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Sprinting for Research

This past week I was in San Diego speaking to a group of American police association leaders about the importance of research and all of the things nobody has bothered to look at because academics don't know much about policing and police officers haven't been doing a tonne of research. We went over such highlights/lowlights as the impacts of toxic work environments on mental health, the potential use of procedural fairness to address promotion issues,, and on and on. Afterwards, one fellow came up and asked myself and Rachel Tolber (ASEBP) if we knew of any research on the impacts of disciplinary procedures and the use of alternate mechanisms - including restorative approaches - for handling some of these types of cases. That one got mentally added to the list.

So, how are we going to fix this problem?

If it isn't obvious by now, it should be: Can-SEBP isn't interested in doing things the 'usual way.' And what I'm about to announce reflects that spirit.

On October 7-9, we will be running a "sprint". What is a sprint, you ask? I happen to really like how the Public Knowledge Project explains this:

Sprints deal with tasks that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time specific. There is no homework. And work is completed collaboratively within the two day event. Most importantly ... sprints are for everyone.

In essence, then, a sprint is an event in which a group is expected to complete a challenge within a set period of time. In IT (information technology), sprints usually involve teams conducting work to complete a specific coding or other tech challenge, which is why they're also frequently called 'hackathons', 'codefests', and, my personal favourite, 'un-conferences.'

Although the idea comes from the Tech Industry, versions of it have been used to create knowledge and develop innovation in other areas. my favourite example is NASA's 'hackathon', also known as the Space Apps Challenge. For the past eight years, NASA has been holding public events in which people from all over the globe participate in tasks aimed at solving "real-world problems on Earth and in space".

Why are we doing a sprint? Two reasons:

1. EBP is about co-creation of research. Your knowledge and expertise need to be at the table and too often that doesn't happen. Sprints open up that possibility in a fun, easily

accessible way.

2. One of the single biggest complaints policing researchers receive is that our work, collectively, often does not address the problems, limitations, challenges that police services and their people face, both internally and externally in your work environments. WE HEAR YOU!

And I think I've fairly conclusively demonstrated that your complaints are valid. The other week, as some of you may recall, I published a list of 2018 research literature. There were some delightful surprises and others .... not so much.

So, what to do about it? How about using social media to crowdsource the task of generating new ideas to police officers, crime analysts, planners, and everyone else in the policing community, ideas that can be used to set research agendas for individual pracademics, police agencies, new and old researchers to consider exploring?

What's the topic? One that will be near and dear to the hearts of many: police workloads.

Let's unpack that a bit.

The topic is how to better understand and reduce police workloads and that means in relation to call volumes, court waits, paperwork, hospital waits, anything you can think of that you feel could improve the use of police resources.

Ideally, it would be great to have testable solutions, something that researchers could at least measure to see if a solution actually works in reducing workload. Simply saying something like, "fire my boss," is not going to cut it and will be ignored because a. we're not firing your boss, b. see a. Because Canada is lacking even basic descriptive research in this area, we're also open to general trends and issues related to workload volumes.

We will be running the sprint through Twitter on October 7-9 and inviting people to participate through using the hashtag #Sprint19CanSEBP. Although we are Canadian-focused, we're totally open to participation from police across the globe. I will also post the event details on LinkedIn, in case there's a few Twitter haters out there with some good ideas.

What will we do with these research ideas?

In August, while everyone else was enjoying the last days of summer, I was fiendishly creating a new space on our website for a product called: The Idea Box. The Idea Box, which is launching in early 2020, is the site where we will house 'boxes' filled with research topics and ideas as to what could possibly be done to study a topic. If we can find a way to use your idea, we will contact you to ask if you wished to be listed as a contributor in the relevant idea box (with photo and bio).

Next week's blog: police ownership of policing research.


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