IPA UK’s Aidan Goundry evaluates the benefits of an international seminar at Gimborn on Evidence Based Policing

16 Feb 2019

image 3As part of the Young Members’ Forum, tasked with the recruitment and retention of younger officers as members, I had already decided it was necessary to have a working understanding of Gimborn, and knew that this could only come from attending a full course there.

Without visiting, I couldn’t see how I could promote Gimborn accurately and emphasise its benefits as one of the jewels in the IPA crown. Until now I had struggled to find courses that translated back to my remit as a Community Support Officer -  whilst I had heard that the ASP instructors course was fun, it wasn't practical for me, as I need to justify any course I attend.

The timing of the Evidence Based Policing course was very appropriate as just weeks before I had attended a day long course at my headquarters looking into the practical applications of evidence-based work. With this in mind, I thought it a great opportunity to build on what had been covered, and look into what other methods could potentially be utilised in my area.

There was a very interesting range of attendees alongside myself, most of whom were serving officers. These included a small group from Greece, a Cypriot officer, a few Germans and Austrians, an Irish officer and interestingly, a Brit who was serving with the German police, all of which contributed to a great range of views in the later debate stages. We were also very lucky with the quality of lecturers, a very balanced split between senior police practitioners from England, Germany and Sweden, and academics from Germany and England - notably from Cambridge University.

The range of topics covered was incredibly interesting. In one session alone, the topics included the new model of ‘Targeted, Tested and Tracking’, the use of social norms, the importance of evidence in modern policing, and a brief discussion on techniques for digital policing - elements of which I had already discussed with specialist intelligence officers from my own force - and in addition, a  fair few myths were put to bed. Most interesting of these was learning that there was no evidence to suggest that crime just moved when counter-measures were implemented, but does in fact reduce.

Another area of interest for me were the talks given about ‘Near-Repeat Victimisation’, and I was interested to learn that there was virtually no difference to the approach we use at home. Due to my local policing role, it was an area I already had a lot of practical experience in, but it was very interesting to be able to apply figures which reinforced the importance of what is virtually my daily work.

The other topics were equally educational, but I found them more challenging. The academic nature of some research made me query its value in a practical setting. This was compounded by the limited data that is available for academic research purposes, which led me to question some of the results we were presented with. The most significant of these was a study which suggested that, based on conviction data, a number of local policing teams in the UK could not identify their worst hotspots and criminals. The serving officers present unanimously agreed that they found this hard to believe, as official data would not necessarily be reliable as not all crimes are reported, and the ‘good’ criminals were those who did not get caught! In these circumstances, surely local knowledge, which is unfortunately un-quantifiable, would be far more valuable than statistics.

What was made very clear across the course was that obstacles to evidence based policing were not specific to one country, but far more generalised. These came down to many issues, not least of which being initial investment, with significant factors being time challenges and potential repercussions for negative outcomes. Equally, when officers are presented with studies they believe are inaccurate (as with the one previously mentioned), it will make them more reluctant to implement the new methods.  Needless to say, media criticism is always a concern, and in the UK this is certainly prominent.

Of course, we did spend some time enjoying ourselves outside of the classroom as well. We went on a very enjoyable trip to Cologne, where a few of us holed up in a traditional Bierkeller and put away a very respectable 41 beers in the few hours available to us, and naturally a few hours were passed propping up the Turmbar. The best part of all this was when our Greek friends put together a fantastic evening meal of kebabs and other Greek delicacies - most impressively all cooked on a BBQ despite the December chill! This great night also saw me knighted by one of the guys, using a hastily borrowed sword from one of the nearby suits of armour.

All in it was a very educational trip and as ever, in keeping with the best of IPA traditions, some more great friendships were made.

Aidan Goundry, member IPA UK