The rise of the evidence-based policing and ‘What Works’ movement in the UK: What are the future implications for policing research?

K. Lumsden

Department of Social Sciences, Loughborough University, UK,

This paper considers the rise of evidence-based policy and practice (EBP) as a dominant discourse in policing in the United Kingdom, and the implications this has for social scientists conducting policing research. Despite the pitfalls identified in previous critiques of the evidence-based practice movement in education, health, medicine and social care (see Hammersley, 2013), recent years have witnessed its spread to the realm of policing. There is a need to consider the various organisational factors impacting upon police work, as well as the wider political agendas that constrain it. In relation to the latter this specifically includes the ways in which the adoption of evidence-based policing and the related ‘gold standard’ used to evaluate research (and define ‘legitimate’ methodologies) acts as ‘a technology of power’ (Foucault, 1988) to shape the nature of policing/research and ‘what works’ (or ‘doesn’t work’). The discussion draws on semi-structured interviews conducted with police officers and staff from police forces in England.


Dr Karen Lumsden is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Loughborough University, UK. She is author of Boy Racer Culture: Youth Masculinity and Deviance (Routledge, 2013), co-editor of Reflexivity in Criminological Research: Experiences with the Powerful and the Powerless (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) and has published in a range of journals including Sociology, Qualitative Research, Sociological Research Online, Policing & Society and Mobilities. She is on the Editorial Board of Sociological Research Online. Research interests include policing, crime, youth culture and social media, with contributions to methodological debates on ethnography and reflexivity.