Let’s start a different conversation


EMPAC is pleased to report on an exciting visit by restorative justice expert Terry O’Connell from New South Wales, Australia. Working with Assistant Professor Kerry Clamp of the University of Nottingham, Terry has spent a week finding out about safer neighbourhood policing at Cotton Lane Police Station in Derby (South BCU, Derbyshire Constabulary). The purpose of the visit was to exchange ideas and insights on how to facilitate front-line staff having more reflection and ownership of their daily practice, focus on what really matters, and in turn help facilitate communities to get more involved in influencing community safety outcomes. The key approach is to engender all of that through meaningful conversations.

Former Police Senior Sergeant Terry has worked all over the world spreading the word about the opportunities of creating a space for meaningful conversations within policing and communities to be able to help think about and influence better community safety outcomes. Terry explained, “many policing professionals can tell you a lot about what they do. It’s often reduced to a process and about attending job after job. Based on my policing experience, I’m interested in helping facilitate different conversations where people can explore why things are, not just what they are. That can include tapping into why police officers joined in the first place and why people find themselves in difficult situations. I believe through more understanding we can find better ways of doing. I have long had a concern about policing ‘research’ that fails to recognise that relationships are the bedrock of policing”. 

Kerry Clamp said, “as someone who has written much on restorative justice, it’s been a really insightful experience meeting the team at Cotton Lane and listening to their stories. Officers are clearly effective in what they do, but by having a more explicit conversation, they can achieve far more intentional and meaningful outcomes for themselves and others. At the heart of this approach, is creating an environment that allows them to experience a respectful and fair process where their voices and priorities matter. We believe that people learn things once we’ve taught them, but things can only be learned once they’ve been experienced. This is what sets this approach apart from other ‘innovations’ within policing”.

So, in a nutshell, it’s all about people’s relationships with each other. When things go wrong, the approach suggests that the threat of punishment is not the thing that works but the possibility of letting down people who you are close to you is the thing that has the greatest influence. Arguably, many applications of restorative justice have become tasks and process orientated disposals, forgetting or missing the importance of relationships.

The University of Nottingham have been instrumental in enabling Terry’s visit and are enabling a unique contribution to policing that is different from the status quo.

Cotton Lane Section Inspector Jo Meakin said, “I’m really excited that we’ve been able to have a new conversation to exchange ideas and insights about neighbourhood policing. We’re keen to build on what we currently do and find new ways of being the very best we can, both for our policing colleagues and the community we serve”.

So, to paraphrase Elvis, a little less process and a little more conversation. Watch this space!

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