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Seldom Heard Communities Grant - Inquiring Together: Collaborative Research with BAME Communities and Serving Officers

Dr Jonathan Mendel, Kirsty Forrester, Professor Karen McArdle

This project assisted police officers to engage, as co-inquirers, with people who are seldom heard in a research and policy context: BAME communities in the Dundee, Aberdeenshire and Glasgow areas. The project used a qualitative Participatory Action Research approach to build a community engagement model, holding multiple cycles of enquiry where participants and co-inquirers discussed topics including previous experiences of policing, guidelines for good community-police practice and integration, and barriers to (and ways to improve) communication. This was an iterative process, which each previous cycle of discussions informing subsequent ones. A total of total of 57 community members, along with 7 BAME community professionals and 15 police officers, 2 of whom were also members of a BAME community, participated.


Seven key themes emerged from this research:

  • Systems (both knowledge and perceptions): there were gaps in knowledge about policing in Scotland. For example, participants were often unaware of what number to call in an emergency or that officers in Scotland do not usually carry guns.
  • Police and Culture: interactions between police culture and the cultures of different communities are important.
  • History and Place: ideas of ‘home’, alongside the history of policing and communities, influence relationships between communities and police.
  • Trauma: experiences of trauma are more common among the communities included here, which can have important implications in areas like interviewing.
  • Community Engagement: community engagement, through the process used in our research and elsewhere, was highly valued among participants. For Police Scotland, community engagement and community policing should include making connections with BAME communities.
  • Police Numbers: community members from Dundee reported on the decline in visibility of the police in their communities over time. Visible police presence was valued, particularly in policing of drugs.
  • Communication: improving communications is key, in terms of translated materials but also effective intercultural engagement.

The research process was transformative for all those involved in this project, both researchers, police officers, community workers and BAME community participants. Participants were made more aware of the community safety role of Police Scotland; they valued engaging with individual police officers and enjoyed the process of this learning. The model also helped police officers develop their understandings of their local BAME communities’ needs, expectation, and concerns. Building on this research we recommend that:

1. The community engagement outlined in Section 9 of this report, or other engagement models, should be used to engender mutual trust.
This model built trust in the police, whilst also being straightforward to implement.

2. Police officers need to be more engaged at local community levels.
BAME communities and police officers commented on the value of the engagement process.

3. Consider how Trauma Informed Practice can underpin police work with BAME communities.
Police Scotland should consider the potential impact of traumatic experiences when engaging with these communities.

4. Find ways to value community engagement by police officers.
Police Scotland needs to find ways to value this role more, ensuring that officers have time to do it.

5. Find ways to value the skill set linked to community engagement and ways to train for this explicitly.
The skill set linked to community engagement is complex and demands sophisticated communication skills alongside other expertise. These need to be valued highly in recruitment and training.

6. Continue to recruit more BAME community officers. Also look for community experience in recruitment.
For respect for communities to be authentic and believable, community experience will be a good indicator in recruitment and employment. As discussed in sections 6.12 and 6.13, participants in this project saw such recruitment as important but were aware of barriers to it; they also offered suggestions on potential ways to improve the situation.

7. Find a means of making an interpreter service more accessible by phone.
English can be needed to get past the first stage of the phone call.

8. Community work professionals could be more aware of the need for the above communication for migrants and could help facilitate this.
Community work professionals can assist Police Scotland to manage communication of key messages.

9. Need for training in community development and how to communicate positively through engaging with people of all kinds.
There is a vast resource of information and training opportunities in community development and engagement, which could be harnessed by Police Scotland.

10. Films for social media, in particular, should be developed to inform BAME communities of the role of police and common procedures.
Social media was more likely to be used than media such as leaflets or books.


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