In a professionalised police service will graduate officers find the 'discretionary space' to use their critical thinking skills?

Research Institution / Organisation

University of Cumbria

In Collaboration With

Cumbria Constabulary

Principal Researcher

John McCanney

Level of Research


Project Start Date

October 2017

Research Context

​The professionalisation of the police that is envisaged by the PEQF will potentially necessitate change within the police. The Police, as an occupation, have many of the attributes that define a tradional profession. However, they do lack graduate entry, a defined specialist knowledge based, and autonomous professional decision making. This research explores the last of those deficiencies.

A professional has the ability to make a decision that is not subject to further review by supervisors within a structured hierarachy. Is this true in policing? This research explores what serving officers think about their freedom to make decisions.  It will then research the views of student officers before they become operational officers, to understand their expectations of how free they think they will be to make decisions. They will then be followed up after their probationary period to see if their views have changed. The intention of this research is to provide an insight into whether the police force is structured in a way that will facilitate the critical thinking skills that are promoted within the PEQF framework or whether graduate officers will be frustrated by a lack of opportunities to make autonomous decisons. This research will inform the debate on the professionalisation of the police and hopefully influence professional practice.

Research Methodology

​This is a mixed method approach with a quantative questionnaire for operational officers and then a qualitative approach involving interviews of 20 student officers.  They will be interviewed to obtain their views, once during the introductory phase of their training and followed up towards the end.
The initial sample for the questionniare was all operational officers in Cumbria Constbulary. 200 responses have been received.

Interim reports and publications

​Not available

Date due for completion

October 2022
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