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Reflections on a senior practitioner fellowship with the CPRL

Dr Natalie Benton, Cambridgeshire Constabulary

When I volunteered to complete a senior practitioner fellowship (long before Covid-19 struck), I was keen to offer my support to help further develop the CPRL. As a vice-chair, I had some understanding of the opportunities and challenges within the partnership, but I wanted to learn more about academic life and university governance of the Centre, while spending time on the OU’s beautiful Milton Keynes campus flexing a few of my dormant research muscles. Sadly, during my four months with the CPRL, I didn’t get the chance to live the full academic experience on campus, but I did get to join a dedicated, passionate team of academics who really want to make a difference for policing.

I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with the Policing Organisation and Practice Team, helping to shape the future OU offer for policing qualifications, and identifying the many free learning materials that would benefit different roles in the policing family. I’ve also learned more about learning and development delivery in policing, in particular, the quality of the OU’s online learning material and the rigour with which it is produced. It has been great to spend time researching what works in learning and development and comparing and contrasting different PEQF requirements in different forces.

Within the CPRL, it has been fantastic to talk with so many member forces to explore what the Centre can do to introduce evidence based approaches to support policing’s recovery from Covid-19, and to link this work back to the national policing picture. I’ve really enjoyed debating research ideas with Dr Lis Bates, who is taking forward a great programme of work on Violence against Women and Girls with the support of the Centre membership.

I’ve also worked closely with Dr Nicky Miller and Heather Barrett, pooling our strategy experience to start the development of a roadmap for the future of the CPRL, in particular looking at partnership theory as an enabler of success. I would encourage all members to get involved in this ongoing work to help shape the CPRL’s activities over the next five years.

What have I learned during my fellowship? I’ve definitely been reminded of the need to consider different theoretical models when diagnosing a problem, rather than using the first one I come across. I’ve discovered some of the challenges of co-production and how different the definitions of success can be between academia and policing. I’m also reassured that, through honest and constructive conversations, this gap can be bridged to achieve the future goals of the Centre. For the senior practitioner fellows of the future, I’d advise taking the time to discuss and debate your ideas with a wide range of academics – I’ve found fresh perspectives very valuable – and don’t be afraid to ask questions and give your views on the wide variety of topics you will be exposed to. 

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