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Scientists at the Netherlands Police Academy to discuss the role of research into more effective policing

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Scientists at the Netherlands Police Academy to discuss the role of research into more effective policing

The Netherlands Police Academy’s ambition is to consolidate its position as a key player (the so-called 'spider in the web') for practice-oriented research for the police. The annual scientific conference, in 2023 held on Thursday 12 October, contributes to this ambition. Policymakers from the Netherlands Police and the Ministry of Justice and Security and researchers from the Netherlands Police Academy and other research institutions came together to reflect on how to ensure that learning within the Netherlands Police organization, already an essential, can be rendered even more effective. 

As in previous years, the conference was organized by the Netherlands Police, the Ministry of Justice and Security, and the Netherlands Police Academy. In addition to the plenary sessions, there were various workshops in which participants could join smaller groups to debate different aspects of the central theme: the police organization’s power to change. There were small group sessions on digital relations between the police and citizens, about diversity and inclusion, and about the further impact of research. The conference opened, however, with a panel discussion with the leaders of the Netherlands Police, the Ministry of Justice and Security, and the Netherlands Police Academy.

Towards a culture of learning in the police organization

Leonard Kok (Director of the Netherlands Police Academy) pointed out that the police’s capacity for learning is in large part dependent on the links between teaching, research, and policing in practice. "For a long time that was not universally accepted, but now the conversation is up and running. One tangible form this takes is the emergence of Centres of Knowledge. We also see the knowledge developed being reflected in the training programme – on topics such as resilience and forensic investigations, for instance. In this context, we can’t do without police practice, because that brings students into contact with operational policing and the outside world. If we manage to develop these connections thoroughly, they will really have an impact for the culture of learning within the police organization."

Leonard again stressed that the Netherlands Police Academy’s research is independent. "I like to call it 'proximate distance': we maintain distance, but we are committed. We certainly don’t want to alienate the police. Quite the contrary – it is only by working with the police that we can ensure that our research findings are applied in practice. But I stand firmly for the independence of our research."

Safe learning environment

Henk Geveke, one of the deputy commissioners of the Netherlands Police, emphasized that changing how we work and learn is closely related to safety within the team. "It’s ok to make mistakes, and if you reflect on them and improve, that deserves recognition and respect and not a rebuke." In that connection, Geveke advocated developing methods for managers to create this kind of culture, where learning is all part of the job.

Learning must never take second place

Monique Vogelzang (Director-General for Police and Security Regions at the Ministry of Justice and Security) added that learning and teaching must always have a high priority. "This calls for high quality lecturers and practical coaches. Assign the best people to the learning organization; after all, learning must never take second place."

Research as a joint endeavour

This scientific conference was the sixth in the series. Edwin Bakker, Head of Knowledge and Research at the Netherlands Police Academy, commented on the added value of the conference: "The aim of the conference is to provide a forum for scientists, both from the Netherlands Police Academy and from other institutions, to reflect about how we can stimulate the all-important processes of individual and joint learning within the police organization." 

Traditionally, the conference also attracts many researchers from outside the Netherlands Police Academy. There is close collaboration with those researchers and research institutions. "Sometimes this takes the form of joint research projects or carrying out supplementary research", Bakker explains. "In any case, we know who to collaborate with for practice-oriented police research."

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