- Inducted March 2010
- Nominated by Lorraine Mazerolle, University of Queensland
Peter Martin is a career police officer who has served with the Queensland Police Service (QPS) for over 36 years. QPS is a state-wide organization responsible for providing police services to the Queensland community. It comprises over 15,000 police officers and unsworn staff members. Deputy Commissioner Martin was promoted and appointed to the position of QPS Deputy Commissioner, Regional Operations in 2016 and currently is responsible for all general policing duties and investigative operations across the state of Queensland. The Deputy Commissioner has responsibilities for over 10,000 police and staff members within five police regions across a large and diverse state.
Deputy Commissioner Martin is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Queensland in Australia. D/C Martin is a PhD in the Faculty of Health, School of Psychology & Counselling at Queensland University of Technology, and is interested in the study of policing licensed (alcohol-serving) premises and building the evidence base in the area of alcohol use, abuse, and harm reduction. He holds an Executive Masters in Public Administration through the Australian and New Zealand School of Government and Griffith University. He also has a B.A. in Justice Administration with a major in Police Studies & Adult and Vocational Education. In addition, he is a graduate of the Leadership in Counter Terrorism (Pacific) program which was a joint initiative with Australian law enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, USA. D/C Martin is the foundation chair of the Australia and New Zealand Society of Evidence Based Policing.
Evidence-Based Research and Practice:
Peter Martin’s interest in evidence-based research and practice and support of researcher and practitioner partnerships have resulted in key innovations in policing in Queensland and added to criminological understanding of how police interactions with citizens affect public perceptions of both officers as individuals and the police service as an institution.
In particular, Peter Martin was responsible for significant operational changes in QPS after the department received a number complaints relating to the use of excessive force by police officers in dealing with alcohol affected patrons within a popular night-club precinct. He developed a set of strategies with a community safety focus that involved police partnerships with a broad range of stakeholders (including business leaders, the public, and others), statistical analysis of policing strategies used to deal with alcohol affected persons, interventions for officers over-represented in complaints data, and police use of alternative strategies in preference to arrest, such as directing drug and alcohol-affected individuals to public care facilities. He also developed a Major Event Planning Guide, an international first that incorporates best-practice principles for police planning for major events regardless of their scale and sophistication.
Publications and projects reflecting Deputy Commissioner Martin’s efforts:
- Martin, P., Freeman, J., Davey, J., & Palk, G. (2013). Officers’ perspectives of policing alcohol-related incidents in and around licensed premises. Police Practice and Research: An International Journal
- The Queensland Community Engagement Trial (QCET)
Statement from Deputy Commissioner Martin:
I have seen significant change in the 30 years or so that I have been a police officer. In some cases I could predict and plan for the change and in other cases it was thrust upon me accompanied with high degrees of uncertainty. If I was to analyse policing, I would say that it was concerned with dealing with situations in which there was a high degree of uncertainty. Uncertainty comes in many forms within policing and examples abound. Investigations into serious and major crime, strategic approaches to intractable public policy issues relating to public safety and crime, and dealing with myriad community problems and issues are but a few examples.
Rather than seeing uncertainty as an obstacle, I have learnt, particularly in my later career, to embrace uncertainty as a potential opportunity. This opportunity can come in the form of challenging the traditional ways of doing business or alternatively, providing impetus for new approaches to significant problems. People generally find change challenging and police largely are no different in this regard. The natural human condition is to make sense out of an uncertain situation. Some have described this as bringing order to chaos. There are many ways we can do this, such as through the creation of knowledge and the management of this knowledge by applying our skill, experience and that of others (e.g. research).
While research can assist in bringing about solutions to problems or order from the chaos, it can also add to the uncertainty. Research can be a positive change agent in this regard. It can really ‘shake up’ our existing thoughts and long held assumptions. It can challenge long established processes and systems and cause us to stop, re-think and purposefully plan a new approach and develop new paradigms to problems. I recall back in the mid-1990’s research findings supporting freely available needle & syringes as a strategy to limit the spread of HIV/AIDS. The Police effort of the time was to disrupt drug use at all levels but particularly at the user-level. Clearly Police and Health were working at cross purposes, which was disappointing given that both were committed to the philosophy of harm minimisation. The research was persuasive in allowing me to craft the new QPS policy supportive of community health initiatives such as needle and syringe availability programs which facilitated changes to practice.
Research findings can also lead to frustration. The police agency’s appetite for easily digested research, with clear and unambiguous findings, is at times at odds with the reality of research. The equivocal nature of the findings, reinforced through replication projects and still other projects using experimental design, adds to the confusion and scepticism of research amongst pragmatic police. One example of this is the approach to policing licensed premises (bars) referred to colloquially as the ‘Torquay Experiment’. This approach involved high visibility policing in the seaside township of Torquay in the late 1970’s. This project was replicated in a number of locations thereafter. After the original project (Torquay, UK) and in subsequent replication projects (e.g. Brighton, UK; Sydney, Australia; Wellington, NZ), it would appear that the analysis of the evidence is suggestive of the fact that ‘it probably worked’. Naturally, it is difficult to reorientate effort of large policing organisations based on interventions that ‘probably worked’ (Graham & Homel, 2008).
I came upon the concept of ‘evidence-based policing’ quite late in my career. To some degree this concept described what I had been doing for many years albeit intuitively. My early career as a Detective was formative in developing a questioning philosophy to all situations I was placed in. This was something that was reinforced and heightened with the various tertiary studies which provided the necessary theoretical basis to improve conceptual skills. I was fortunate to work in the Drug and Alcohol Coordination area in the Queensland Police Service which really consolidated the theory, and the practice developed over the years. This experience was helpful in allowing me to enmesh these into policy approaches which led to funding being realised and innovative projects being implemented. It was this area (Drug and Alcohol Coordination) that was formative in my appreciation and future reliance upon evidence-based policing. An example of where I was able to facilitate research which led to new policy approaches was in the area of developing a planning guideline for major events. The planning guide was innovative in that it combined international best practice with a policy approach that mandated completion of the guide as part of the liquor licensing requirements for events. The effect of this was to mandate that the best practice principles were implemented in the planning for such events and better outcomes for all, including operators and event organisers were achieved.
There is little doubt that policing is becoming increasingly complex. There are significant pressures on agencies to deliver a suite of services in ways that are not only ethical and consistent with the public interest but are also efficient. I am of the view that evidence-based policing can be a key for police agencies to be resilient to current changes and seize opportunities for future ones. It supports policing agencies engaging with the community in ethical ways and importantly, can shape policy and practice, particularly in achieving efficient practice, with regard to a broad range of competing priorities.
But research should not be seen as an end in itself. Research points the way and identifies the issues and pitfalls that may present on that journey. The challenge for the contemporary police executive is to embrace research, develop strategic alliances with research centres and researchers, become more active in the police-research agenda, and become an active driver in the quest for knowledge.
The real challenge though is to integrate the ‘evidence’ into ‘practice’. This is something much easier said than done. As a senior executive member of a large Australian policing jurisdiction, I am uniquely placed to operationalise research. I therefore see myself as somewhat of an ‘evidence champion’ or as Sherman (1998) describes it ‘evidence cop’. As a champion for evidence-based practice, I have a responsibility for ensuring that the way is paved for research and the scepticism that usually accompanies new ways of doing business is ameliorated. Some of the strategies I have used to encourage both the commissioning of research and the uptake of the results are to:
- ensure that the problem definition is clearly articulated and has definite benefits for policing;
- develop clear and unambiguous research priorities for Police;
- attempt to broker win-win opportunities in terms of outcomes for police and research institutions as part of the negotiations;
- have cognisance of the impacts that research has on police, particularly operational police;
- encourage research findings to be produced ways that are easily consumable by a broad cross-section of the police organisation;
- attempt to introduce research findings into programme/project proposals, new policy approaches and senior executive meetings;
- support of staff who are engaged in research or are the point of interface with researchers;
- chair a high level internal research committee examining the practicalities and ethical considerations of conducting research; and
- promote the professional development of the workforce which encourages the appropriate use of evidence in decision-making.
Fortunately, there is an increasing awareness and acceptance of research within police agencies, as well as a willingness to question performance and improve practice for the future, which make for fertile ground for evidence-based practice. These and other factors convince me that the future for evidence-based practice looks bright.
- Graham, K. & Homel, R., (2008). Raising the bar: Preventing aggression in and around bars, pubs and clubs. Devon, UK: Willan Publishing.
- Sherman, L.W. (1998). Evidence-based policing. Ideas in American Policing. Washington, DC: Police Foundation.