Police reform, research and the uses of ‘expert knowledge’

Nicholas Fyfe, Neil Richardson

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    This paper examines the interplay between research and police reform. Focussing on the creation of Scotland’s national police force in 2013 it examines the role of research as ‘expert knowledge’ in the political and policy debate leading up to the reform and the on-going evaluation of the impacts and implications of the new police force. The paper also situates the relationship between research and reform in the context of the role played by the Scottish Institute for Policing Research, a strategic collaboration between Scotland’s universities, Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority. The analysis is informed at a conceptual level by the work of Boswell and her consideration of the different ways in which bureaucratic organisations make use of expert knowledge. This focuses attention on both instrumental uses (ensuring decisions are based on sound reasoning and empirical understanding) and symbolic uses where knowledge plays a role in enhancing legitimacy or helping substantiate policy preferences in areas of political contestation. These different uses of expert knowledge have important implications for thinking about the role of police-academic partnerships.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)147-161
    Number of pages15
    JournalEuropean Journal of Policing Studies
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 10 Apr 2018


    • Knowledge
    • police
    • Evaluation
    • research
    • Reform


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