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Reflections on the CEBCP International Summer School

By Katie Gambier-Ross and Kate Thomson

In June 2018, nine PhD students attended the SIPR – Centre for Evidence Based Crime Policy International Policing Scholar Summer School (IPSSS) at George Mason University in Virginia, USA. Eight of us are currently undertaking PhD’s relating to policing research at SIPR consortium universities across Scotland and one in Sweden. Our research interests and areas span a variety of topics; from aviation terrorism to dementia; child sexual exploitation to police organisational culture. For all of us, the summer school was to be a completely novel experience: for some, it was the first trip to the states, and for many, it was the first time we’d met. However, from the off, we were all united in our common goal to learn more about policing research to improve our PhD and future research projects.

The SIPR group toasting to a successful summer school week on our first night. The group bonded exceptionally quickly and we knew we were in for a fantastic week with staff and students alike.

We began our state-side visit with a group day trip to Washington. Led by Professor Cynthia Lum, we managed to tick off seeing key American sights, including the White House, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and Vietnam Memorial. Cynthia really went out of her way to ensure we saw the best spots around Washington for the all-important group selfies!

Team selfie outside The White House

An attempt at a team mid-air shot at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool

All students and SIPR staff stayed in dorms on campus and that further added to the unity of the group. Jetlag worked in our favour and the relentless 5am wake-up time usually resulted in most of us making the most of the spare time in the morning and heading out for a jog around the beautiful George Mason campus!

A couple of fresh-faced runners exploring the campus at 6am!

We stumbled upon a statue of George Mason during one of our runs

On day one of the summer school we were presented with an in-depth programme and gifted leather-bound notebooks from the IACP. This really set the tone for the fantastic level of hospitality that was displayed by our American colleges throughout the week. We spent the first morning doing thorough introductions and we each had five minutes to talk about our research. This was a really useful icebreaker and conversation-starter. Throughout the week we received so many interesting and informative sessions. Some of the key areas explored included; theories used in policing research, research designs such as mixed methods, qualitative interviews, RCTs, SSOs, ethnographies, secondary data, using video data and translating research into practice. One of our favourite sessions was the practitioner panel, with police representatives from Australia, America and SIPR’s very own Inga Heyman. There was interesting discussion around some of the challenges of evidence-based practice within policing, including resistance from members of the police to academic research. The practitioners provided examples of how to work around some of these barriers, namely ensuring that the research is as applied and collaborative in nature as possible.

After our busy days of learning we rewarded ourselves with American BBQ diner food every evening, as recommended by the American students. Meaningful discussion continued to ebb over into the evening and close international bonds were made.

The 10th Annual CEBCP Symposium took place on the Thursday to break up the week. This was an exciting opportunity for us students to meet a range of people from police officers to government officials to fellow academics; all interested in evidence-based policing. Discussions at the symposium, and throughout the week, really highlighted fundamental differences between US and UK policing and academic systems. Some interesting discussions (or debates!) were had around politics, gun culture, responses to mental health and research methods. These discussions were fascinating; we learned a lot about other perspectives and challenged our own assumptions. They also really highlighted Scotland’s progressive attitudes towards policing and social justice issues as a whole. I think we all came to realise just how proud we are of these values and systems, whilst recognising that we still have a long way to go.

Katie and Claire showcasing the CEBCP banner at the symposium!

After the symposium, our exposure to American culture continued into the night as we were fortunate enough to experience our first Washington Nationals baseball match at the Nationals Stadium in D.C. It was an awesome, all American experience, and we were very grateful to the American students for organising this for us.

Some loyal Washington Nationals fans celebrating the win!

The final day of the summer school was closed off nicely with a discussion session around the challenges we face as early career researchers. We discussed issues such as ‘learning the ropes’ of the publication landscape, managing our own mental health and learning when to say no. A a final parting gesture (as if the level of hospitality wasn’t exceptional enough already!), we were kindly gifted one year’s free membership to the Police Chief magazine from Carl Maupin and the book ‘Evidence-Based Policing: Translating Research into Practice’ from Cynthia Lum and Chris Kopper. We ended the day with a graduation ceremony (so we can all proudly call ourselves GMU Alumni) and a wonderful food and drinks reception.

Our final Saturday stateside was spent with another action-packed day of a delicious brunch at Cynthia and Chris’ beautiful home followed by a visit to the National Air and Space museum (the bar has been set very high for SIPR to host the next Summer School)! We are all incredibly grateful to have had such an amazing opportunity afforded to us by SIPR and GMU. The hospitality shown to us by our GMU and IACP hosts was outstanding. We were so touched by how welcoming and kind they had been that it made for some tearful goodbyes.

We all turned back into wide-eyed kids as we gawked at the magnificent Space Shuttle ‘Discovery’.

The summer school is going to have a lasting impact. Before the trip, we both felt on the periphery of policing research; we previously hadn’t identified as ‘policing scholars’ and weren’t quite sure what to expect from our week at GMU or how we’d fit in. This changed very quickly. We were welcomed into the community with open arms, and realised our research will play an important role in furthering discussion in this area of academia. We were also enthused by the level of interest in our research from police across the globe. Not only have we developed bonds internationally, with plans in place for some exciting research collaborations, but we’ve developed close-knit connections within the SIPR community, with future meet up’s currently being arranged. We feel the new sense of belonging we have with SIPR will enhance our PhD journey’s and help us blossom as early career researchers.

Overall, we have emerged from this fantastic experience more knowledgeable, with new perspectives, renewed enthusiasm for our projects and plenty new connections. But what was unique about the IPSSS was we also came away with lasting friendships and a community we feel both part, and proud, of. Our ever-pinging ‘SIPR Summer School’ whatsapp group chat is testament to that!

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Seldom Heard Voices: Community Impact Event 


In 2021, SIPR, Police Scotland and Scottish Police Authority funded 5 grants to support research into ‘Seldom Heard’ communities. On Wednesday 26th April, we hosted a collaborative event to present the final research projects to an audience of academics, community members, NGO members, and Police Scotland staff and serving officers. First up, Kirsty Forrester from Dundee City Council and Dr Jonathan Mendel from the University of Dundee discussed their collaborative research with BAME communities and serving officers, highlighting the need for trust. Second, Dr Andrew Williams from St. Andrews and Inspector Jason Peter from the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit presented their ‘Photovoice’ Project which aimed to encourage young people in areas of inequality to engage with their community by taking pictures. Third, Dr Julie Berg and Emily Mann from University of Glasgow and University of Edinburgh respectively presented their project’ Accounting for Complexities: an Intersectional Approach to Enhancing Police Practitioner Accountability, Legitimacy & Sustainable Reform’. Fourth, Professor James Moir and Dr Corinne Jola from Abertay University focus on the topic of empathy with LGBT youth who are care experienced or are from other disadvantaged background. Finally, Bryony Nisbet from Queen Margaret University presented her and Dr Nicole Vidal’s research into refugee and asylum-seeker experiences, trust and confidence with Police Scotland. Following the presentations, representatives from Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority were invited to reflect on the findings and recommendations, and to provide assurances of the SPA and Police Scotland’s ongoing commitment to the communities and the issues raised. Assistant Chief Constable Emma Bond, said: “This important research underlines our commitment to listening to all our communities so we can continually improve how we represent, reflect and serve them. “Providing every citizen with a just and effective police service is fundamental to policing legitimacy and to our ability to keep people safe. “A great strength of Police Scotland is that our officers and staff are drawn from different backgrounds and experiences. What unites us is our shared and non-negotiable set of values – integrity, fairness, respect and a commitment to upholding human rights. “I am grateful to everyone who contributed to this work and we are already considering the recommendations made so that we can continue to design our services to best meet the needs of our communities.” Tom Halpin from the Scottish Police Authority said “The Authority is committed to policing in the public interest, to do that we must understand public views, opinions, and concerns. The research published today will allow us to gain more insight into where to target our activity and attention to ensure we build the strongest relationships we can with all communities in Scotland.” SIPR Director Liz Aston underlined SIPR’s commitment stating that “SIPR will continue to support the dissemination of these important research findings in order to ensure that they impact policing policy and practice”. SIPR hopes to continue to support research into Seldom Heard Communities.



After seven years as a SIPR Associate Director, Professor Denise Martin has made the difficult decision to step down.

SIPR Associate Director


Following Professor Denise Martin’s decision to step down from her role as SIPR Associate Director and lead of the Education and Leadership network, SIPR is now inviting applications from prospective candidates to take on this role.

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