Research intelligence = intelligent research

EMPAC took its original inspiration from SIPR (Scottish Institute of Policing Research) and was created in an embryonic form by ACC Phil Kay of Leicestershire Police and Peter Ward, Head of East Midlands Learning and Development. Drawing key academics from the region together the collaboration was born, then further aided by investment from the Police Knowledge Fund. The EMPAC approach is police driven, for policing research, and uses many concepts that policing professionals would recognise.


The national decision making model starts with gathering information and intelligence, and as a cyclical process, drives continual review and assessment on changing information. The NDM is all about best decision making. That’s what we think research is all about too, where it’s for application and impact in policing.

The best information – to inform the best decisions – can come from anywhere but has to be sought, collated, assessed, analysed and conclusions explored. That’s a research process. Of course there can be strategic type research that delves into a transformational change process into the horizon and there can be tactical type research that needs something pretty fast as decisions need to be taken.

Using an extended team to help with that research process, for the best decision making in policing, is what EMPAC is all about. That extended team are the five forces and OPCCs and our university partners. Have a look at a previous blog on the diversity of expertise there is within the East Midlands academic collaboration.

The National Intelligence Model helps drive understanding and capacity to the right level, and where there are clearly overlapping, cross force issues, NIM promotes a regional and beyond approach. Hands up who thinks ASB is unique to any one village, town, city or force? The EMPAC collaboration operates in a similar way. Local universities within the EMPAC region are doing lots of work with local forces and OPCCs, yet in addition, because of the collaboration, problem solving research can be shared across a whole host of those best placed for whatever is the issue. The existence of a mature, policing led platform like EMPAC allows various universities, offering a huge diversity, to come to a common place to work together, in the best interests of policing impact. This can still offer a local service to local need, such as OPCC crime plans, as a regional collaboration is big enough to have a good diversity of knowledge, expertise and capacity, yet be flexible enough to service local need.

It’s like having a hub of a wheel where multiple things come together for a common goal. Clearly, this has lots of advantages to a single force working just with its local university, particularly in our ever increasing complex and global pace of life. Single forces would not now drop out of a regional approach to NIM, nor would they give up their access to mutual aid. These efficiency and improvement opportunity cases are the same for collaborations like EMPAC.

As for universities, well there is plenty of research need to go around so there is no rationing needed! The collaborative approach, taking the best from many places, is often supported by grant awarding bodies and the collaboration with policing offers a golden opportunity to enhance universities’ research environment and impact profiles. So, there’s a win /win.

So, what next? Well, if we assume the basic premise has merit it’s about building on that. It’s about increasing more and more the connectivity between efficient regional risk and threat systems and using the asset of research, just like within the NDM. NDM can often be deployed to deal with a pressing issue in the here and now, we all understand how that is vital. Yet, the cyclical notion of reviewing, checking and assessing should go beyond the crisis stage. Again, collaborative research can help with that debriefing process too – assessing and evaluating what worked (and why) and what needs to be learned from for next time. This principle is as true for a firearms operation as it is for evaluating commissioned investment for a neighbourhood burglary problem.

There are clear overlaps with learning and development as many of the initiatives and future road map for policing driven by the College of Policing involve accreditation programmes, professional portfolios and licensing practice. The university sector – our collaborative partners – are key to that learning and accreditation. The whole process of more and more using a research informed approach to policing takes us into being a learning organisation culture.

It’ about getting to that ‘tipping point’ where the awareness of the benefits of research informed policing is in common play and the asset of research is increasingly valued and used. Those uses will grow as innovations emerge. So, thinking ‘best information for the best decisions’ is very similar to the processes and models used day in day out within policing. EMPAC is your regional asset to help you do more of that – use it!