I’m not sure we would be in the same place without that academic understanding in policing

Expert Voice: Katy Barrow-Grint

Posted on 30 Nov in

You are one of the editors of the Thames Valley Police Journal. How is the journal supporting innovation at Thames Valley?

The TVP Journal is the product of two years’ work to make an idea into reality and share the excellent academic work of officers and staff in TVP.

The Journal idea started after I completed my Master’s degree in Police Leadership & Management at Warwick Business School and wrote my dissertation on domestic abuse attrition rates and temporal sequencing. Having submitted my work and got it published in the OUP Journal ‘Policing: a Journal of Policy & Practice, I was concerned that whilst my research was being reviewed nationally and even internationally, there was no formal way of sharing the findings with colleagues inside my own Police force. (My article is here in case you are interested.)

The TVP Journal was duly conceived as an innovative idea, with the intention that it would be of value to the force in terms of research and recommendations, but also show our officers and staff that the force valued their academic research and interests. The rise of evidence based practice in policing, plus the strive to undertake organisational learning and learn from the evidence base, meant that there was huge interest internally in a Journal and the Chief Constable Francis Habgood was very supportive of its development.

Thames Valley Police has supported over 300 programmes of academic study for its officers and staff since 2013. A wide range of subjects have been undertaken including criminology, law, criminal justice, financial crime, cybercrime, and counter terrorism research. Support has also been afforded for professional studies in accountancy, professional development and counselling.

The Journal has sought articles of between 3,000 and 6,000 words, and accepts three types of submission:

  • Full article
  • Research/practice note
  • Comment/discussion piece

Intentionally we wanted those competing formal academic research to submit, but also for research that is completed in the workplace that is not part of a formal piece of academic work to be accessible to others in the organisation, particularly where there are trials running in different areas of policing across the Force.

We have also created a set of criteria for the inclusion of articles in the Thames Valley Police Journal. Whilst it is important that the articles in the journal support evidence based policing the content cannot compromise operational activity or undermine the public trust and confidence in Thames Valley Police. We have therefore been very clear that we cannot consider articles which contain information capable of identifying victims in any circumstances, disclose information about an ongoing investigation, covert tactics or affect proceedings undertaken by any other public body or deter victims or witnesses having the confidence to speak to the police.

We also wanted to formalise the process by developing a peer review system, where each article submission is reviewed internally by a colleague with an academic qualification of Master’s degree or higher, prior to publication. We have 14 police staff and 26 police officers who are peer reviewers who ensure quality and consistency in delivering a professional product, identify high quality work for wider publication and highlight opportunities for TVP.

When initially published, the journal was an internal publication only; However, feedback and interest from our staff was overwhelming. They were proud to have their academic work shared, and also that the organisation was taking such an interest in their professional research. TVP therefore made the decision to publish the journal externally, and as a result the first edition was made public on the 31st October 2018 and launched at the NPCC & APCC Partnership Summit in London. With the help of the Society of Evidence Based Policing and the College of Policing it has been shared widely, with it reaching all parts of the UK and beyond. We have had excellent feedback from the Trinidad & Tobago in the Caribbean, the USA, Australia, Turkey, Iceland and beyond!

How has developing the academic aspect of your career influenced you practise as a police officer?

As described above, without having continued my academic career alongside policing, the organisational benefit of the journal for example, wouldn’t have been achieved.

I also now have a good understanding of the benefits and opportunities research can bring at a practical level, for example we are currently running a pilot in TVP together with Thames and Chiltern CPS and the resident Judge at Aylesbury Crown Court to fast track domestic abuse cases into the Crown court. If proven successful this is likely to lead to national changes in how the Criminal Justice System deals with domestic abuse. This is very exciting but needs to be properly analysed, so utilising my own academic knowledge and contacts we have commissioned Huddersfield University to assess the impact of the pilot. I’m not sure we would be in the same place without that academic understanding in policing to help develop it.

What do you think frontline police officers gain from a better evidenced base on what works?

I think they are reassured that if there is a good evidence base that a tactic works, then finite resources and funds can be utilised positively. I do think that there is concern around what ‘evidence based policing’ actually means, and that it why groups such as the Society of Evidence Based Policing are so useful in sharing and developing good practice nationally.

How would you like to see police officers supported to translate their experience and insights as practitioners into academically rigorous evidence?

I think this is starting to happen nationally now; as an example here in Thames Valley we not only have the journal, but we have set up an academic research board where we work with a number of universities to develop ways in which our own officers and staff can seek help and guidance when completing academic work, but also so that external researchers can apply to complete their studies focusing on policing in a more standardised way.

The importance of sharing what works, and what doesn’t is key though, and making good use of the College of Policing What Works website to do that is the way forward.

What development at Thames Valley Police in your time there, are you most proud of?

There are lots, but currently the Journal is something that I am very proud of. It would not have been developed without the help of C/Supt Rob France, C/Insp Lee Barnham and Michelle Campbell.

Katy joined Thames Valley Police in 2000 having studied Sociology at the London School of Economics and developed an interest in crime and policing from her dissertation work on girl gangs. She has worked in a variety of roles and ranks including uniform patrol, CID, neighbourhood policing, child abuse investigation, surveillance and strategic development.

As a Detective Chief Inspector, Katy oversaw the Oxfordshire Protecting Vulnerable People Unit, and introduced the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) into Oxfordshire. Katy’s domestic abuse team were the subject of the BBC1 documentary ‘Behind Closed Doors’ and she has a keen academic interest in domestic abuse, having recently published an academic journal article on domestic abuse attrition rates.

In 2017 Katy was promoted to Superintendent and is now Head of Criminal Justice for Thames Valley Police. In this role she has encouraged the academic review of a pilot scheme to fast-track domestic abuse cases in the crown court by implementing a research project with Huddersfield University, the PCC’s office, the CPS and Aylesbury Crown Court. She is keen to join academic research with operational policing and the criminal justice system and sees the value of both academics and police officers and staff working together.