Implementing Evidence-Based Policing: Delivering change at the frontline

On the 1st February, Evidence-Based Policing (EBP) practitioners, senior managers and academics gathered at Greater Manchester Police (GMP) Headquarters for a workshop exploring Problem-Orientated Policing (POP) practices and their application to real world situations. It was the latest session in an ongoing series for GMP in addressing what an evidence-based approach to policing can bring to the organisation and staff working practices. In this article, Inspector Roger Pegram, GMP EBP Tactical Lead and Vice Chair of the Society of Evidence-Based Policing (SEBP), discusses the aims, ambition and approach to delivering change at the frontline.

We don’t call it training, this is an education. I want people who question what they are taught not just follow what they are taught.

For some years, GMP has engaged in research partnerships with universities.  However, we started formally to use evidence-based policing in 2016 and created a research board and a network of EBP Champions. The reason for doing this was to improve informed decision making, so our people can make better choices based on evidence. An evidence-based practice HUB was established in 2018 and set about boosting the number of EBP Champions which now stands at 81. We also created an internal website for our people to see what is happening and access research. The EBP Hub is made up of a small team led by myself, and we support people who are conducting research, tests and problem oriented policing plans.

Our approach

The use of academic research to inform policing practice is not new but the approach we are taking is new, if not pioneering. We are creating leader/leader relationships rather than leader/follower relationships and equipping our people with the skills to take ownership of problems and think of innovative ways to reduce crime and keep people safe. The Hub model ensures we can coordinate this from the centre and have oversight of what is happening and where. This works well in connecting our EBP Champions to other people in our workforce and/or academics who have experience and an interest in a particular field. Equally, we are able to better shape our relationships with universities in respect of what policing topics and research questions will have real tangible impact for practitioners.

The process we are establishing in GMP is still very much in its early stages. In autumn 2018 we held a 5 day course focused on various evidence based research findings and criminological theories. The course also discussed how to break down a problem and look at it in terms of victims, offenders and locations and then how to approach that problem using evidence based policing methodologies. We don’t call it training, this is an education. I want people who question what they are taught not just follow what they are taught. This is about improving their skills as problem solvers in an evidence based way and ensuring they think differently about how they approach their work.

At our most recent workshop in January 2019, we saw some of those skills in practice. The day focused on issues in Greater Manchester through the lens of the OSARA model, a 5 stage process designed to facilitate a Problem-Orientated Policing approach (including: Objective, Scanning, Analysis, Response, Assessment). Each issue was presented and then opened up for discussion and feedback terms of the conclusions reached and action taken, how appropriate the success measures were and the wider knock-on effects of the intervention (such as has the issue been tackled or simply moved on). It raised some interesting debate amongst those present and offered a platform to show learning in practice and how methodologies can be applied to current, rather than hypothetical, situations.

They key driver for me in developing and implementing this process has always been to create a fully evidenced organisation where all of our people ask themselves ‘is this the best way of doing this, is their another way and how can we do things better?’ The workshop in February did just that. Ultimately, GMP is about community safety and we want people using research to make informed decisions to enhance community safety. This requires people to understand the importance of robust evaluation of policing operations and tactics, in order to learn from what worked and more importantly in order to learn from what didn’t. The EBP Champions are key to embedding this problem solving mind-set. We have great people here in GMP and I am privileged to be able to shape and equip a number of them with skills that enhance how they go about their work. My aim is to grow the cohort of EBP Champions and spread what we are doing to a wider audience in 2019.

Where we are going

As with all new concepts and ways of working there will undoubtedly be some resistance from those who feel it is not in the organisations best interest and, particularly in the case of policing, that we are expanding our remit to include the work of other agencies.  A lot of policing demand is however not centred on what some people may call ‘traditional policing’, though some feel we should be dealing with just these issues. Contemporary policing has many challenges but the ethos is the same, we exist to protect society and help keep people safe. Some push back has come from when others think it is another agencies responsibility and we are fixing their problems for them. My views on this are that is if it is creating policing demand and we have an opportunity to reduce that demand then we should, and in most cases involve that partner in the process. The feedback is really good from people in the EBP Champions network, they feel really fulfilled that they are doing what they joined to do and making a real difference in improving people’s lives in the communities where they serve.

We are at the beginning of a journey in GMP. We have further evidence based policing workshops planned and I will be taking a number of colleagues from GMP to the SEBP conference in London in March 2019. We will also be hosting events at GMP that will be available for all of our people to attend. One will be with the N8 Policing Research Partnership to showcase the great work this partnership is delivering. It is important to the growth of what we are trying to achieve that people learn new things, sometimes things that have no direct relevance to their particular line of work. Equally, it is evidence based that learning new things is a major factor in enhancing people’s well-being!

Roger Pegram sits on the N8 Policing Research Partnership Steering Group as one of the GMP representatives. He is writing here in his personal capacity.

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