The N8 Policing Research Partnership (N8 PRP) was launched in November 2013 at a workshop held at the University of Leeds with Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) and their representatives from across the north of England. It was launched as a response to the changing landscape for policing and the election of PCCs.
The N8 PRP was set up with the aim of promoting research collaborations to facilitate evidence-based contributions to public debate, policing policy, governance and practice, and it aims to help fill the gaps in the knowledge-base to inform innovations and improvements in policing strategies and practices.
The N8 PRP is seeking to transform the nature of relations between universities and policing partners as well as the manner in which new collaborative research projects are conducted and the ways in which research evidence is applied in policing strategies and practices. In so doing, it is changing the fundamental ways in which scholars engage in the co-production of research and in which policing organisations understand and utilise evidence.
The N8 PRP provides a regional hub for policing research, knowledge exchange and training in the north of England, with national implications and international significance.
The origins of the partnership derive from the opportunities created by a number of important reforms to the landscape of British policing, notably: the establishment of the College of Policing with a mandate to encourage the greater use of evidence in policing; the election of the first Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) in November 2012; and pressures for innovation and collaboration fostered by fiscal constraint on police budgets. A conference, hosted at the University of Leeds in January 2013 to consider the implications of PCCs for democratic policing highlighted the possibilities for greater police-university collaboration and innovation in the application of research evidence.
Over the ensuing months, Professor Adam Crawford, Pro-Dean for Research and Innovation in the Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law at the University of Leeds, with the support of the N8 Social Sciences Coordinating Group, established an interdisciplinary network of policing researchers across the N8 with the shared goal of transforming the ways in which we think about and do research into, on and with the police and policing partners.
At its first meetings the network established its shared vision, purpose and principles which have informed its subsequent work. At the heart of this is a commitment to research co-production that is inter-disciplinary, draws on plural methods and approaches and foregrounds public engagement and innovation. Core to its operations are principles of inclusivity and plurality.
The development of the partnership also drew on the experiences and lessons an ESRC funded knowledge exchange pilot project between the University of Leeds and West Yorkshire Police (2014-15), exploring different models of knowledge exchange and research co-production across a number of core policing issues.
Partners include: the N8 universities, police forces and the Offices of the Police and Crime Commissioners from Cheshire, Cumbria, Durham, Greater Manchester, Humberside, Lancashire, Merseyside, Northumbria, North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire, and council homes management organisation Your Homes Newcastle.
The collaboration is also supported in its work by the College of Policing and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.
The N8 PRP has also worked with further education institutions, including the University of Huddersfield, Manchester Metropolitan University and Northumbria University, and is planning to engage with further HEIs in the future.
The N8 PRP is a unique model for collaboration in the field of policing, fostering interdisciplinary dialogue both across the N8 and within individual institutions. Spanning the north of England, it is a true ‘regional partnership’ – rather than a collaboration of hand-picked universities and police forces.
The N8 PRP is chaired by Professor Adam Crawford, supported by project manager, Clare Johnson, who manages the partnership’s activities.
Each partner university has two contact representatives who contribute to the oversight and management of the N8 PRP. In most cases these representatives are from different disciplines – a strategy which reflects the wide range of disciplines that have a bearing on research and knowledge exchange around the issues faced by the police.
The N8 PRP provides extensive scope and cross-disciplinary breadth by incorporating scholars from disciplines as varied as criminology, law, sociology, social policy, psychology, politics, business studies, management, technology, geography, urban studies, theology and cultural studies.
The N8 PRP has taken a ‘bottom up’ approach, allowing policing partners to identify emerging issues and for universities to respond to these – in essence, it proactively identifies areas of need. In addition, colleagues from across different police forces, who wouldn’t otherwise meet, are brought together by the N8 PRP and are therefore able to discuss common concerns and learn from each other.
The N8 PRP’s themed workshops and conferences, co-produced with policing partners, demonstrate a strong demand from the police and others for this type of partnership and the N8 PRP has also stimulated greater bilateral engagement between N8 universities and their local police force and Offices of the Police and Crime Commissioners. In addition, academics have engaged with non-N8 universities, where this has added value.
In January 2014 the N8 PRP secured a £50,000 grant from the College of Policing through its Innovation Capacity Building Fund to undertake an ambitious project concerned with the development of a regional hub for policing research and innovation.
In April 2014 the N8 Social Sciences Group approved seed corn funding to ensure medium-term sustainability. This decision reflected the proven potential of the N8 PRP, appreciation of the market and the opportunity for the partnership to exploit its first-mover advantage and establish itself as the path-leader in this field.
In February 2015, the N8 PRP was awarded a £3 million grant from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), which is supplemented by in excess of £4 million from policing partners and N8 universities, for the implementation of a five-year programme. This aims to strengthen the evidence base upon which policing policy; practice and learning are developed, with impacts nationally and internationally. For more information, click here.
Other successes include the establishment of the N8 Register of Policing Expertise, a database of experts which can be used by both universities and policing partners, and reveals to colleagues potential collaborators in their own institutions.
“This new collaborative and multi-disciplinary programme of research provides an excellent opportunity for police and partners to work together to design and undertake research that focuses specifically on new and emerging challenges for keeping communities safe.
“It presents a fantastic opportunity over the next five years to combine the research excellence of eight leading universities with the resources, capabilities and practical skills of police forces across the north of England to make a real difference to public safety.”
Detective Inspector Andrew Staniforth, Head of West Yorkshire for Innovation, Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire
“We are excited to be part of this pioneering collaboration. We look forward to working with the N8 Research Partnership to shape and deliver a wide-ranging programme of activities that will enable us to become more efficient and effective in our frontline activities, to cut crime and keep people safe.
“It is essential that we develop new ways of dealing with the complexities of policing, protecting vulnerable people and every variety of threat, such as terrorism, cyber-crime and sex offenders. In order to do this it is right that we make full and appropriate use of the expertise that lies in our universities so as to develop the evidence needed to tackle these and any emerging challenges.”
Sir Peter Fahy, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police