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Embedding Ethical Behaviour and Conduct into Police Practice SSS6

  • School: School of Social Sciences
  • Study mode(s): Full-time / Part-time
  • Starting: 2022
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Fully-funded


NTU's Fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme 2022

Project ID: SSS6

Public trust in police ability to perform responsibilities in an ethical manner is essential to effective crime control and the concept of policing by consent.  However, before ethical standards can be enforced, clear and understandable standards must exist and need to be both communicated to staff and embedded in workplace practices. The proposed research investigates complaints practice and development of ethical standards. It recognizes that procedures exist to ensure that workplace and professional standards are integral to effective policing and that mechanisms for measuring adherence to standards need to be tailored to specific workplace practices. However, ethical codes and complaints and disciplinary procedures do not by themselves embed ethical behaviour within operational practices and thus scrutiny of public and staff concerns about alleged standards’ failings can help identify areas requiring improvement.

This research project utilizes existing data on complaints, disciplinary procedures and adherence to workplace and professional standards codes and objectives to identify the extent to which ethical behaviour and conduct is embedded and develops in policing in response to concerns raised internally and externally.  Its key objectives are to:

  1. Consider and analyse the nature and content of complaints made against five selected police forces (a mix of city and rural forces) for the 10 years’ prior to the date on which the most reliable data are available
  2. Consider the effectiveness of existing police complaints procedures in the selected forces, resolution of complaints and to examine how lessons learned from complaints about behaviour and ethical standards are embedded in best practice
  3. Consider the impact of Police manager movements on best practice and ethical behaviour and the extent to which these may cause negative or positive impacts

The proposed methodology utilizes both quantitative and qualitative data via a mixed methods approach to analyse:

  1. Literature on complaints theory, practice, trust in public bodies and officer training in ethics and reviewing ethics.
  2. Relevant data on Disciplinary procedures, Police Appeals Tribunals, and individual police force complaints data to identify trends in complaints relating to ethical standards and to assess ethical issues arising in complaints and the effectiveness of integrating lessons from these into operational practice.
  3. Interviews with complaint handling staff

Applying the ‘Ombudsman model’ of ‘complaint’ investigation data as a tool for identifying best practice and areas needing attention, the project will conduct comparative analysis of the data outlined above together with identification of key themes arising from such data as a means through which best practice can be assessed.  The project aims to produce models of areas of concern arising from the data (e.g. clusters of complaint types) which will assist police managers in identifying, for example, gaps between public perception and the reality of ethical practice and adherence to codes.

Supervisory team

  • Dr Angus Nurse
  • Dr Becky Thompson
  • Dr Neil Radford

School strategic research priority

This aligns with the Centre for Crime and Offending Prevention and Engagement (COPE).

It also aligns with the University thematic priority – Safety and Security of Citizens and Society.

Entry qualifications

For the eligibility criteria, visit our studentship application page.

How to apply

For guidance and to make an application, please visit our studentship application page. The application deadline is Friday 14 January 2022.

Fees and funding

This is part of NTU's 2022 fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme.

Guidance and support

Download our full applicant guidance notes for more information.

Still need help?

+44 (0)115 941 8418