Selling research to police – the UK agenda

Professor Jenny Fleming

University of Southampton

The What Works concept in the United Kingdom is a national approach to prioritizing the use of evidence in policy decision-making. The initiative aims to improve the way government and its agencies create, share and use high quality evidence. What Works is based on the principle that good decision-making should be informed by the best available evidence. The What Works Centre for Crime Reduction (WWCR) is part of the ‘What Works’ network led by the College of Policing (COP). In outlining the benefits of the WWCR Centre, the COP anticipates that ‘evidence will be translated into practical insights that the police service and their partners can easily use’ and ‘will be provided on the most effective approaches that can help prevent crime’. As part of the consortium programme the author led the research into how police officers responded to the idea of evidence based practice and how they adapted to pilot training schemes that introduced the principles of research and evaluation to officers/staff.
The paper discusses police officers’ response to this evidence based agenda. It discusses officers’ concerns about their perceived ability to work effectively with an evidence base. These concerns are linked to officers’ perceptions about ‘permission to fail’, organisational constraints, management buy-in and appetite for innovation. Officers agree that evidence based policing is a positive thing overall but question its viability in practice. The presentation draws on data from all ranks, across four police organisations in the UK. Data was obtained through the pilot training evaluation on the use of evidence based research in police practice in September 2015.


Professor Fleming joined the University of Southampton as Professor of Criminology in 2012 where she is also the Director of the Institute of Criminal Justice Research. Previously she was the Director of the Tasmanian Institute of Law Enforcement Studies (TILES) at the University of Tasmania. Professor Fleming’s expertise lies in collaborative research with police. Currently, she is part of the University Consortium in partnership with the College of Policing, UK, supporting a programme for the What Works Centre for Crime Reduction.

She is interested in organizational imperatives that impact on the way in which ‘police do business’ and has published widely in this area. Her book, Police Leadership, ‘Rising to the Top’ was published by Oxford University Press in 2015. Professor Fleming is the Editor-in-Chief of Policing and Society, an international journal of research and policy, the leading policing peer-reviewed journal in the UK.


The society is devoted to promoting criminological study, research and practice in the region and bringing together persons engaged in all aspects of the field. The membership of the society reflects the diversity of persons involved in the field, including practitioners, academics, policy makers and students.

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