Policing pandemic New research to plan for a future crisis by studying current events

Hundreds of residents across Hampshire are to be asked how they think police officers have handled the challenge of enforcing new rules during lockdown – with the results used to devise strategies for the current and future crisis.

A team of researchers including, Dr Sarah Charman and Dr Paul Smith from the Institute of Criminal Justice Studies and Dr Rob Inkpen from the School of the Environment, Geography and Geosciences, University of Portsmouth will carry out the research, which is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation. The University will work in collaboration with Hampshire Constabulary to consider the impact of pandemic policing, both on the public and the police officers themselves.

The current situation in the UK is unprecedented and it is vital that we learn from the experiences of both the public and the Police.

Dr Sarah Charman, Reader of Criminology at the University of Portsmouth, who will lead the research, says: “The UK’s COVID-19 response has provided the police with new powers that potentially impinge upon civil liberties, altering the nature of policing activities. The current situation in the UK is unprecedented and it is vital that we learn from the experiences of both the public and the Police.”

Four hundred residents will be questioned as to how their views on the pandemic, and the Government response to it, have impacted on their desire to comply with COVID-19 restrictions. This valuable information will then be used to identify potential areas where discontent or enhanced compliance may develop in similar situations.

Dr Charman says: “The link between perceptions of police legitimacy and willingness to comply means this understanding is crucial. Research findings will be scaled up into evidence-based policing practices across the country. The impact of this will then be assessed, with policies modified over the period of the crisis and beyond.”

The research also seeks to analyse the experiences and challenges faced by police officers and police leaders in these exceptional circumstances. An online survey of all Hampshire Constabulary police officers and staff will collect information on their policing experiences and the personal impact of this. The online survey of nearly 5,000 staff will then be followed up by selective face-to-face interviews.

This new research will build on our learning to date and will greatly improve our understanding of the experiences of police officers and police leaders in the exceptional circumstances presented by COVID-19.

The research will explore the physical and psychological challenges of pandemic policing and develop strategies for future use.

Dr Charman says: “We have a highly experienced multidisciplinary team dedicated to this project. Our researchers have over 75 years combined experience in policing and social research. The Institute of Criminal Justice Studies has been at the forefront of policy relevant policing research for over 25 years and much of that experience will be utilised in this research.”

DCI Gabe Snuggs, Head of Organisational Learning at Hampshire Constabulary welcomes this new academic study. He commented, “This new research will build on our learning to date and will greatly improve our understanding of the experiences of police officers and police leaders in the exceptional circumstances presented by COVID-19. It will also add to our existing knowledge of the physical and psychological challenges of pandemic policing. By also considering how the worldviews of individuals influence their perceptions of COVID-19 restrictions, their willingness to comply and key drivers of compliance/non-compliance, this study will help to shape the medium-long term police response.”

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