Evidence Based Policing: What’s the problem?

Dr Sarah-Jane Lennie1, Mrs Jenny  Norman1

1The Open University, Milton Keynes, England


‘As current authors writing for the British Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship at The Open University, and as academics and a previous Strategic Police Researcher and an officer, we wish to critically draw attention to what we perceive as a potential ‘evidence’ gap in the current Evidence Based Policing (EBP) approach.  We will examine the current Police Education Qualification Framework and how EBP is interwoven into the curriculum through a ‘What Works’ perspective. We will highlight how the current realist/positive perspective overlooks and, worse still, diminishes the value and contribution of phenomenological and interpretivist research. We argue that to focus and value alone a realist philosophy fails to acknowledge the multiple perspectives inherent within our communities and this reductionist narrative implies a binary truth.  In doing so many issues studied via the EBP lens are often singular and excluded of context and nuance invaluable to the research of inherently sociological problems.  Without understanding the lived experience of communities and underlying motivation to behaviour we are unlikely to truly identify ‘What Work’s’ and we argue that we need to adopt a pluralist approach to police research and begin by identifying ‘What is The Problem?’.  In doing so, not only will we strengthen our problem solving approach to policing by better understanding the issues and challenges at hand, we also provide our apprentice officers with the skills to better understand their communities and foster a humanist approach to police work currently demanded by society.’


Dr Sarah-Jane Lennie is a Chartered Psychologist (British Psychological Society) and Lecturer in the Police, Organisation and Practice Department of the Open University, UK. Sarah-Jane specialises in social psychology, emotions in the workplace and the mental health and well-being of police officers. Prior to returning to academia Sarah-Jane served for 18 years as a police officer, to the rank of Detective Inspector. Sarah-Jane is an Associate to the College of Policing, as a subject matter expert in mental health and organisational culture and her research focus is on supporting police officer’s emotional wellbeing through the exploration of officer’s lived experience and the impact of organisational culture on individual mental health. Sarah-Jane looks at the role of stigma, shame, emotional suppression and dissociation in the increasing cases of PTSD within British officers.

Jennifer Norman has worked in academia for the past nine years, a Senior Lecturer at the Open University working in the Department for Policing Organisation & Practice (POP) and at Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU). In both institutions, she has developed and delivered degree programmes specifically tailored to police professionals. Prior to joining academia, Jennifer worked in the Metropolitan Police Service as a Strategic Researcher, where she employed social research methodologies to further understand strategic priorities for MPS Business Groups. Having worked within the profession in a research capacity and as an academic delivering a programme to practitioners, Jennifer recognises the importance of research knowledge being transferable and transparent to practice. Consequently, her research focus is in relation to professionalisation of the police and the role of police education.