Research Fellow drives evidence-based practice with Devon and Cornwall Police
Dreolin Fleischer, a University of Exeter Research Fellow embedded in Devon and Cornwall Police, is a catalyst for evidence-based practice and collaboration.
In her five years as an embedded Research Fellow, Dr Dreolin Fleischer has seen evidence-based policing come a long way. The practice, which enables police officers and staff to use the best available evidence to inform decision-making, is now central to policing strategy. “People’s awareness of evidence-based policing has grown exponentially in recent years,” she says. “In the Policing Vision 2025, evidence-based approaches are mentioned across the entire strategy. That’s a big shift.”
Embedded in Devon and Cornwall Police since 2017, Dreolin has witnessed this culture shift first-hand. “I’ve noticed an increase in the number of police and police staff coming to me with [evidence-based] questions and evaluation needs.” Crucially, her unique role has not only encouraged these shifting attitudes. It has helped the force to implement evidence-based practice, as she provides a bridge between the two institutions that allows them to collaborate on projects in a more seamless and integrated way.
The embedded nature of Dreolin’s role puts her in a unique position to facilitate evidence-based collaborations between police staff and her academic colleagues. When Devon and Cornwall Police approach her with a project that needs evaluating, Dreolin is able to liaise directly with a network of Policing Lab academics at the University of Exeter, before connecting the right expert to the Force. Typically, she then sits in on an initial meeting to cover any logistical issues, such as funding sources and ethics statements – something which helps the force to navigate the unfamiliar landscape of academia.
On the Heroin and Crack Action Area Project (HACAA), to take just one example of the many collaborations Dreolin has facilitated in this way, she worked with the project team “who were experts about their project, to articulate and present the logic in their minds onto paper. This included outlining the connections between the project activities, intended outcomes, and [establishing] what data sources and deliverables stemmed from each activity.” With her background in programme evaluation, Dreolin enjoyed using her expertise to help “inform the initial outcome evaluation plan,” she says. “Ultimately, I was then able to find an external evaluator – Professor Huw Williams – to conduct the outcome evaluation on the project.”
The value of Dreolin’s knowledge and connections for Devon and Cornwall Police is hard to understate. As Superintendent Jacqueline Hawley, Head of Prevention at the Force, says “Dreolin has provided a vital bridge to academia. By facilitating the appointment of appropriately qualified academics and researchers, [she has] enabled us to create and deliver a robust project that will ultimately lead to service-improvement for some of the most vulnerable members of society.’
Dreolin also plays a key role in sharing knowledge between the two organisations and informing evidence-based policy in the force. She runs a regular newsletter for her network of academic and police colleagues, where she raises awareness of evidence-based practice by sharing training workshops, funding opportunities and research profiles. Here, she also shares updates from the ‘Evidence-Based Practice and Innovation Board’ – which meets quarterly to help implement evidence-based policy and decision-making within Devon and Cornwall Police in conversation with the College of Policing.
Along with Jess Hurrell, Dreolin also manages the University of Exeter’s Policing Lab network – a group of academic experts with strong experience and interest in evidence-based policing. Last December, the network hosted Research and Practice in Conversation: A Policing Lab Virtual Event. The widely attended event showcased 10 research collaborations on topics such as digital forensics, road safety and the use of force in policing, providing a space for academics and practitioners to raise awareness of different areas of research, discuss best practice, and identify new topics of interest.
A catalyst for collaboration between police and academic communities, Dreolin’s work shows just how crucial embedded Research Fellowships are for police forces looking to implement evidence-based practice. In the words of Neil Ralph, BCU Commander for South Devon and SW lead for the Society of Evidence Based Policing, Dreolin “has contributed to the advancement of evidence-based practice within Devon and Cornwall Police at a rate that would not have occurred in the absence of this role”. And as increasing numbers of police forces evaluate best practice, the relevance of Dreolin’s exemplary work can only continue to grow.
About the researcher
Dr Dreolin Fleischer is a Research Fellow at the University of Exeter who is interested in evidence-based policing, evaluation, utilization, and knowledge exchange. Embedded in Devon and Cornwall Police since 2017, she contributes to evidence-based policing strategies within Force while also liaising with a network of academics at the University of Exeter who do or are interested in policing research.
She divides her time between her embedded role and working on specific research and evaluation projects, related to policing. Her recent research includes a qualitative evaluation of a behaviour change programme for domestic abuse perpetrators, and an analysis of the use of force in law enforcement. She is currently working on a policy-related project for digital skills and open-source software.
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