Police Knowledge Exchange: Full Report 2018

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


[Executive Summary]

This report was commissioned to explore the enablers and barriers to sharing within and between police forces and between police forces and partners, including the public. This was completed from an interdisciplinary review of international literature covering sharing, knowledge exchange, learning and organisational learning. The literature broke down into four main factors; who, why, what and how. An introduction to the literature is presented with ‘Who’ is sharing which considers both personal identity and different institutional issues. The ‘Why’ literature covers issues of cultural and community motivators and barriers. The ‘What’ segment reviews concepts of data, information and knowledge and related legislative issues. Finally, the ‘how’ section spans face to face sharing approaches to technologies that produce both enablers and barriers. A series of 42 in-depth interviews and focus groups were completed and combined with 47 survey responses . The aim of the interviews, focus groups and survey was to show perceptions and beliefs around knowledge sharing from a small sample across policing in order to complement the findings from the literature review.

The survey was adapted from a standardised questionnaire (Biggs, 1987). The Biggs questionnaire focused on what motivated students to learn and how they approached their learning. Our adapted survey looked at what motivated police to share, and how they approached sharing. The responses showed a trend, across the police, towards a motivation for sharing to develop a deeper understanding of issues. However, the approaches and the strategies they used to share with others, which were primarily driven by achieving and surface approaches (to get promoted and get the job done). According to Biggs (1987) this could leave them discontented as they never progress to a deeper understanding of issues. Scaffolding sharing within the police through processes that are clearly defined, effective and valued could help to overcome these issues.

Within the interviews and focus group findings a similar structured approach to sharing was adopted. Within the ‘who’ section some key aspects around personal relationships, reciprocity and reputation were identified. The ‘why’ the police share was one of the largest discussion points. Not only was there a deep motivation to solve key policing issues there was an approach of reciprocity. Police sharing was deeply motivated to support ‘good practice’ in the prevention and detection of crime. However, a sharing barrier was identified in the parity of value given to different types of knowledge for example between professional judgement and research evidence knowledge. Sharing was achieved when there were reciprocal benefits, in particular with personal networks or face to face sharing which was noted as ‘safe’. Again, this was inhibited by misunderstandings around the ‘risks’ of sharing, frequently attributed to data protection legislation; producing cautious reactions and as an avoidance tactic to save time and effort sharing. However, a divide was noted between technical users and those who avoided any online systems for sharing; often due to poorly designed systems and a lack of confidence in how to use systems. The police culture was identified as being risk-adverse, and competitive due to multiple factors, a lack of supported time to share, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) reviews and promotion criteria. The result was perceived to be a poor cultural ability to learn from mistakes and a likelihood to repeat errors.

A set of strategic recommendations are given and include the use of a sharing authorised professional practice for HMIC reviews, sharing networks and training. A further set of operational recommendations are given such as; sharing impact cases for evidence based practice, data sharing officers and evaluating mechanisms for sharing.

This full report is supported by the Police Knowledge Exchange Summary Report 2018 which gives an overview of the findings and recommendations.

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