Paul Betts

Theorising Evidence-Based Policing: A Discourse Analysis

Supervisors: Dr Emma Foster and Dr Simon Pemberton

Paul BettsPaul’s main research interest is in post-structural discourse theory, principally the work of Michel Foucault. Paul is currently undertaking doctoral research using Foucauldian theory to investigate the emergence of evidence-based policing as a social and political phenomenon over the last two decades. Paul is developing a new discourse analysis methodology to examine key texts in evidence-based policing to enable new insights to be drawn into discourses that produce political and social change. His research contributes an alternative perspective on the development of evidence-based policing as a policy approach in western democracies using these tools. Paul has presented his theoretical, methodological and empirical research at conferences in the UK, and on invitation gave a faculty masterclass at the University of Melbourne, Australia in July 2018. 


Paul has over 25 years’ experience at a senior level in the UK public sector, principally focused on criminal justice. Most notably focused on community safety, the management of offenders, youth justice, and counter terrorism. Paul is a graduate of the University of Birmingham’s MPA programme and has been a regular visiting lecturer at the University in the last decade. He is often invited to speak at conferences at Institutions in the UK and internationally, both on his professional work and doctoral research. 


  • BA (Hons) Politics & Modern History, University of Manchester (1994)
  • MPA University of Birmingham (2011)

Research interests

Paul is principally interested in political theory, particularly post-structural discourse theory and how this can be applied to gain understanding of social and political phenomena. Predominantly Paul’s work surveys how discourse helps us make sense of the world, and in doing so reproduces power relations through apparatus such as story-lines, subject position, and institutional reforms over time. Paul’s focus on theory makes his research inherently interdisciplinary as he seeks to develop theoretical perspective and methodological innovations using a range of empirical subjects. Paul is currently collaborating with a range of scholars lending theoretical and methodological support to empirical research in different fields. Additionally, he is also developing new empirical projects to progress and enhance his theoretical and methodological insights. 


“Evidence-Based Policing or Policy-Based Evidence-Making? The Case of British Policing” in “Emerging Voices: Critical Social Research by European Group Postgraduate and Early Career Researchers” (2017) edited by Samantha Fletcher and Holly White, London: EG Press, pp. 27- 36 

Paul has three papers in development:

“Story-lines of Counter Terrorism; Thoughts from the Centre and the Edge” for a special edition of the European Journal of Criminal Policy and Research

“Criminology as Religion: Profane Thoughts about Sacred Values, 20 years on” exploring the impact the emergence of evidence-based policing has had on academic criminologist subject positions, reprising the taxonomy  proposed by Haines and Sutton (2000) in the British Journal of Criminology

“Story-lines of evidence-based policing” publishing data from PhD research

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