The Open University has been awarded £1.36m of funding over 19 months from the Police Knowledge Fund, a joint initiative between The College of Policing, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the Home Office.
Leading an innovative national consortium of 12 police forces, police and crime commissioners, and the National Crime Agency, the OU is establishing a National Centre for Policing Research and Professional Development.
This pioneering collaboration and engagement between academics and practitioners aims to create a more professionalised police workforce, (both officers and staff at all levels), working with research evidence to improve policing practices.
The new National Centre draws on and develops a number of innovations, including the OU’s unique distance learning technologies that can deliver teaching at scale and the existing Open University Policing Research Consortium, which is a partnership between the OU and the police to create and use research.
The Centre will help equip the police for existing and future challenges, by addressing three key objectives:
The OU will develop and provide for police forces across the country, guided pathways, with tutor and technological support, through five key stepping stones of learning relevant to continuing professional development for police. These range from bite-sized pieces of learning right through to PhD.
• Detecting and investigating crime – cyber-crime and improving investigations
Co-research on these themes, undertaken jointly by practitioners and academics, will underpin the development and testing of innovative approaches and techniques to better tackle current issues. In this way, the research will be supported by five Senior Practitioner Fellows from the police, working collaboratively with academics on defined aspects of the research projects.
A series of innovative ‘evidence cafés’, enquiry visits, international lectures and workshops will be linked to emerging research and key national issues in policing. The evidence cafés will involve sharing research evidence and how it can be used in policing. Some cafés and enquiry visits will involve not only the police but local government, health organizations, the Royal Society of the Arts, and voluntary and community organizations.
Commenting on the importance of the new National Centre Professor Jean Hartley, Director of the National Centre for Policing Research and Professional Development and Professor of Public Leadership in the Open University Business School, said: “The National Centre aims to make a substantial impact not only on research, teaching and learning, but also on policy and practice. By working in partnership with the College of Policing and UK police forces and national and international organisations, we will support a step change in policing research and professional development by contributing to the skills requirements of the future workforce. It is an ambitious and important project.”
Speaking about the capability of The Open University Peter Horrocks, Vice-Chancellor of The Open University said, “This National Centre fits with the University’s strategic vision which includes a strong role of active engagement with partner organizations in recognising and tackling complex issues in society.”
“The Open University has a leading-edge reputation in the UK and globally, in creating and applying innovative research and teaching to major questions of public policy, professionalism and vocational learning in contemporary society. This firmly places the OU in a position to work with the police to help envision and support the creation of a police workforce with the capabilities to face the challenges of the future.”
Professor Rebecca Taylor, Dean of the Business School added, “The Centre will have a major impact on police leadership and professional development and the workforce of the future. The Consortium, through which the bid was successful, is an innovative and effective structure, based not on an arms-length contractor/supplier model but rather on a genuinely collaborative working relationship, bringing together the knowledge, skills and experience of key groups of academics, policy-makers and practitioners to both identify and solve problems and so improve policing in the UK.”
Giving a police perspective, Dr Steven Chase, Chair of the Consortium, and Director of People at Thames Valley Police commented: This is an exciting opportunity to advance evidence based practice in policing and to make a significant contribution to the development of our officers and staff. I look forward to working with the OU and a range of other partners to strengthen the relationship between research and practice.