Managing a risky business : developing the professional practice of police and probation officers in the supervision of high risk offenders

Hannon, Catherine (2016) Managing a risky business : developing the professional practice of police and probation officers in the supervision of high risk offenders. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


Discussions about risk are central to the formulation of criminal justice and penal policies. They shape ways of perceiving and responding to what is deemed risky behavior. This thesis builds upon research about the application and effects of “the new penology”, with its emphasis on “actuarialism”, which promotes quantitative methods used in accountancy as an analytical method for risk assessment.

This thesis goes beyond policy texts and theories providing original contribution that explores how the police and the probation services actually interpret and implement policy and manage mutual institutional pressures and biases. It does so by using interviews and debriefing process with police and probation practitioners, as well as by drawing upon the author’s own professional experience.

This thesis identifies some of the effects of implementing actuarial practices within police and probation working, looking at convergent and divergent views. It aims at a clearer understanding of the partnership working between police and probation services arising from different perspectives and response to risk.

The findings support the notion that actuarial practices permeate this arena of public protection; influencing intra and inter-service partnerships and the implementation of MAPPA aims. Actuarial analysis accentuates a tendency to prioritise police crime control policies but not without resistance from probation officers. A number of MAPPA deficiencies including ineffective information sharing processes exist between critical partners impeding partnership working.

Disagreements formed from differences in organisational aims of rehabilitation and crime control, accentuated by the actuarial risk assessment methodology. Repeated working together of personnel and development of collaborative initiatives helped alleviate misunderstandings. Conflict between the two services was most acute in relation to the transfer process, breach of licence conditions and recall to custody of offenders.

Gaps in knowledge and experience created significant issues particularly for those new to risk management and the responsibilities associated to this arena of public protection work.

Activities to aid communal development were identified through organisational learning founded in communities of practice and isomorphic learning encouraging the growth of networks of learning.

Crisis causation models and the systemic lessons learned knowledge model (Syllk) provided diverse perspectives to assess people, learning, culture, social values, technology, process and infrastructure. Improvements in any combination of these factors supported the development of trust and learning between agencies.

The Transforming Rehabilitation agenda transformed the public protection world and amplified the negative aspects of the findings in this thesis. Anxieties about data, information sharing and the effectiveness of the framework to transfer cases between agencies are a contemporary problem for the National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Companies to tackle. Failure to do so will place the public at greater risk.

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