The value of statistics on policing to public debate

Policing is changing through challenges and opportunities presented by technology, the mix of crimes that police deal with, the many non-crime related demands on police time and the complex problems they come across that need multi-agency responses. There is a story to tell about how policing is changing and we want to know how well statistics and data help to tell that story to inform public debate. If statistics and data do not do this coherently, the public debate risks being too narrowly focused on single headline stories like cuts in police spending or police screening-out crimes. More importantly it reduces the public’s ability to participate in democratic debate.

Our aim through this work is to increase the value of statistics and data on policing to improve public debate. Ultimately, we want to see statistics and data that better support the public’s need for information about policing, increase transparency and improve accountability of elected representatives.

We have published our review paper ‘Use of statistics in public discourse: the example of policing statistics‘ (March 2019). An analysis of media stories over the past year will follow shortly. This analysis will improve the evidence base for public debate about policing across the UK.

The purpose of the paper is to set an ambition: that a wider range of statistics can build on those already produced to inform a better public conversation about policing. We want to work with others to make the case for improving the value of statistics and data on policing to the public debate and encourage statistics producers to lead on realising that ambition. We will continue the discussions this review has started and welcome others to join the conversation.

Email: Lewis Jack