Mason policing research team returns from Scottish criminology summer school

While some visitors to Scotland go for the bagpipes, castle tours or whisky tastings, a team of students and professors from George Mason University’s Criminology, Law and Society Department spent a week during summer break at the University of St. Andrews sharpening their knowledge of police research.

A first-ever collaboration by George Mason and the Scottish Institute of Policing Research called the International Summer School for Policing Scholarship brought together 20 doctoral students from universities in Scotland and Norway, along with six from Mason and three from Arizona State University, to study how policing is researched around the world.

Examining policing methods is a vital field in need of more researchers, said Cynthia Lum, director of Mason’s Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy, who developed the idea of the summer school with colleagues from SIPR as part of her Fulbright Specialist award to the University of St. Andrews.

“Recent events in policing only reinforce the need for more research knowledge in this field of criminology,” she said. “Understanding how police can effectively prevent crime and do so fairly, respectfully and in collaboration with communities is key to policing in democracies.”

The goal of the summer school, she said, was to keep students focused on possible careers in policing research as well as exposing them to the different theories, methods, and styles of policing research.

During the week the students attended lectures of various aspects of policing research, including ethics, methodologies and translating research into practice. They also visited Scottish government facilities to see how government uses research, and participated in one-on-one mentoring sessions and small group workshops.

“I feel fortunate to have been selected to attend the first class of students,” said Mason PhD student Amber Scherer, originally from Moline, Ill. “Students were discussing avenues for research collaboration, getting ideas for new research projects and gaining instrumental insight into their dissertation research—not to mention the friendships made and developed throughout the week.”

Said Xiaoyun Wu, a Mason first-year graduate student and graduate research assistant from China: “I was able to have in-depth communication with colleagues from other universities through which we exchanged our research experiences and discussed feasible opportunities for future collaboration.”

Carl Maupin, a Mason PhD student from Leesburg, said he was grateful that he was able to meet more than a dozen officers from Police Scotland and observe the communities where they serve.

“This provided a richer context of policing in Scotland—specifically the notion and example of ‘policing by consent of the people’—that enhanced my understanding of the material presented in class,” Maupin said.

Lum said she hopes the every-other-year program continues “as long as possible.”