Data Specialists in Policing CPD Programme – Reflecting Back on the First Two Years

Written by Fiona McLaughlin, Research Officer – Policing Data Analytics, University of Leeds

As we are approach the end of both 2019 and our second Data Specialist CPD Programme, this is an appropriate time to reflect on the lessons learnt.  While the demands of managing two intensive programmes have been high, it has been a hugely rewarding experience and it hardly seems two years since the first programme began.

The Importance of feedback

Rather than describe the programme (you can find out more from the N8 PRP website) this piece draws upon our experience of developing and organising this innovative course, setting out how things will change for future editions and why we think those changes are important. As this was a new experience for all concerned, during the first programme we sought feedback both through anonymous questionnaires and informal sessions at the start of each module. This information not only reassured us that we were (usually) getting things right, but it helped explain why some sessions were less popular than others. This meant that when we received the evaluation report A Need for Analysis we were not surprised by some of the findings and had taken already taken a slightly different approach for the second programme.

What changed from 2018 to 2019?

We redesigned the programme to make it more compact, streamlining the content and reducing the number of days. This was important because participating in the programme is a big time commitment both for the individuals who attend and the managers of the teams releasing those staff.

We revised programme content and restructured delivery to spend less time in computer labs and more time on discussion exercises. Feedback from 2018 told us that although there is an interest in open source software, getting approval to install and use it on police computers is at best difficult and often impossible. In this context discussing the possibilities of new approaches is more valuable than detailed learning about how to apply them.

We used a smaller team to deliver the programme; the distributed model used in 2018, where each module had its own delivery team was difficult to co-ordinate, especially when speaker or venue availability changed at short notice. Running each module independently also affected the coherency of the programme with modules not always following sequentially.

The 2019 programme so far….

45 people, from 9 forces and 6 policing partner agencies signed up for the 2019 programme.  Since deciding to implement a charge for non-attendance, numbers have on the whole been quite stable.

There has been a greater element of co-production with more input from policing partners. Recruiting police partners to deliver content was particularly difficult in 2018, perhaps because of the newness of the programme. This year, the Analytical Approaches: Problem Orientated Policing module was designed and led by Scott Keay from Lancaster Constabulary. Participants from the 2018 cohort also made contributions to other modules.

Interaction remains an important part of the programme and participants highly value being able to attend sessions in person. Training and networking opportunities are rare for police analytical staff and connecting with staff from across the region is seen as a major benefit, especially the opportunity to make links with partner agencies.

Further challenges

Participants from both cohorts have found it hard to put their learning into practice in the workplace. There are various reasons for this with recurring themes including a lack of protected development time within the workplace and cultural norms that undervalue methodological rigour and diminish the complexity of analytical work, see A Need for Analysis.

The one module per month model of delivery comes at a high administrative cost and is difficult for attendees and their managers to plan for repeated abstractions.

Seeking to address these issues and to improve the sustainability of the programme, we will look at options for changing the format of the 2020 programme, with participants attending a course run over three or four days, followed by a short workplace project, before returning for a final two day session.

Thank you

Despite the challenges, the programmes have been extremely popular and there is already a waiting list for the next round. This measure of approval is indicative of the importance of co-production in developing the programme. Thank you to all those who have contributed over the past two years including our cohorts, the managers who supported their attendance and, the module leaders and speakers whose pro bono contributions have been invaluable in creating this success. Finally, the outstanding contributions made by Jude Towers and Scott Keay have ensured that that programme is built upon firm theoretical and practical foundations.

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