Police Knowledge Exchange: Summary Report

Adams, Anne; Clough, Gill and FitzGerald, Elizabeth (2018). Police Knowledge Exchange: Summary Report. The Open University, UK.


[Executive Summary]

This report draws on research commissioned by the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC), the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) and the Home Office to investigate cultural aspects of knowledge sharing across the police service. The research reviews literature and police perceptions to identify the enablers and barriers to effective knowledge exchange and sharing within and between police forces and police partners, including the public. Data were collected from 11 police forces; 42 in-depth interviews/focus groups and 47 survey responses. The literature-guided analysis identified four core research themes: who, why, what and how we share. Detailed findings are presented in the full report; this summary report presents the core research findings. Recommendations from this study will inform the next phase of activity for the Board.

The research identified that cross-force, cross-organisation, national and international sharing relies on a culture supporting individuals who have an independent and reflective sharing approach.

A key enabler to police sharing is that, regardless of police rank and role, they all have a strong collaborative nature, through a deep motivation to share, that benefits the wider social community. This collaborative nature is driven by processes that reveal reciprocal benefit and safe sharing, as well as how to effectively ‘get the job done’ and foster professional learning.

A key barrier to police sharing is a strong hierarchical culture that does not encourage the independent nature of sharing. Whilst police officers and staff act independently within the confines of their prescribed roles, they rarely independently share beyond this. This hierarchical culture
means that innovations in sharing are often initiated or approved top-down and tied to leadership. Hierarchical structures are seen to support a competitive culture combining concepts of risk aversion and blame. The
hierarchical culture is also perceived as providing poor clarity on what is of value to share and how to effectively share.

There are two key recommendations to overcome this barrier: one long-term and one short-term.

Long-term: ‘Become independent sharers’ by changing the nature and culture of the police to encourage this independent nature, so that specific sharing barriers are effectively solved by individuals. Professionalising the police and working collaboratively with academia are steps towards this long-term goal.

Short-term: ‘Guide and authorise independent sharing’ by using the hierarchy to scaffold/support and direct police towards effective and approved sharing approaches. This will show the police, through the hierarchy, how and why this independent sharing nature is safe, effective and valued.

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