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A study in blue: exploring the relationship between the police and academia

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Many research papers have been presented by academics regarding their problematic experiences of working with the police. However, no comprehensive study has been conducted which explores the perceptions of the police towards the academic community. This study intends to fill this gap by exploring this alternative perspective. It is a qualitative study conducted between 2012 and 2014 wherein members from each rank from Commissioner to Constable in the Metropolitan Police Service were interviewed. In addition, interviews with academics in the current or past employ of the police and a focus group of middle managers were held. The resultant data provided strong thematic patterns.

The study found that although some excellent partnership work between police and academia has been conducted, their respective operational and organisational cultures remained a barrier. Within the police service, a difference in working practices, a changing demography, low educational standards and a preference for tacit knowledge present as tangible barriers. The police perceived the academic community to be internally focused, taking too long to produce unintelligible research, which often lacked utility in regards to operational solutions, accompanied by an unhelpful desire to publish their findings. The meta-themes of power, social identity and managerialism were identified as being key influential factors in the reluctance of the police to fully embrace the benefits of academic research. This study concludes with implications for practice involving formative training and ongoing development in academic research, the need for a bespoke research methodology which reflects the dynamic environment in which the police operate, a new formal relationship wherein trust is engendered by a shared pragmatism and the pivotal role of the College of Policing in supporting the concept of evidence based policing.

Original languageEnglish
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Award dateSep 2014

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