2007 CEPOL European Police Research & Science Conference

A European Approach to Police Science

The 2007 CEPOL European Police Research and Science conference was hosted by the Deutsche Hochschule der Polizei (German Police University) in Münster, Germany on 12-14 September 2007.

This 2007 event focussed on issues regarding a European approach to police science and was dedicated to discuss the report tabled by the respective CEPOL Project Group. Academic skills and scientific knowledge are playing an increasing role in many police forces and training institutes in EU Member States. To reflect this, CEPOL established a temporary project group in 2005, called "European Approach to Police Science". A group of six European experts (Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Spain and United Kingdom) were tasked to explore the topic in light of increased demands for police cooperation across Europe and beyond. The Project Group presented their findings in April 2007 in a report that was made available publicly on CEPOL's website (a Short Summary and Full Report are available). Senior police officers, police trainers and police scientists were invited to share the insights and to join the debate to discuss the outcomes with distinguished international scholars at the conference in Münster, which as a CEPOL activity was organised by Germany with support from the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Seventy-five participants from 23 European countries, and as from as far as Canada, gathered to discuss the following:

  • Is there a common European understanding of police, policing, police philosophy and the role of police in the society?
  • Is there a common European understanding and definition of police science?
  • Is there a way for better integration of police science and police practice?
  • What common main research fields from a comparative point of view can be identified?
  • What are the main values, methodologies and standards of European Police Science in the future?

The chief objective of the conference was to open and widen the debate beyond the Project Group about a European Approach to Police Science, as well as find ways to develop a common strategy for the future. The conference participants were welcomed by the President of the German Police University, Klaus Neidhardt. In his welcome address, he stressed the importance of scientific approaches in modern police education systems and the need to bring together practical and research perspectives. The CEPOL-eDoc database was highlighted as one of the tools provided by CEPOL to help achieve this goal.

The Chairperson of CEPOL's Research and Science Working Group, Dr. Janos Fehérváry, Austria, welcomed the conference attendees on behalf of the CEPOL Presidency, Director and Chair of the Training and Research Committee. He emphasized CEPOL's efforts to harness research and science as useful tool for improved police training and education.

To facilitate debate as much as possible, the conference design arranged for a summary presentation of each chapter of the report, followed by a comment made by an invited scholar and a subsequent open discussion.

As a common point of origin for their internal deliberations and as a suggestion for a working term to the audience, the Project Group defined their subject of "Police Science" as: "The scientific study of the police as an institution and of policing as a process. As an applied discipline it combines methods and subjects of other neighbouring disciplines within the field of policing. It includes all of what the police do and all aspects from outside that have an impact on policing and public order. Currently it is a working term to describe police studies on the way to an accepted and established discipline. Police Science tries to explain facts and acquires knowledge about the reality of policing in order to generalise and to be able to predict possible scenarios." (Page 23 of the PGEAPS Report)

Dr. Cees Kwanten, Senior Researcher at the Police Academy of the Netherlands, opened the lecture-cycle with an account of the "History of Police Science". In his comprehensive review into historic roots of police science, he explored modern times approaches in former days Germany, France and the United Kingdom, especially emphasising the then prevailing governmental concepts and ideas of "Polizeywissenschaft", which used to be an academic discipline in the 18th and 19th century. He stressed the fundamental differences and the semantic shift of these earlier approaches against the 20th century notion of "police science" that emerged in the USA and Europe, leading to an increasing "body of knowledge" that could be considered as an emerging new academic, as well as applied, discipline.

In his comment on the first chapter presentation, Dr. Christian Mouhanna, former Director of Research of the French "Institut National des Hautes Etudes de Securite" (INHES) and scholar in the "Centre des Sociologie des Organisations in Paris, highlighted the inherent problems coming with a technocratic concept of police science when governments are led to use as "a means of communication" with the public in a top-down approach. He also touched upon the "historic legacy" of the '68-revolts that sparked a sort of adverse relationship between academics and the police in a number of European countries.

A summary of the second chapter, dealing with "Core Topics of Police Science" was presented by Professor Tore Bjørgo, Director of Research at the Norwegian Police University. At the outset he made clear that the intention had neither been to provide a "final" list of police science topics nor a comprehensive review of the existing literature. Instead, the focus was what kind of questions had been raised in the studies and projects concerned with police and policing and to illustrate that field by giving examples. In his abbreviated overview he touched upon studies and insights in the fields of politics and policing, the roles and functions of the police, strategies and styles of policing, managerial and organisational issues, including police culture, accountability and integrity among others. Based on his conclusion, that policing will increasingly become a knowledge-based activity for which police science could provide a more solid basis, he argued for more truly comparative European studies: "What is needed is not more 'comparative seminars' where representatives from different countries tell their stories about how policing is in their countries. Without comparable data, such exercises are of limited value. A far more ambitious approach is to develop systematic comparative studies based on shared methodological questionnaires and other instruments, used to collect and produce truly comparative data. National differences can then be used as variables to test hypotheses, build theory and evaluate practices in policing. This is the direction a truly European police science should move."

In his comment on the chapter and the presentation, Professor Jean-Paul Brodeur, Research Director at the International Centre for Comparative Criminology at the University of Montreal and an internationally renowned scholar in the field of police studies, first addressed the question if there is something European specific in the approach to police science. For him, the answer was positive for two reasons. Firstly, "police science" is a more ambitious programme compared with the "police studies" approach prevailing in the Anglo-Saxon academia. Secondly, the Europeans seem to be more inclined to a comparative perspective. His general comments dealt with three aspects: the feasibility of a framework of police science, the addition of more topics and finally its future prospects. For the first issue he mentioned the crucial difference between "hard" and "soft" sciences and the "in-between" position for a police science, that has to deal both with methodologies borrowed from the natural ("hard") sciences as well as with topics influenced by power, secrecy and privacy, which might leave some "black holes" for actual research efforts. He also pointed out the consequences of extending the research field from an institutional (the police) to a procedural perspective (policing). As for the second remark, the comprehensiveness of the list of research topics, he could not identify significant differences to the "Anglo-Saxon" research agenda. However, he mentioned a certain imbalance between studies concerned with patrol policing versus detectives' work on the one hand and rural versus urban policing on the other. Cross-border policing and police and policing under the condition of "societal transition" would also have to be considered to be added to the list. In his final comment concerning future steps, he recommended "to work in teams" to resolve the semantic issues caused by the "language problem". He also cautioned about a one-sided strategy of "knowledge-based policing" that is executed "from a distance" and would be exclusionary in effect. Instead a balance with inclusive strategies of policing would have to be envisaged.

Rob Mawby, Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Law and Social Science and Director of the Community Justice Research Centre at the University of Plymouth, UK outlined the chapter of the report "From Police Science to Science of Policing" were the emphasis is upon the distinction between a structural (police as an institutional organisation) and a process-related (policing as a social activity) perspective. Turning towards the procedural approach "policing bodies" and activities beside and beyond the traditional state formation of police come to the fore and to the scientist's attention.

Based on empirical research in mainly the UK, United States and Canada he introduced a heuristic model where a principal decision is made between the "commissioners" and the "providers" of policing. While communities, the "private sector" and the "public sector" are seen as principle commissioners of policing, the provision of it could be executed by the public and private sectors, NGOs or the general public. Giving examples of the diverse possible empirical configurations of policing, Professor Mawby made a strong point for acknowledging the empirical "mulitlateralisation of police" and the new "mixed economy of policing", as well as the subsequent consequences for police science - or would it have to be rather a "science of policing"?

In his comment, Professor Otto Adang, Chair in Public Order Management at the Police Academy of the Netherlands and Visiting Professor at the Universities of Liverpool and Solna (Sweden), reinforced some of the points made in Prof. Mawby's presentation by illustrating recent developments in the management of policing international sport events and other public events, where active citizens, in-house security and hired guards routinely play a role. For him the increasing extension of "privately" controlled semi-public space (football stadiums, shopping centres, etc.) is a major factor in explaining this phenomenon. Acknowledging the increasing connections between "public" and "private" police, Professor Adang pointed out the notorious issues of accountability and reliability that come with this new situation and also the importance to be aware and know about it - both from a practitioner's as well as a researcher's point of view.

The sessions on Thursday were opened by Francisco Del Barrio Romero, a senior police officer and police trainer at the Police College of the Spanish National Police. He holds degrees in psychology and police science and is the Chair of CEPOL's Training & Research Committee and elaborated on the chapter "Police Science - A Philosophy of Science Approach". Clearly being the theoretically most challenging chapter of the report, Francisco del Barrio Romero chose to start from a rather idiosyncratic perspective to lead the audience through the deep waters of epistemological and methodological questions about the true scientific nature of an existing "body of knowledge" called "police science". Drawing an analogy to medicine as both a theoretical and applied science, he tried to exemplify the differences and trade-offs between what he called a 'monoscopic' versus a 'multiscopic' approach for acquiring new knowledge. He also pointed out the challenges to build a comprehensive view of "the police problem", while taking into account the "personal equation" - an inevitable reference to the insights of "methodological individualism".

The audience laughed when he ended his presentation by showing a cartoon of a scientist, who had scrabbled a rather complex formula on the board and come to a result by inserting a box saying " .and here a miracle takes place" - a reminder that police science has maybe still some way to go in developing a secured methodological status.

In his comment, Johannes Knutsson, Director of Research and professor in Criminology at the National Police Academy in Oslo, Norway and also holding a part-time position at the Swedish Police Academy, mentioned that he considered "police science" just a working term and highlighted what he missed as the "user's perspective": to perceive (scientific) knowledge as a product for use. He exemplified his point by referring to "POP" - "Problem-Oriented-Policing", a concept or philosophy of policing invented in the United States by Goldstein and subsequently exported to Europe. The introduction of POP into the Swedish police led, according to Professor Knutsson, to a "large scale fiasco" because the complexity of "applying the science", had been underestimated and not taken properly care of initially. Subsequently, lessons were learned and the necessary support infrastructure, including, manuals, textbooks, courses and a knowledge centre was set-up. In conclusion, he addressed the dilemmas when the cultures of police practice and academics encounter, proposing "cross-fertilisation" as the best way forward.

The chapter on "Police Science, Police Education and Police Training" was introduced by Professor Rob Mawby in replacement of Professor Milan Pagon, who was unable to attend the conference. A central topic here was the distinction between training and education in regard to the development of police officers and police as an organisation. According to the Project Group, the term 'training' relates rather to efforts to teach "the right answer" and is specifically "task related", while 'education' refers more to contextualisation and (critical) reflection. Although a certain degree of overlap in meaning of the concepts were acknowledged, Professor Mawby tried to point out the crucial difference by raising the question, whether parents would like to have "sex education" or "sex training" for their children in school. A shared understanding within the group of experts was that "training" is clearly not sufficient for professional police work. Addressed were issues of the level and extension of police education and training in the diverse European police systems and the role and significance of research and science within them. He pointed out that "Police Science" could offer valuable contributions both to training and education of police officers. Finally he addressed the contested question if police science research should be done within or outside of police institutions, where the internal approach would be preferable in regard to field access and impact of results, while external research would foster a more independent choice of topics.

In his commentary to this chapter, Professor Jaroslav Holomek, from the Bratislava School of Law and Alexander Dubcek University in Trencin, Slovakia acknowledged a necessary distinction between training and education is important. Crucial for him was the consideration who should be trained and who should be educated in the light of the particularities of the police job to be done, though not every police officer would need a college-level education. Police Science - or as he put it the "Science of Policing" - has a role to play in the development of policing, since science and technology have become foundations of modern training and education in general. Designing curricula in reference to a "mapping" of police task and a list of required competencies would enable the development of police training and education, that is closely linked to Police Science (as research and development) and police practice. Professor Holomek saw police research outside and inside the police as complementary, as one would safeguard the freedom of drawing conclusions, while the other could foster the practicality of research.

As the main objective of the 2007 CEPOL Research and Science Conference was to create debate and facilitate reflection of the report the Project Group had issued, ample time was reserved for communication among the participants and presenters apart from the chapter sessions. In the afternoon of the second day, an "Open Space Discussion Arena" was offered, where all participants organised themselves into smaller ad-hoc working groups to focus on certain issues raised during the conference. Topics chosen were:

  • Building up a police research network
  • Police Science and other sciences
  • Police Science - Object? Subject? Scientists? Production?
  • How can science and police practice meet and learn to listen to each other?
  • How to research multi-agency policing?

The main results of the intense discussions in the groups were fixed on flip charts and exhibited and presented to everyone in the end.

On the third day, Professor Hans-Gerd Jaschke, who acted as the chair of the Project Group European Approach to Police Science and had recently left the then Polizeiführungsakademie (now DHPol) to resume his position as professor for Political Science at the FHVR University of Applied Sciences in Berlin, Germany, addressed the particularities of an European approach against a background of fundamental changes in societies on the continent, like the shift from industrial to service based economies and the increasing social gap. He stressed that in the modern European area of freedom, justice and security, police need to be aware of these developments as they are supposed to be transparent and responsible in their service. Concluding, he pointed three main developmental elements for Police Science: the need of comparative studies, research on a truly European scale and the need to address both the police and the scientific community.

Dr. Günter P. Stummvoll, Researcher at the Institute for Legal and Criminal Sociology in Vienna, Austria, began by picking up the thread of societal change and its implications for police practice. He pointed out a tendency of the "normalisation of the irregular" in society resulting in "disorder" - understood in the broad sense - becoming normal, as an effect of the "second modernity". Making an entertaining point about a certain attitude when police practitioners are confronted with academics, he showed a clip from the film Monty Python's "Life of Brian", where a vigorous political activist (played by John Cleese) tries to incite anger in his fellows from the 'People's Front of Judea' by asking agitatedly: "What have the Romans ever done for us?" To no surprise he is not happy at the end when they come up with a number of useful things the Romans actually brought them. For Dr. Stummvoll, social scientists have to be given credit for a number of benefits to the police, like helping to understand modern society in general, pointing out intended and unintended consequences of policing styles or the importance of trust between police and the public - and even the hard-nosed police practitioners would have to admit that the social scientists have brought them statistics, he summarised with a wink.

For the last session of the conference, the organisers invited a panel of international observers to comment on what they have heard during the conference, moderated by Professor Claudia Rademacher (DHPol). Representing a broad range of expertise both from the academic and the training field, Professor Jean-Paul Brodeur (Canada), Dr. Hans-Joachim Heuer (Germany), Dr. Christian Mouhanna (France) and the Director of Europol, Mr. Max-Peter Ratzel, formed the panel. Speaking from an experienced practitioners point of view, Max-Peter Ratzel expressed a certain reluctance about the offerings a European Police Science would have to make, but acknowledged the merits and benefits of the effort and emphasized the complementary nature of the relationship between police practice and police science. In contrast, Dr. Mouhanna saw police and researchers sometimes worlds apart. His list of concerns included research being inhibited (in some countries); struggling about what was the reality they are taking about, to rejection of findings because they were deemed politically inopportune.

Dr Heuer turned to the status of Police Science as a potentially new academic discipline and suggested to distinguish between three levels, where macro studies would deal with methodology and philosophies of policing, the meso level would address organisational aspects and the micro level would be concerned with daily routines and individual decision making. He also called for studies identifying the "core European competencies" needed for police officers.

In his statements Professor Brodeur raised a number of issues, ranging from the proportionality of police education and salaries, the deficiencies of the so-called 'knowledge society' in leaving whole groups behind, the limited prospects of 'soft sciences' with no definite final results in political environments, to police and policing being considered as "dirty subjects" of sociology because of the sometimes potentially ambiguous character of police work. In regard to police science he stated that the purpose of science is indeed to make discoveries. Using a comparison with medical science he pointed out that while there are few discoveries made about the principle functions of the body, the bulk of research is applied science to make progress in practical areas like pharmacy or radiology. For police science he sees a reversed situation: a lot of research has yet to be conducted about the subject of policing, before relevant progress can be made in the research for areas of applied policing.

The 2007 CEPOL European Police Research and Science Conference set out as its main objective to present and discuss the report drawn up by the Project Group on European Police Science, titled "Perspectives of Police Science in Europe". If there is one unanimous result from the conference, it is that the participants consented that there is a "body of knowledge" generated by research and science that is useful, maybe even needed not only to the police as an organisation, but also the practicing police officer on different levels of tasks. However, not everyone was convinced that "Police Science" is the most fitting term to call it. The vibrancy and spiritedness of the discussions during the presentations and in the ad-hoc working groups made clear that research and science is an inevitable dimension of modern police work and a growing community of police officers, trainers, administrators are becoming aware of the developments and think of taking advantage of the opportunity. What also became obvious, that the often cited "clash of cultures" between practitioners and academics is still an issue in certain countries and in certain politically loaded settings, but relations seem to have improved over recent years. There is some evidence of a process of mutual approximation, where the call for "applicable research" is taken more seriously by the scientific community, while the police have become more relaxed and sovereign about acknowledging critical research and more prepared to take the complexity of issues into account. The conference was certainly a noticeable step in the process and the CEPOL - European Police College will continue to be a part of it. The next landmark is already in sight: the 2008 CEPOL European Police Research and Science Conference, which will take place in Austria.


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