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.
For more information about the Public Engagement Strand please contact the strand Research Associate, Dr. Sarah Mosedale.