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Dr Emma Williams

Profile summary

Professional biography

Emma is the Director of Policing Research and Strategic Partnerships at the Centre for Police Research and Learning at the Open University. The aim of this role is to lead, direct, co-ordinate and ensure high quality implementation of the Centre for Policing Research and Learning’s research and partnerships strategy and objectives. This is completed in close collaboration with the Centre’s inter disciplinary research network of more than 50 academics across the OU and with the Centre’s 24 police organisation partners. Part of the role is to ensure that academics working within the CPRL are able to make their research accessible to the practitioner community in the partnership. This ensure both academic rigour within the work and quality operational and strategic products for the police partners. Therefore, I have expert knowledge and vast experience in operationalising research findings, developing engagement between academics and police practitioners (at all levels), applied research, action research and working with practitioners to leverage change. 

Previously he Director of the Canterbury Centre for Police Research and the Programme Director of two MSc programmes at Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) for serving officers and staff. She has over twenty years’ experience of police research and learning. Specialising in qualitative research she has been involved in the management of projects and researcher roles. Emma has experience of leading sensitive research areas including work interviewing vulnerable, victims of sexual violence. Emma is a proactive driver of engagement in policing, particularly within the federated ranks and a keen user of social media for widening communication. I write regularly for ‘Policing Insight’.

Prior to working in an academic environment Emma was a principal researcher at the Metropolitan Police Service where she managed a small research team in the Strategy, Research and Analysis Unit in the MPS. Emma led on the development and delivery of bespoke qualitative research projects to explore a wide range of police areas including sexual violence, domestic abuse, crime reduction iniatives and victim satisfaction. A significant part of the role was disseminating research findings to a range of both police and academic audiences, adapting the style of delivery to suit the customer. Her work involved both process and impact evaluations, the management of both a small team internally and the commissioning of external research projects was a key part of my role as was the ability to think innovatively about research needs where funding is reduced.

Emma then moved into a secondement at the Ministry of Justice where she led on the design and management of policy related evaluations within the Reforming Criminal Justice Team situated in Analytical Services. Her main responsibilities included offering research and analytical advice to policy colleagues to inform evidence-based policy design. Emma was responsible for the oversight of two high profile CJS reform evaluations concerning Neighbourhood Justice Panels and flexible CJS projects being implemented nationally – including the virtual courts.

Emma was seconded to the College of Policing for six months from September 2016-April 2017 to work on the Police Education Qualification Framework and lead on the development of the recognition of prior learning and experience strand of the programme. I continue to work closely with The College to develop their thinking on continuous professional development for the current workforce.

She has worked with PoliceNow a leadership entry programme for new recruits presenting on their evidence based policing input events. She has a clear understanding and experience of implementing research findings at both an operational and strategic level. I am an external examiner on policing related programmes at three institutions.

Having worked in an academic, operational and policy environment throughout her career in policing she has excellent understanding of how research impacts in all of these areas. Part of her professional ethos is to engage police practitioners in research, its’ outputs and in using evidence to implement change in policing.

Emma regularly presents at conferences and events including recently Cambridgeshire Police Master classes (2021), Law Enforcement and Public Health Conference (2021), PFEW Learning and Development Workshop (2020), International Police Education Conference (2020), Law Enforcement and Public Health Conference (2019), European Society Criminology (2019) American Society of Evidence Based Policing (2018), Kent Police Leadership and Inclusion Conference (2019), British Psychological Society Conference (2018), Thames Valley Police Evidence Based Policing conference (Jan 2020) and the PIER seminar series (April 2020).



Research interests

My main area of interest in police professionalisation. My portfolio of research in this area includes, rape investigation, police education, direct entry schemes and the alignment of policing with public health.

Teaching interests

Emma has taught on a number of policing related courses - relating criminology to police practice, evidence based policing, organisational change and aspects of proecdural justice

Impact and engagement

Emma has worked on a number of projects with practical and academic impact. The current research project Bluestone is receiving high levels of media coverage and will continue to do so over 2021-2023 - this project has the opportunity to change the nature of police investigations of rape and sexual assualt.

Emma has worked on high impact with the PEQF with th College of Policing and Safeguarding with FCDO


External collaborations

Emma is a member of the College of Policing professional board, an executive member of the Society of Evidence Based Policing, an external examiner and has worked with MOPAC, the College of Policing and FCDO as a freelance research consultant.

Emma has strong links wth the Police Federation England and Wales

Emma was part of the team who set up the bi-weekly police debate on Twitter #wecops. This was developed from the concept of #wenurses – seeking to engage the frontline, academia and partners to capture new and innovative ideas to share and trial at a time of austerity and reform. 

Emma has strong links with both the Australian/New Zealand Society of Evidence Based Policing and the American and Canadian Societies 


Holding onto trauma?’ The prevalence and predictors of PTSD, anxiety and depression in police officers working with child abuse, rape and sexual exploitation victims (2024-06)
Foley, Jim; Jones, Fergal; Hassett, Alex and Williams, Emma
The Police Journal: Theory, Practice and Principles, 97(2) (pp. 370-393)

Competing concepts of public value and legitimacy in the police: Organisational challenges in the investigation of rape and serious sexual offences (2024-03)
Harding, Richard; Maguire, Linda and Williams, Emma
International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice, 76, Article 100646

‘It’s why you get up in the morning’. A Straussian grounded theory study of coping in police officers who investigate rape and child abuse (2024)
Foley, Jim; Hassett, Alex and Williams, Emma
The Police Journal: Theory, Practice and Principles ((Early access))

Evaluating police drug diversion in England: protocol for a realist evaluation (2023-11-16)
Stevens, Alex; Hendrie, Nadine; Bacon, Matthew; Parrott, Steve; Monaghan, Mark; Williams, Emma; Lewer, Dan; Moore, Amber; Berlin, Jenni; Cunliffe, Jack and Quinton, Paul
Health & Justice, 11, Article 46(1)

A systematic mapping of public health primary prevention interventions with relevance for policing (2023-06)
Sondhi, Arun and Williams, Emma
International Journal of Police Science & Management, 25(2) (pp. 148-156)

Understanding Factors Associated with Burnout Symptoms amongst Investigators working on Rape and Serious Sexual Offence (RASSO) investigations in England and Wales (2023)
Sondhi, Arun; Harding, Richard; Maguire, Linda and Williams, Emma
Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, 17 ((Early Access))

A Narrative Review of the Literature on the Recruitment of Younger Police Officers in Age and in Service: What Are the Implications for the Police in England and Wales? (2022-12)
Williams, Emma and Sondhi, Arun
Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, 16(4) (pp. 648-662)

Linking Professionalism, Learning and Wellbeing in the Context of Rape Investigation: Early Findings from Project Bluestone (2022-09)
Williams, Emma; Norman, Jennifer; Ward, Rachel and Harding, Richard
International Criminology, 2(3) (pp. 262-275)

Accessing justice: The impact of discretion, ‘deservedness’ and distributive justice on the equitable allocation of policing resources (2022)
Charman, Sarah and Williams, Emma
Criminology & Criminal Justice, 22(3) (pp. 404-422)