Michael Barton

Inducted July 2017

Nominated by Peter Neyroud, University of Cambridge


Chief Constable Barton joined the Lancashire Constabulary in 1980 where he served in most ranks in both uniform and detective roles. During his time in Lancashire Barton worked in Training, Professional Standards, Headquarters Operations, and Research and Planning. As Chief Superintendent he was head of Crime and then Divisional Commander at Preston for three years. Barton joined Durham Constabulary in June 2008 as Assistant Chief Constable. He was promoted to Deputy Chief Constable in September 2009 and then appointed Chief Constable in 2012. Since becoming a chief officer Michael has led on several national areas of work as part of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC). These have included Crime, Intelligence, Police National Database (PND), the national murder investigation system (HOLMES), Troubled Families, Information Management, Schengen and its European shared software SISII, Operational Requirements Board/Police ICT Company, Facial Identification and Government Protective Marking Scheme now Government Security Classification (GSC). Chief Constable Barton holds an LL.B. in law from Newcastle University.

Evidence-Based Research and Practice:

Former chief constable and Hall of Fame recipient Peter Neyroud writes in his nomination that Chief Constable Barton and his police force have a deep commitment to evidence-based practices and innovation. Chief Barton partnered with the College of Policing and University of Oxford on a long term study of police legitimacy by Bradford and Quinton (2014). More recently Durham Constabulary has committed to a major randomized field trial that replicates and extends the Operation Turning Point trial in West Midlands. Neyroud notes that Barton’s support provides a model for advancing evidence based policing. Barton not only is sponsoring Durham officers and staff to complete the Cambridge Police Executive Master’s Programme, but is also serving as a staff member on the project as part of his own continuing studies. Through this approach and in collaboration with researchers at the Jerry Lee Centre for Experimental Criminology at the Institute of Criminology, Barton, Neyroud, and others have developed the protocol for Operation Checkpoint, evaluated the pre-test of the Checkpoint model, partnered in the creation of the field triage model being developed by Dr. Geoff Barnes, and are undertaking the oversight and field management of the trial. Checkpoint is the first randomized controlled trial to test the use of an algorithmic harm prediction assessment in the police custody environment and a “pre-court probation” model to manage treatments for offenders.

Further, his partnership with the Business School at Durham University has resulted in groundbreaking knowledge and surveying about how police officers and staff are motivated and inspired. A majority of police forces in the United Kingdom are now using the Durham Staff Survey to scientifically track leadership behavior and interventions with societal outcomes. The Constabulary found insights into ego depletion, extra mile behavior, and organizational justice and fairness that have been especially helpful in driving up performance.

Chief Constable Barton has also introduced new ways of tackling organized criminals, using methods that challenge traditional policing, involve local beat officers and police community support officers (PCSOs), and encourage paradigm shifts. Barton has been a keen proponent of problem-orientated policing and integrated offender management, including restorative justice, and has successfully embedded these concepts in Lancashire and Durham. For his efforts, Durham is the only force to be graded outstandingly effective in both 2016 and 2017. Uniquely it is also the only force to have a clean sweep of outstanding grades for efficiency for the last two years.

Statement from Inductee:

I joined the police in 1980 to make a difference. To make the public safer. Over the ensuing 30 odd years, I have learnt a lot, but the only things I have committed to paper have generally been prosecution files so that justice might be served.

In 1829 when Robert Peel created the Metropolitan Police and in 1839 when the Durham Constabulary was first formed, the police were designed not to be a profession. Peel saw professions in those days as generally corrupt or the bastion of disinherited younger sons. The creation of the College of Policing in the UK is part of a recent drive to so that police officers can become professionals. One of the keys to that professional status is a body of knowledge and I recognise that I have not played my part in formally creating that body of knowledge.

As Chief Constable, albeit I do not wield the pen, I do shape the purpose of the organisation. I now insist that everything we do, certainly all the innovative work we do, should be evidence based. We now build evaluation and assessment into all that we do so that we can either prove it doesn’t work and/or provide examples of new professional practice that others can test elsewhere.

Durham Constabulary has recently enjoyed an enviable position as one of the most successful police agencies in the UK. We are now seen as an exemplar force and we receive visits from other agencies pretty much every day. Visitors often want to take away a straightforward policy or strategy or plan which will allow them to emulate our success. It is rarely that simple. Culture is the most powerful component of what we do and it is difficult to describe and define. Scientific understanding of staff motivations is proving effective in indicating why we might be different. What is clear is that all our visitors tell us that “it feels different here”. I look forward to being able to publish what that difference is and how others can build upon that good practice.

Contributions to Grants, Publications, and Projects: