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Comparative Police Studies in the EU (COMPOSITE)

Led by Dr Leslie Graham (Action Line I – 2010-12) and Professor Laszlo Polos (Action Line II 2012-14)

Across society, change can be positive – or it can be problematic. While providing huge opportunities for good to be done within the community, it offers increased opportunities for crime. Social changes may generate cultural tensions – and all the time the expectations of individuals and groups evolve.

Against a background of increasing European integration at social and political levels, a key sector affected is that of law and order. This study of ‘Comparative Police Studies in the EU’ (COMPOSITE), is led by principle investigator Professor Laszlo Polos from Durham University, and considers some of the new challenges facing European police forces in ten different countries. The central objective is to develop a theory of organisational change and produce practical tools which enable police forces to effectively manage the process of organisational change. These tools aim to improve policing at the individual, local and national level. 

What did the Study Involve?

To tackle policing issues in countries as diverse as the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic and the Republic of Macedonia, a cross-European study this unique approach required new information to establish a baseline for comparisons, achieved through employing a two-pronged approach. First, Action Line 1 (2010-12) gathered information regarding organisational change using primary research including conducting approximately 1000 structured interviews with serving police officers and external associated parties, across 26 police forces in the ten countries. The interviews were designed to allow researchers to identify and compare strengths and weaknesses across the participating forces and provided a review of the wider context (including the social, political and economic factors at play) in which they operate.

Second, Action Line 2, (2012-14), provides an analysis of these reviews in a process which integrates the results to provide an integrated theory of organisational change and practical tools in order to assist the forces to effectively plan and manage inevitable changes (planned or unplanned) which could occur in policing.

Implementation and Impact

The outcome of Action Line I was threefold. First, it produced an analysis of the participating forces in terms of their strengths and weaknesses and the opportunities and threats which they face. Second it produced an evaluation of their approaches to change. Finally, it produced a ‘toolbox’ – a selection of methodologies which can be adopted, not just by the police forces but by other interested parties, to help them adjust in the brave new world of change and integration.

In relation to Action Line 1, although the implementation of the project is in its early days, the signs are that “the significance of the impact is…substantial” and that in the United Kingdom and elsewhere the information obtained is already feeding in to policing and policy making. Continued dissemination of the results of the COMPOSITE study via print and the internet will ensure that the benefits of the research continue to spread and be taken up as best practice, and police forces will be able to make the best of the changing world which is the future. Action Line 11 is still underway and expected to be completed in 2014. 

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