University-Community Engagement: an analysis in the context of policing
Bartkowiak- Theron, I and Herrington, V, University-Community Engagement: an analysis in the context of policing, Australasian Journal of University-Community Engagement, 10, (1) pp. 65-86. ISSN 1833-4482 (2015) [Refereed Article]
If a key aim of universities is to use knowledge to improve society, community engagement should be a core activity of academia. However, community engagement tends to be articulated in a way that is neither truly reflective of its value, nor the effort involved in developing strong and sustainable partnerships between academia, communities and communities of practice. This paper reflects on the value and mechanics behind university-community engagement from the perspective of the policing discipline and discusses key benefits, using the partnerships developed between several tertiary institutions and police organisations in Australia as examples. Community engagement is now widely documented as one of the core activities of academia (Le Clus, 2012). Academic engagement in communities and communities of practice can be done at various levels and that as such, there is always a certain amount of community engagement to account for in academic life. For example, one can be engaged in his/her own academic community and try to foster the knowledge (fundamental or practical) contained in a particular discipline. One can also be engaged with communities of practice with the aim of enhancing knowledge and practice in a particular area of industry. Or else, one can be engaged in a more active manner with a community of practice with the intention to benefit not only the related industry, but also the surrounding communities, to whom industry-related services are delivered. In recent years we have seen these manifestations of community engagement writ large in the discipline of policing. In this paper we will discuss the engagement of academics in policing in the past thirty years, and the mechanics behind university-community engagement in a policing context. We set out the key benefits to be had in nurturing collaborative relationships between academia and ‘industry’ partners (in our case: police and other law enforcement agencies), by drawing on several case studies. We conclude on the necessity to start thinking about and rewarding community engagement as a key academic activity, and as a conduit to better, more targeted teaching and research practices.