27 November 2018

Evidence-based guidelines: The journey so far

With the neighbourhood policing guidelines published and more on the way, we look at the exciting new way that policing guidance is being developed.

In 2014 the College published its 5 year strategy, stating that one of their measures for success would be when 'our members can access clear evidence-based standards for policing'.

At that time, policing guidance was produced with practitioners covering a range of policing disciplines, drawing on subject matter experts to develop the content and including consultation with forces and partners.  However research evidence was not systematically reviewed and used to underpin the guidance.

The College wanted to make sure standards or guidelines were truly evidence-based, informed by a systematic search of all relevant literature.  But they also had to be developed collaboratively, using the very frontline practitioners who would be expected to use them.  

The recent publication of the neighbourhood policing guidelines was the first example of this collective approach - bringing together a committee of frontline officers and staff, specialist practitioners and academics to review the evidence and together make recommendations for practice.

The work of the committee is fundamental to the development of the guidelines.  The committee set the scope of the guidelines; decide the research questions that should (and shouldn't) be included; review the evidence identified; decide what recommendations to make and later, listen to the consultation feedback and decide whether any changes are required. When making their recommendations the committee are asked to weigh up the quality and relevance of research and practice evidence (gathered from the service). In the case of neighbourhood policing there were over 1600 research papers and 200 practice evidence examples included for consideration. When published, each specific recommendation made is rated on the strength of the underpinning research and practice evidence.

As well as the guidelines themselves, practical advice and additional resources can be made available to provide frontline officers, staff and volunteers with information on how to put each of the guidelines into practice. For neighbourhood policing this has led to more targeted information for different audiences, for example.

Creating guidelines in this way has been a developmental process with lessons learnt along the way being fed into future guideline development.  We have already learnt, for example, that the role of the committee chair is fundamentally important to enable full and inclusive discussions and help committee members reach consensus.  We also recognise just how important it can be for committee members to spend some time getting to know each other at the beginning of the process.  Building relationships this way can help individuals feel less inhibited by rank or experience of other members and more confident in voicing their thoughts and opinions.

So far, the response from those involved in guideline development has been extremely positive:
Detective Superintendent Dave Kirby, Director of Intelligence with Derbyshire Constabulary was Chair of the Initial accounts guidelines committee.

"The new process ensures that experience and expertise from academics, subject matter experts and practitioners is brought together into a really robust product that can be used with confidence. I was pleased to be a part of it and I look forward to how the process can be taken forward into more areas of policing, ultimately to improve the service we provide."

PC Andy Platt has been a front line response officer with Staffordshire Police for 15 years and is a College Ambassador.

"The opportunity to become involved in the Neighbourhood Policing Guideline Committee was offered to all the College Ambassadors so I jumped at the chance. Initially I did have concerns that my force wouldn't release me for the meetings or that it might be difficult to make myself heard in a room of superior officers and staff.  But I found this to be a valuable process.  By involving officers and staff of all levels, we can develop robust systems and policies using evidenced-based procedures"

Two more sets of guidelines (Initial accounts and Safer resolution) are being developed using guideline committees and are due to be published later in the year.  

The intention is for guidelines to support the service to deliver excellence in policing. Of course, guidelines cannot deliver that alone, but they can use the best available evidence to set out clearly what effective practice looks like and act as a catalyst for improvement.


​GuidelinesCurrent stage​Next stage​
Neighbourhood policing​Final guidelines published October 2018
Initial accountsConsultation period ended 24th October 2018​​Feedback to be considered and incorporated
Safer resolution​Final stages of development​Publication for consultation due 13th December 2018
Initial response to stalking or harassing behaviour – advice​Consultation open from 21st November to 12th December 2018​Feedback to be considered and incorporated

If you have any questions about the guideline committees, please email research@college.pnn.police.uk