Research Streams

Systematic Review

We are undertaking a series of systematic reviews on mental health and policing related to: identifying mental vulnerability; recording relevant information using available systems; responding using appropriate internal and external resources; referring vulnerable people into services to provide longer-term assistance; reviewing incidents to make sure that risks have been effectively managed.

RCT of Training Package

We are undertaking a randomised controlled trial (RCT) to assess the effectiveness of a new face-to-face mental health training intervention compared with a ‘business as usual’ control group of Police Officers.

Understanding Partnerships

The Understanding Partnerships team is gathering data to build up an understanding of the current policing practices and their institutional relationships with other agencies in the delivery of mental health services.

Research Methods Training

The research methods training course will build sustained capability amongst NYP officers and staff to understand, critique and use research. The one-day course in introductory research methods will be open to management and senior management, consisting of police staff grades PO & JNC, neighbourhood policing Sergeants and Inspectors, Superintendents, Chief Superintendents and the Chief Inspector.

Research Methods

What is a systematic review?

Systematic reviews identify, evaluate and summarise the existing research evidence on a specific question in a rigorous way. They make research evidence more accessible to decision makers. They are therefore an important part of evidence based policing, either by informing policy and practice or by identifying where further research is required on a specific question.

Systematic reviews follow formal, scientific processes in their design and conduct. A good systematic review will do the following:

  • Have a clear and explicit research question
  • Prepare a protocol, a plan of key elements of the review
  • Undertake systematic and comprehensive searches for research evidence
  • Identify all relevant published and unpublished research studies on a given topic
  • Select studies for inclusion, based on pre-specified criteria
  • Assess the quality of each study
  • Combine the findings from individual studies in an unbiased way
  • Present a summary of the findings in a balanced and unbiased way, taking into account any flaws in the studies included

Systematic reviews can answer a wide range of questions. For the police and the criminal justice system, systematic reviews have been used to answer a range of research questions such as: Effects of Closed Circuit Television Surveillance on Crime: a systematic review; Are counter-terrorism strategies effective? The results of the Campbell systematic review on counter-terrorism evaluation research

Sources for further information

More information about systematic reviews can be found at:

The Alliance for Useful Evidence, an open-access network that champions the use of evidence in social policy and practice.

The Campbell Collaboration, an international research network that produces systematic reviews of the effects of social interventions in Crime & Justice, Education, International Development, and Social Welfare.

The Cochrane collaboration, an international organisation that provides methodological guidance and undertakes high quality systematic reviews of healthcare.

What is a randomised controlled trial?

Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs) can be used to evaluate proposed changes in healthcare, education, crime and justice and other areas of public policy. RCTs are considered the best way of determining if something works or not. Using this method, one group receives an intervention and the other group (control group) does not or they receive a different intervention. In studies without a control group we cannot be sure that a new intervention caused an effect, other external factors may have had an influence. In a RCT we can investigate what happens with and without the intervention or with two different interventions. In a RCT participants are randomly assigned to either group so that the two groups are as similar as possible therefore in order. Any differences between the groups following the intervention can then be more confidently attributed to the intervention, rather than other factors.

When conducting an RCT a key starting point is to identify the population of interest and recruit closely matched individuals. This could for example be all police officers or it could be a specific rank (e.g. sergeant) or role (e.g. dog handler) depending on the intervention being evaluated. Members of the population are then randomly allocated to two (or more) groups: one receives the intervention (e.g. specialist mental health training) while the other, control group receives nothing (e.g. usual training). To establish whether the intervention has an ‘effect’, the two groups are observed and outcomes measured over a pre-specified period of time. If the two groups are comprised of large enough numbers, the researchers can be confident that any differences identified are a result of the intervention, rather than another unknown variable.

A cluster randomised control trial works in exactly same way, but rather than allocating individuals to groups, a number of matched groups are identified (e.g. police stations) and the stations are randomly allocated to receive the intervention or act as the control group with business as usual.

Sources for further information

Test, Learn, Adapt: Developing Public Policy with Randomised Controlled Trials. Cabinet Office Behavioural Insights Team with Ben Goldacre and David Torgerson.

What is qualitative research?

Qualitative research is used to understand the meaning or nature of a research problem and explores individuals’ perceptions, assumptions, experiences and understanding. In contrast to RCTs which would focus on the effectiveness of an intervention, qualitative research can provide an in-depth exploration of individual’s experiences of that intervention. Qualitative research may also be used to help interpret RCTs to understand why an intervention may or may not have ‘worked’. For example, qualitative research could be used to understand why Police officers felt a face-to-face mental health training intervention helped them to deal more effectively with individuals with mental health problems and also the aspects that were not helpful or need further development.

Interviews and observation are the most commonly used methods within qualitative research. However a variety of other methods are also used including: focus groups, documents reviews, diaries, case studies and film. Thematic analysis, where information is grouped by identified themes, is one of the most common ways that qualitative results are presented.

Sources for further information

The Health Research Authority provide brief explanations of a range of research methods including qualitative studies.

A very short, fairly interesting and reasonably cheap book about qualitative research. Silverman D. Sage Publishing. 2010.