Author: Editors: Clifford Stott, Ben Bradford, Matthew Radburn, Leanne Savigar-Shaw
ISBN No: 9780815353577
Review date: 10/12/2023
No of pages: 254
Year of publication: 02/11/2020
The private security reader of this book can enjoy it for two reasons – what it tells him about diverse fields of crime prevention; and about someone else’s problem, that they need not worry about.
To describe the overall theme of the book briefly, first; as the sub-title of ‘Psychological Research, Policy and Practice’ suggests, each of the chapter writers explains their field of research, and how it’s relevant in the wider world, of good practice. Some of the chapter writers are known to Professional Security readers. The genial Dr Josh Davis of the University of Greenwich researches ‘super recognisers’ – those people with an uncanny ability to remember a face, and to put a name to a face – of use in police custody centres and on the beat, to collar offenders. Josh has been a speaker at Security TWENTY, like Mick Neville who since his Met Police service has set up the Association of Super Recognisers, a professional body representing those who possess the super recogniser skills. Quite apart from the psychological reasons for someone having such a skill (or, at the other extreme, not being able to put a name to a face well, or at all); Dr Josh’s work seems an excellent example of research with impact for us all.
Just so as to not single him out; Prof Clifford Stott of Keele University has written about football crowd disorder and its policing and stewarding, including as someone who’s attended football matches. He wrote a report for the Staffordshire police and crime commissioner in the mid-2010s that was published (eventually) by that PCC about that county’s football policing. The very fact that there has been no football hooliganism during the coronavirus lockdown, while fans have not been allowed to attend Football League and Premier League matches, suggests that there is something about the matches or their venues that makes for hooliganism; and yet much crowd trouble happens on trains and at rail stations and platforms and in pubs; in other words, before and after matches. All which suggests a better understanding of crowd disorder – how it differs from other alcohol-related violence, and indeed riots – is of interest to more than the football world, but anyone with a business on the high street. Again, highly impactful research.
The book opens with a chapter by Prof Belinda Winder and Dr Nicholas Blagden on sexual offending. About one in five in prison are there for a sexual offence; an increase from the 1990s; and (it’s estimated) far more people are under investigation than are in jail. To the authors, that adds up to: ‘current approaches to preventing sexual crime are simply not working’. As most of those convicted do not go on to re-offend, as the authors say, it’s important to prevent first-time offences. Yet again, impactful research, that matters to the public – if only, as the authors go on to say, the public reacts with panic and disgust, so much so that the two academics have received death threats just for doing their project work, seeking to reduce such offending (and re-offending). Once again, this is more than ‘ivory tower’ stuff; the authors work with a prison that specialises in treatment for sexual offenders, and have set up a charity.
All three are bringing together theory and practice, for the public good, whether society in general suffering fewer crimes, or individuals – such as sex offenders – going on to law-abiding lives after conviction. According to the preface, such work is ‘world-leading’.
Which brings us to the second reason for a non-academic to enjoy the book; academics are labouring under REF – the Research Excellence Framework, running in 2021. Briefly, to its advocates, REF rewards researchers whose work has ‘impact’ and encourages academics to do something with more ‘impact’. To its critics it is flawed. How do you measure impact? By getting published, partly; and presumably also via reviews such as this, which begs the question – am I condemning the chapter authors not named, and implying (without meaning to) that their work is of less ‘impact’?!
At worst, REF is one more joyless digital tick-box exercise (like academic journal publishing). And like all efforts to rank people, and dish out money (£2 billion!) as a result, it’s only as good as its methods of benchmarking. They include output (in publications – but are all publications the same, if a book let alone a journal article by an academic publisher doesn’t reach a mass market or practitioner readers who could make use of it?).
REF also includes ‘impact’ itself, beyond academia, another minefield for ‘measurable benefit’; what if a piece of research is insightful but is not taken up by practitioners because they are too set in their ways? Should the academic be penalised for the faults of others? And who are in the ‘expert panels’ judging all this? If other academics – how can they be expected to be knowledgeable (and even if so, unbiased) about so many things? And if not academics, what if anything are they bringing to the table?! Also how does REF allow for changes in how ‘impactful’ a subject is to the outside world – during covid-19, no football crowd trouble, but some on-street disorder; does that give Prof Stott’s work less impact, but only for now? UK research on pandemic flu was worthy in previous years; more impactful in 2020!?
Not problems for the private security person!?