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The SIPR Summer School: Impressions from a researcher at the margins of policing


Scotland’s first “International Graduate Summer School for Policing Scholarship” was recently hosted by SIPR and the Center for Evidence Based Crime Policy at George Mason University, Washington, at the University of St Andrews. This training school, which ran over four and a half days, was attended by 20 American, Norwegian and Scottish postgraduate students, all of whose individual research contained a policing element.  We are delighted to present this Blog by Elaine McLaughlin, from Glasgow Caledonian University, who discusses the impact of the experience of the Summer School on her own research. SIPR hopes to be able to repeat the Summer School as a biennial event.

The students were presented with a full programme.   The areas explored included: research design and ethics in policing research; theory and policing research; working with different types of data; using research in practice; contemporary issues in policing and writing for publication and policy.  The academics who attended were experts in these subject fields.

A similar format was adopted daily whereby twenty minute presentations were delivered by academics. There was an opportunity for the students to raise questions, comment or make general observations immediately after each presentation. The students and academics thereafter attended workshops to discuss and share information.  This was beneficial for a number of reasons.  The composition of the workshops changed every day, this allowed the students to get to know each other and learn about individual research topics.   During the workshops students and academics alike were given the opportunity to exchange their knowledge and experience relative to the particular presentation.  There was an opportunity to attend workshops more relevant to individual research.  Students were able to discuss their own research and raise specific issues.   It was a supportive environment and students were encouraged to contribute and raise any potential challenges.

Midweek a trip was organised to the Scottish Government to meet with representatives from the Justice Analytical Services department.  This department is responsible for the collation of data (qualitative and quantitative) pertaining to police issues affecting a range of stakeholders within Scotland. It was interesting to learn the procedures and machinations involved in data collection, evaluation and dissemination.

Certain aspects of the summer school did resonate with me.  The presentation relating to ethnography was relevant to my research with marginalised women.  The information presented required me to reflect, to ensure that my thesis is communicating the ‘voice’ and social reality of immigrant women.   The importance of reflexivity whilst interpreting qualitative data was raised.   This concept is associated with feminist research, as it is used to recount women’s stories.   The methodological and ethical challenges that prevail within policing research were highlighted.   The positionality of the researcher within the research process was explored.  Here I reflected upon my place in my own research as a white woman researching women from a South-Asian background. I found myself re-examining my own ethical position, values and biases, and the significance of being subjective and objective.   Recognising the concept of insider/outsider status was discussed in the workshop when researching individuals, police policy and practice.

The session relating to writing for publication and policy identified potential pitfalls.  The successes and challenges of collaborative writing were discussed as well as the importance of ensuring the relevant academic journal is selected for publication.

It was an intense and informative week.  The atmosphere was relaxed and supportive.  There was a diverse range of policing research discussed and explored.  The students and academic staff were friendly and approachable.

My enthusiasm in attending the summer school arose from my PhD.    My research involves an examination of the impact of the UK spouse visa immigration rules on immigrant women living in Scotland experiencing domestic abuse.  Qualitative interviews identified the women had contact with the police in relation to the abuse and mistreatment they endured, on occasion at the hands of multiple perpetrators. The data obtained highlighted the unique constraints women encounter when considering leaving an abusive relationship whilst subject to an insecure immigration status.  The women experienced numerous difficulties when attempting to contact the police for help and protection.  A range of measures were implemented by the police to support the women.  Data analysis identified the successes and challenges encountered by the police when dealing with immigrant women.

Policing research is not my area of expertise.  My educational background is in Law and my research interests’ concern gender based violence, feminist/gender theories and forced marriage. I have extensive experience of working with police officers in my current employment.  My PhD research and current experience of working with senior police officers specialising in domestic abuse has kindled an interest in developing my knowledge in relation to theoretical perspectives and evidence based police research.

Despite policing research being unfamiliar, from an educational perspective, I left the school better informed.  In particular in relation to policing theory and practice, methodology, qualitative and quantitative research methods, evidence based policing, research design, collaborative research and the use of social media.   I have benefited from the summer school. I intend to draw upon this learning experience in future police research I undertake whilst considering what the research is ‘on, with and for.’

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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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