The relationship between the police and the public is regarded as essential if the police are to serve the public fairly, effectively, and efficiently. Police forces should recognise the importance of engaging with a wide range of communities and listening to different views about what they should be doing. Police forces often describe community engagement as part of everything they do and place high importance on developing and maintaining public trust and confidence. However, conflict can arise for various reasons. The public are not always fully-informed about the pressures police work under, including resource constraints and new and emerging risks and harms. Similarly the police do not always understand the perspectives of some members of the public about what they should prioritise, how they should work and what they and their communities need from the police. Sometimes relationships between police and members of the communities they serve can break down, and become marked by low confidence and a lack of trust.
Embedding public engagement in the work of the N8 Policing Research Partnership is a way of recognising the vital importance of the public to policing. The public engagement strand of the N8 PRP seeks to work with police forces and members of the public to facilitate knowledge sharing and the identification of good practice in police-community engagement activities. It also aims to explore public attitudes towards the idea of policing being based on evidence generated by universities. What role do the public think universities and other research organisations should play in informing and supporting police work?
The public engagement activity strand will address these issues in two ways:
- By supporting and facilitating reflection on community engagement strategy and practice within police partner organisations, helping to establish a police-community engagement network for the North of England to embed knowledge sharing beyond the life of the Catalyst Project.
- By producing and disseminating new knowledge about public perspectives on how university research can and should inform policing. New knowledge will be produced using a combination of quantitative survey-based methods and more qualitative approaches, including convening a number of deliberative events to discuss important policing issues.
Engaging the public with policing, and policing research, can never be a one-off activity. It will always be complex, time-consuming and, ultimately, unfinished. It is also resource intensive. The activities of the Public Engagement Strand will attempt to embed sustainable mechanisms for continuing to develop and share new ideas about how police can best engage different communities. They will also test out different ways of thinking about relationships between university-based researchers and police policy and practice, and generate new knowledge about how the public perceive these relationships.
Has your involvement with the N8PRP produced questions you would like to consult the public on? Perhaps you have been involved in research that has led to proposals for new ways of working and would like to understand what the public would think about the change? Or maybe you are dealing with limited resources and would like to understand public preferences on where resources should be targeted? In 2019 the Public Engagement Strand will be delivering a series of deliberative consultation events and this is your opportunity work with them to design an event which will engage the public in deliberation on the issues you are interested in.
What is deliberation?
In relation to research, public engagement and consultation, the organisation Involve defines it as:
“an approach to decision-making that allows participants to consider relevant information, discuss the issues and options and develop their thinking together before coming to a view” (Involve, 2008: 2)
What is a deliberative consultation?
A deliberative consultation involves the purposeful creation of a space within which members of the public are provided with relevant information and evidence about the issue on which they are being consulted and are supported to come to a view (or views) in relation to the issue.
Key things that need to be in place to make the event work are:
- Event sponsors who are committed to listening to the views of the participants
- A specific question on which the event sponsors wish to consult the public
- Interested partners willing to commit time to work with the Public
Engagement team to support event planning and participant
- 12-18 participants recruited either through specific networks relevant to the topic in question and/or broader public fora, willing to give 5-6 hours of their time across 1 or 2 days/evenings
- Several expert speakers with varying positions in relation to the question
- Skilled neutral facilitators who are independent of the organisations seeking to consult the public
- A structured facilitation plan developed in consultation with the event sponsors and expert speakers to help participants engage with the evidence to deliberate the central question
What’s in it for us?
The Public Engagement Strand (led by Dr. Liz Turner at the University of Liverpool) has already trialled a mechanism for conducting relatively quick but also meaningful deliberative consultations on two policing issues (restorative proposals and 20mph speed limit enforcement). These initial events have allowed us to test our approach and identify what worked well and what didn’t. What we are offering is the opportunity to have us apply what we have learned to a topic where you are keen to understand what the public think. We have the resources to carry out up to three deliberative consultations during 2019, without any cost to the event sponsors.
What’s the catch?
There isn’t one. Public engagement is an important part of the N8PRP’s work so the resource is there to deliver these events. All that we ask is that event sponsors (who can be from police forces, OPCCs, or university-based researchers) are willing to give their time to work collaboratively with us on the design of the event and to embrace the deliberative ethos, including the need for expert speakers who reflect different positions on the issue for discussion.
Where do I sign up?
If you are interested in getting involved then please email the N8PRP Events and Communications coordinator, Matt Butler: email@example.com providing a short description of the issue you would like to consult the public on and why.
For more information about the Public Engagement Strand please contact Dr Liz Turner.
Alternatively, the latest strand updates can be found below: