Researching Diversity in Policing: a User's Guide to Philosophy and Practice

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Abstract

Many of the challenges associated with researching diversity within policing reflect more general issues that need to be addressed in order to produce effective research into law enforcement and criminal justice. Much of the discussion in other contributions to this book will be rehearsed in the review of police diversity research developed in this chapter. The discussion will focus on key reflections from a series of research projects that I have conducted, sometimes alone and sometimes with colleagues, into police diversity. As might be expected these studies have incorporated a variety of research methods and have been conducted in different contexts and within a range of police services. The focus in this chapter is not on particular challenges but rather a reflection of emerging themes that might represent limitations on research methods. The discussion here focuses on two related problems for those interested in researching diversity in policing. First, a significant methodological task needs to be overcome in terms of gathering valid data that authentically represents the values, attitudes and behaviour of police staff in relation to diversity. This is presented here as a problem of access in the broad sense of investigating issues that research subjects might rather not reveal. The issues moves beyond formal institutional access, however, to incorporate the challenge of enabling, encouraging and persuading individual research respondents to divulge their subjective attitudes towards topics that are highly sensitive in the contemporary ‘culture wars’ of contemporary policing. It is argued that observational methods can offer advantages in terms of getting meaningful access to the subjectivities of police work that is more difficult to establish using other methods. The second broad set of problems considered below is conceptual and applies to all methods since the nature of ‘diversity’ itself is often poorly considered and tends to be treated simplistically in terms of discrete categories. Before reflecting on the ontological status of diversity and the impact that has for research methodology the issues of access and validity are considered.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIntroduction to Policing Research: Taking Lessons from Practice
EditorsMark Brugner, Stephen Tong, Denise Martin
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Pages175-184
Number of pages230
ISBN (Print)9781138013292
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2015

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