Policing in the face of funding cuts, scrutiny and structural changes with limited availability and access to technologies and manpower has evolved. The demand on policing services has become higher and more diverse with police forces increasingly shouldering the responsibility for health and social demands.
Although governed by robust and lengthy frameworks and seemingly supported by ‘adequate’ technologies, the job of assessing risk and making decisions in policing is highly communication and information dependent, complex, multifaceted and challenging. The scope and range of crimes and treatment of crime have changed in the wake of increased levels of police proactivity and awareness. As my doctoral fieldwork has progressed, I have found that the way information is supplied, acquired, shared and used in policing influences and impacts on risk assessment and decision making
The use of communication tools and technologies feature heavily in the task of response policing and there is an impact on demands on resources when these tools prove to be inadequate.
With the benefit of ethnographic research in policing frontlines I continuously find myself drawn into scrutinising the seeming unfairness of funding formulas, the difficulties in balancing local precepts with needs and the difficulties that policing businesses leaders manage on a daily basis as they work to do more with less.
From my experience, my ethnographic foray into policing has been a learning curve, understanding the processes and procedures for responding to emergency and non-emergency calls including insights from response and supervisory policing officers who manage and avert risk and support decision making on a day to day basis.
Ethnography by its nature exposes me to a broad range of information and as a result, although I am gathering a lot of information, a lot of effort is put toward representing the voices of those who do the work. I focus on how they do what they do when they do what they do when they do what they do on a day to day basis in order to understand working cultures, practices, procedures and context in which this takes place.
I have so far discovered that policing is a very dynamic sector, and the work of policing is not only strennous, it is also highly demanding. It is also highly information and knowledge dependent. In the main risk assessment and decision making is largely influenced by the type of information received and the meaningfulness and accuracy, veracity and value of that information. The assessment and decision making process in policing is cyclic, more or less a never ending process where risk is assessed, decisions are made, decisions are subjected to risk assessments and so on with deviations and adjustments when more information is received or information is discounted.
Being now in my 6th year of researching almost exclusively in this sector; I hope that when I come to the end of this journey, I can contribute and possibly change the narrative on policing by giving police officers a voice and help them to understand their practices and habits.
I anticipate that the outcomes of my doctoral research will help citizens understand what happens to information given to police forces, enabling a reflection on the ethical, critical and practical issues surrounding information use.
I also hope that my work will inform policy making and contribute to the small corpus of research in policing in England. Beyond this I hope that my journey encourages early stage researchers in informatics and other information systems specialities to consider researching the interesting field of policing.