Supporting police innovation: College registered pilots scheme

The College of Policing has introduced a new scheme to support forces in promoting and testing innovative practice

With the changing demands on policing there is a need for forces to adopt new and innovative approaches to emerging issues and ongoing problems. The College is keen to support the development, testing and promotion of innovative practice to help build the evidence base and understand what works.

Our registered pilots scheme enables forces to register new initiatives with the College and get advice and support on how to robustly test new and innovative approaches to tackling crime and other policing problems. The scheme has a particular focus on high risk areas of policing where the College can offer advice around research and evaluation, and assist forces to identify and engage with relevant academics and specialists.

Involvement with the scheme starts with a conversation. This allows you to tell us about the new approach you are piloting – why it is being introduced, what it involves and what the intended outcomes are. Importantly, this initial discussion also provides an opportunity for you to share any concerns or risks arising from the intervention itself, or in the way it might be evaluated. After talking through the key issues, we will offer feedback on your evaluation plan with suggestions and guidance that may cover a range of technical, methodological and ethical considerations. For each plan we establish a review panel which is able to draw on our most relevant specialist research expertise, so we can best support the needs of the pilot.

Using the registered pilots scheme, forces will be supported to implement their innovative ideas and the public can be reassured that new approaches will be tested robustly. The scheme will ensure new practice with the potential to improve policing is properly evaluated and that findings are more easily shared across the service.

Where interventions are accepted for inclusion on the register the College will provide support to the force which may include:

  • Providing research advice and quality assurance of the proposed research methods
  • Assistance to identifying external academics for quality assurance where appropriate
  • Support with academic reference groups for large programmes where appropriate
  • Supporting discussions with key stakeholders about projects registered as pilots
  • Support with enquiries or concerns from media and the general public
  • Sharing details of registered projects across forces
  • Peer review and hosting of final project reports or findings


For example, the Metropolitan Police Service approached us prior to the launch of their new approach to communicating with the appropriate adults of young people who have been arrested. Project Guardian is now a registered pilot which aims to reduce reoffending by introducing a new video briefing and lightly scripted conversation for police officers to use with young people in custody suites. Follow-up emails or texts are then sent to appropriate adults as a further way of signposting to local support services. Rates of childhood re-offending, and confidence in the police custody process amongst the appropriate adults will then be measured for those receiving the new communication, as well as a control group of those who did not.

Our registered pilot scheme highlighted some useful additions and clarifications to benefit the final Project Guardian trial protocol. Discussions covered possible methods of analysis, understanding disproportionality within the trial and how to gather feedback on how the trial runs in practice. The College also contributed to discussions about ethical issues and were able to provide reassurance to the MPS team running the trial that these had been fully considered.

Getting involved
You can express an interest in registering a pilot by emailing a completed eligibility assessment form to the research team: research@college.pnn.police.uk.  College Researchers will then get in touch to arrange an initial discussion about your proposed activity to ensure that the initiative meets our eligibility criteria. Eligible interventions will be supported to develop an evaluation plan before they can be added to the register.

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