary decisions? Our research in this area aims to give specific answers to help improve value for money and effectiveness.

  • Principal Researcher: Dr Anne Adams Principal Researcher:
    Dr Anne Adams
  • Contact via the Centre
  • Research team: Dr Nashwa Ismail
  • OU location: Institute of Educational Technology
  • Lead Police Partners: Lancashire Constabulary

Police officers when dealing with interviewing children have to cope with a complex set of emotions from a vulnerable witness. Interestingly, despite the importance of rapport with the interviewee, law enforcement and intelligence interviewers often fail to build rapport adequately and research does not directly address the investigative interviewing context, such as overcoming source resistance (Abbe and Brandon, 2014). The Open University research team conducted several researches in this area.

  • Margoudi et al. (2016) examined different levels of emotional recognition to support the in-game graphical representation of a child’s response during a police interview. For this study, an ‘emotions map’ was created and tested by 41 participants (experts and non-experts) to be used in the development of a targeted interface design to support the different levels of emotion recognition. The emotions identified were validated with a 70% agreement highlighting the innate role of emotion recognition.
  • Hart et al. (2017) reported on the mixed-method evaluation of a SCG (Safety-Critical Game) to support police training. Data was collected from a total of 65 new recruit police officers across two different UK police forces through the evaluation of Child Witness Interview Simulation (CWIS). The findings indicate that engagement is supported due to the player’s experience of real-world authenticity, targeted feedback mechanisms and learning challenges.
  • Adams et al. (2018 under review) details a novel co-creation method based upon educational threshold concept theories the tricky topic process supported co-creating knowledge-based evaluation questionnaires. The study recruited 116 new recruit police officers from three UK forces participated in a randomized-control trial. The evaluation method provided insights of how the game statistically significantly increased understanding p<.001 (large effect size) against face-to-face training.  

We have developed an award-winning training simulation (CWIS) that addresses gaps in the knowledge and skills of new recruits and serving officers when interviewing child witnesses to build rapport with children and develop the quality of communication skills. CWIS incorporates triggers for emotional recognition to support the training of rapport building of early career front-line police officers when interviewing children.

Embedding CWIS within training will enable the police to obtain the following benefits:

  • Decreasing time taken to gain competency in child interviewing
  • Promoting deeper understanding of the many factors affecting child interviewing in the real world
  • Enriching traditional classroom training approach
  • Enabling large-scale deployment outside the classroom
  • Lead academic: Professor Harith Alani Lead academic:
    Professor Harith Alani
  • Contact via the Centre
  • Research team: Miriam Fernandez
  • OU location: Knowledge Media Institute
  • Lead Police Partners: Humberside Police, College of Policing, Dorset Police, Lancashire Constabulary

In September 2015, the Consortium agreed to continue researching social media (following on from the two earlier research projects led by Harith Alani). The focus of the new research is to identify key strategies for effective social media engagement by police forces. The research is examining three aspects of police use of social media:

  • Non-corporate Twitter accounts: Expand the study to non-corporate police Twitter accounts. Such accounts are normally used in a different and more personal manner than corporate accounts, and could reveal different and more effective engagement patterns.
  • Tone of voice: Investigate the impact of the use of different tones of voice on engagement.
  • Selected comparisons: Compare only a selection of the UK police corporate Twitter accounts, chosen from different geographic, economic, and demographic areas.

Data collection and analysis will be focused on a list of 49 corporate UK police force twitter accounts and over 2.5K non-corporate twitter accounts owned by UK police officers, which they use to engage with their communities. Collected data will include the content of tweets, number of times they have been retweeted and/or replied to, and frequency of posting to twitter from each account. Various data mining techniques will be used to identify the language, semantic, and statistical patterns that positively or negatively correlate with higher levels of engagement (i.e., retweeting and replying).

Results will be compared across the corporate accounts to identify any variations in usage and impact.

  • Lead academic: Professor Harith Alani Lead academic:
    Professor Harith Alani
  • Contact via the Centre
  • Research team: Miriam Fernandez
  • OU location: Knowledge Media Institute
  • Lead Police Partners: Dorset Police, Lancashire Constabulary

Social media is a powerful communication tool that can reach a very large number of people quickly. This research is focused on analysing the impact of policing messages that appear on social media (mainly Twitter) to identify the best message-writing practices to generate a higher level of engagement. Early findings identified a number of patterns which were associated with higher engagement levels, and further research is now being scoped.

  • Lead academic: Professor Jeffrey Johnson Lead academic:
    Professor Jeffrey Johnson
  • Contact via the Centre
  • Research team: Prof. Joyce Fortune, Dr Jane Bromley, Phil Davies, Greater Manchester Police (PhD Student)
  • OU location: Faculty of Mathematics, Computing and Technology
  • Lead Police Partners: Gwent Police, Merseyside Police

This action research introduces police officers and staff to the basic ideas of systems thinking and complexity science, and enables them to develop a practical understanding of the theory by applying it to real problems from their professional experience.

Individuals and groups engaged in criminal activity form many intertwined networks whose emergent dynamic behaviour can be very complicated and unpredictable. Yet even in this complexity there are dynamic patterns that can be recognised to inform action and policy, and by using a complex systems approach implicit knowledge can be formalised into models to make the patterns clearer and their detection more reliable.

The project :

  • gives hands-on experience of using the ideas in practical policing
  • develops simple gaming systems to allow interactive explorations
  • explore hands-on how Big Data can be used by teams in policing
  • organises workshops with teams developing and using computer models to identify areas for further investigation and research.
  • Lead academic: Professor Harith Alani Lead academic:
    Professor Harith Alani
  • Contact via the Centre
  • Research team: Elizabeth Cano, Miriam Fernandez
  • OU Location: Knowledge Media Institute
  • Lead Police Partners: Avon and Somerset Constabulary, Lancashire Constabulary

Online paedophile activity has become a major concern in society with the internet widely available to the general population and young people. This piece of research looks into whether online grooming behaviour could be automatically detected and whether such detectors could be turned into tools to be plugged into browsers or social media platforms to raise children’s awareness of such risks and to help them self-protect.

  • Lead academic: Dr Christothea Herodotou Lead academics:
    Dr Christothea Herodotou
  • Contact via the Centre
  • Research team: Trace Farrell-Frey
  • OU Location: Institute of Educational Technology
  • Lead Police Partners: To be confirmed

Community policing is essential for dealing with community issues, yet it entails challenges such as time and effort to develop and maintain personal relationships with citizens. An online policing community can provide constant information about community issues and work as a live and synchronous portal of interaction between the public and practitioners. It could generate practitioner-based research questions and begin to produce data through 'citizen inquiry' methodology (the use of scientific method by the public to raise and resolve problems).

The OU has supported the development of the ground breaking 'nQuire-it' platform (see, which will be used to create practitioner communities able to produce questions and data of direct relevance to the ongoing research projects, and that would greatly augment the collaborative model already being used in these projects through the Centre for Policing Research and Learning. Although the academic and research staff within these projects can and will progress ways of collaborating, it would be very useful to develop sustainable connections with practitioners and the general public for the ongoing report of police-related issues and communication with police representatives that will last over and above the project duration.

The key aims of this project are:

  1. to identify the sorts of inquiries that are of most interest and benefit to the police and the public and create respective "missions" on the nQuire-it platform
  2. to share these inquiries widely for the community to participate
  3. to invite both practitioners and members of the public to initiate their own "missions" giving them the opportunity to report on issues they would like to investigate, and
  4. to provide ongoing support to the community evolved around the nQuire-it platform by facilitating active participation and engagement.

Leadership, management and organisation

This section deals with research into questions of how policing is led, managed and organised. We hope to give leaders evidence-based research into the best methods of dealing with organisational challenges, increasing the quality of decision-making and improving both external effectiveness and internal morale. There are 5 projects in this section:

  • Lead academic: Professor Jean Hartley Lead academic:
    Professor Jean Hartley
  • Contact via the Centre
  • Research team: Dr Mariafrancesca Sicilia, Dr Ian Hesketh (Lancashire Constabulary), Dr Steven Parker, Quoc Vo, Thames Valley Police (Senior Pracitioner Fellow 4/7/16 - 23/12/16), Jim Beashel, Dorset Police (Senior Pracitioner Fellow 1/9/16 - 31/12/16)
  • OU location: Department of Public Leadership and Social Enterprise
  • Lead Police Partners: Gwent Police

The National Police Chiefs Council Chair, Sara Thornton, has suggested that “Public value theory prompts us to think about the value we are trying to create. What outcomes are we delivering for the citizen?.....So what are the police for? What is the value we are trying to create in policing?”

Benington and Moore, in their 2011 book on public value, recognised that measures of added value needed to go beyond the counting of activities, or even the counting of outputs (e.g. stop and search, number of arrests or convictions) to include ways in which public organisations contributed to the wider aims of society, for example creating a fair, just or peaceful society or enabling citizens to live confident, safe and fulfilling lives. Benington defines public value as what the public values along with what adds value to the public sphere.

Police leaders have to navigate how to achieve valuable outcomes for society, and this research project explores this through the lens of public value. The research has commenced with a literature review examining the relevance of public value to policing. The field work will involve one or more Consortium police forces in case studies, which also use observation and other data collection from the police and the public. There are three questions being explored:

  • How do police leaders perceive and conceptualise public value (perhaps in different language) in complex and contested situations?
  • Does political astuteness help leaders to create public value?
  • How far do police and public have similar or different views about public value and how is that handled by leaders? and track how difficult or contentious issues are


Hesketh I and Hartley J (2015) Public value: A new means to peel an apple? European Police Science and Research Bulletin

Hartley J and Hesketh I (2015) Public value: A new approach to demand in policing. Report to National Police Chief Constables’ Council.

Hartley J, Alford J, Knies E and Scott D (in press) Towards an empirical research agenda for public value theory, Public Management Review

de Jong J, Douglas S , Sicilia M, Radnor Z, Noordegraaf M, and Debus P (jn press) Instruments of value: using the analytic tools of public value theory in teaching and practice. Public Management Review

Bryson J, Sancino A, Benington J, and Sørensen E, (in press). Towards a multi-actor theory of public value co-creation, Public Management Review

  • Lead academic : Dr Paul Walley Lead academic :
    Dr Paul Walley
  • Contact via the Centre
  • OU location: Department of Public Leadership and Social Enterprise
  • Lead Police Partners: Thames Valley Police

In a climate of austerity and budget cuts across public services, the police service will be required to cut resources but continue to provide a professional service and maintain public confidence.

When the police service generally is having to shrink and ‘back office’ functions such as HR are cut and/or outsourced, there is an related increase in internal demand from those in front line positions, with managers expected to pick up ‘business as usual’ for their staff.

This project is being scoped to identify where internal demand comes from, and whether this adds value to the business or generates failure/waste demand. Some questions being considered are:

  • What are the sources of internally-generated demand?
  • What proportion of internal demand can be considered waste or failure demand?
  • What behaviours encourage the creation of internal failure demand?
  • What steps can be taken to reduce unnecessary internal demand?
  • Lead academic: Dr Anja Schaefer Lead academic:
    Dr Anja Schaefer
  • Contact via the Centre
  • Research team: Dr Owain Smolović
  • OU location: Department of Public Leadership and Social Enterprise
  • Lead Police Partners: Police Service of Northern Ireland

With all UK police forces currently in the process of implementing a new code of ethics, there is an opportunity available to deepen understanding about the possibilities and tensions that the introduction of a code of ethics in a police force generates.

With all UK police forces currently in the process of implementing a new code of ethics, there is an opportunity available to deepen understanding about the possibilities and tensions that the introduction of a code of ethics in a police force generates.

The project has adopted a qualitative approach to data gathering and analysis, seeking to draw out the stories and accounts of officers who have worked with and under the code of ethics in PSNI. In adopting a qualitative approach that emphasises the narratives of serving officers, we hope to draw attention to important identity issues related to ethics and employment in policing not adequately covered in the existing evidence base, which largely draws on quantitative studies that seek to measure the impact and internalisation of codes.

In particular, the project attempts to explore the following areas:

  • The interpretation of a code of ethics against, or in tandem with, existing moral identities of serving officers. In other words, whether a code of ethics seems to complement or contradict (or somewhere in between) existing identifications.
  • The interpretation of a code of ethics in the context of broader social issues and political issues – i.e. officers and staff may experience codes as bound up with the political discourse on policing, or the broader political backdrop of a particular city/county/region/nation. Every policing organisation operates within a particular socio-political context and it is possible that officers and staff will experience a code of ethics through, and with, such a context.
  • The interpretation of a code of ethics in relation to employee identifications with employing organisations. How codes of ethics are perceived and worked with may be closely tied with issues relating to organisational change, structure or power.
  • Lead academic : Dr Anja Schaefer Lead academic :
    Dr Anja Schaefer
  • Contact via the Centre
  • Research team: Dr Owain Smolović Jones, Dr Diana Miranda, Ben Hargreaves, Dorset Police(PhD Student)
  • OU location: Department of Public Leadership and Social Enterprise
  • Lead Police Partners: Lancashire Constabulary, Thames Valley Police

An increased focus on ethics, including the introduction of the unified Code of Ethics, has been one response to the high level of political and media scrutiny of police conduct. This project builds on existing research conducted by the Policing Consortium and the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the latter having implemented a code of ethics as part of the Northern Ireland peace process. The aim of the research is to consider the newer context and practices of the Code of Ethics in English and Welsh police forces.

The 12-month, in-depth, qualitative action-research project looks at:

  • police professionals’ construction of their professional and moral identities,
  • their engagement with codes of ethics and how this relates to their professional identity and their practice
  • the work of professional standards teams in ethical conduct by police officers and staff

The findings will assist police forces in the implementation of codes of ethics and in developing leadership for ethics and professional standards. The research will inform the preparation of workshops as well as formal teaching such as a postgraduate elective in leadership development and ethics, as well as more informal education offerings delivered as short online modules or in video format.

The project aims to cover at least three or four police forces in England and Wales, with at least one large urban force and one rural force included.

The project follows a social constructivist epistemology and in-depth, qualitative data collection and analysis methods. Data collection methods will include observation of events and meetings (where appropriate) and interviews with officers and staff across the ranks and functions of a force. In each force we expect to interview 20 to 30 participants. Thematic and discourse analytical methods will be employed.

  • Lead academic:  Dr Alessandro Sancino Lead academic:
    Dr Alessandro Sancino
  • Contact via the Centre
  • Research team: Dr Sandra Resohardijo (Radboud University, Netherlands), Steven Chase (Thames Valley); Colin Paine (Thames Valley)
  • OU location: Department of Public Leadership and Social Enterprise
  • Lead Police Partners: Thames Valley Police

Recently, the police service has come under significant criticism for the behaviour of a minority of officers and police leaders. This research has addressed the research question: ‘How can the police best deal with this negative attention in public and media when crises happen?’ More specifically, the research team investigated the concept of crisis, explained how crises can lead to blame and highlight why crisis leadership is a key component of policing. The research used evidence to identify some key crisis leadership lessons to inform police dealing with blame during crises.