A new partnership between the UK and Japan aims to boost the effectiveness of policing volunteers both here and in the Land of the Rising Sun.
The University of Northampton’s Institute for Public Safety, Crime and Justice (IPSCJ) has received a grant to enable its researchers to link up with their Japanese counterparts to explore the different ways volunteers function and benefit law enforcement organisations.
It’s hoped the findings will lead to police forces in the UK and Japan to utilise their volunteers in more effective ways, while retaining and attracting more voluntary recruits.
The role policing volunteers play is becoming increasingly more important in the UK, as forces contend with a squeeze on funding and cuts to recruitment of professional staff.
With more than 11,000 fully warranted special constables and over 8,000 police support volunteers, UK police forces benefit from more than three million hours of voluntary work and support.
The IPSCJ’s Dr Matthew Callender is the project’s Principal Investigator and has welcomed the news of the UK-Japan Social Sciences and Humanities Connections grant, which has been awarded by the Economic and Social Research Council.
He said: “This is fantastic news and we are eager to build a long-term partnership with academics in Japan. Volunteering to support local policing objectives is of growing importance and we are excited to learn about different approaches to improve volunteer engagement with public safety.”
Dr Laura Knight, Director of the IPSCJ, added: “This is such an important time to develop relationships with colleagues seeking to understand the scope, scale and impact of volunteering in the public safety field. With much attention being paid to financial and resource management in policing, alongside improving police-public relationships, volunteering is gaining more attention by policy makers and law enforcement agencies nationally and internationally.”
Research into law enforcement volunteering is still in its infancy, and is being pioneered by the IPSCJ in the UK, which is currently evaluating 17 pilot projects across England and Wales to identify ‘what works’ in volunteering programmes, while assessing the benefits for policing and the volunteers themselves.
Research undertaken by the IPSCJ shows that where volunteers are given the opportunity to learn new skills and to contribute to specialist areas of policing, they are more likely to stay longer in a voluntary role and to contribute more hours.
The first Institute of its kind in the UK, the IPSCJ seeks to bring together cutting-edge academic research and evidence with practice, training and development across public safety agencies.
The Institute aims to be nationally and internationally recognised for high quality academic contributions to crime prevention, crime science and criminal justice practice.