Recording Crime

Recording Crime logo - image of police officer writing in notebook and old-fashioned dymo-style lettering



What is the Recording Crime project?

Recording Crime is the public name for Angela Sutton-Vane’s Arts and Humanities Research Council funded PhD project, which will run from October 2016 to September 2018.  The main aim of the project is to examine the laying down of regional policing history by establishing patterns and practices around the preservation of police records. There is a project updates section in red (with newest entries first) and downloadable PDFs of project information sheets at the bottom of this page.

Why is the project important?

Unlike the Metropolitan Police regional police forces have never been covered by The Public Record Act and management of records, particularly around their selection for retention and destruction, has been left to individual forces.  Although most now comply with guidance there is little to assist forces in identifying or preserving records of potential future importance to historians, families (of both police staff and victims), criminologists or sociologists (to name just a few).  This research is ground-breaking.  Much has been written about the history of the UK police but little about how this history has been selected and preserved, or about the relationship between information management, legislation, history, organisational pride and the perceived “lack of transparency” in the way the police manage their information (highlighted by recent enquiries).  Research will aim to provide a balanced reflection of the police’s relationship with their own history and the necessarily complex area of managing sensitive information alongside the public’s growing expectations for rights of access.  It is hoped this process will support future policy work around the preservation of police records.

How will the project be carried out?

The project will involve three interlinking stages:

  • examining legislation, regional policing history and culture to identify key events such as force amalgamations and other organisational, political, technological or legal changes that may have affected patterns of records retention or disposal;
  • undertaking surveys of local record offices to identify how, why and when regional police forces were, or still are, depositing material, as well as the types of records present – for example whether they record corporate narratives, administrative processes or detection of crime;
  • gathering oral histories: The Oral History Society describes oral history as “the recording of people’s memories, experiences and opinions” and this will form a vital part of the research process in that it will collect the stories of retired police officers and staff who created or managed records.  This will throw light on the effects of force amalgamations, organisational pride, changes in working practices and personal views and knowledge of policing history.

Respecting the confidentiality of all contributors

The project has been guided by the Open University’s Human Research Ethics Committee and will meet strict criteria around consent, confidentiality, protection of information and participants.  In short, no interviewee will be identifiable in any subsequent published work (unless specifically requested), all personal information will stored securely and no personal details will be shared with any third parties. 

Thank you

Grateful thanks to the project funders: The Consortium for the Humanities & Arts in the South East, The Open University, The Police History Society and to all the project participants to date.

Image of project funder logos - CHASE, AHRC, Police History Society and Open University

Find out more …. or taking part

Image of the British Library Oral History collection webpageResearch findings will be shared during the project through talks and papers, with the final report published as a PhD thesis in late 2018 or early 2019.  The recorded oral history interviews and transcripts will be deposited with the British Library’s Sound Archive at the close of the project.  If you are a retired police officer or member of police staff and you would like to take part in the oral history project and tell your story Angela would be delighted to hear from you.  Please click on the Contact tab at the top of this page and send an email.


Image of the Recording Crime oral history programme30 Jan 2017: Project update posted on the blog page

27 Jan 2017: Oral History interviews: the first pilot interview has now been completed in the Avon & Somerset policing region with a retired police officer who has provided some excellent material.  I’ve decided, because of this to continue to concentrate on Avon & Somerset as my first research area.

20 Jan 2017: Oral History interviews:  From the week commencing Monday 23rd January 2017 Angela will be carrying out 2 or 3 pilot interviews in the South West and would like to hear from any retired police officers or staff who would be willing to give up a few hours of their time.  You can read about the interview process on the Oral History information sheet below.

1 Jan 2017: Archive surveys: First surveys have now been completed for East Sussex Record Office and Cheshire Archives.  Why these two?  They both hold large quantities of records from their local police forces, as well as significant collections of crime case files. The next visit will be to Cumbria (Carlisle) Archives.

Project information sheets

Image of the PDF project information sheet for surveysProject information sheet: general and archive surveys
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Project information sheet: oral history
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Oral History: participant information sheet
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oral-history-interview-consent-form-imageOral History: participant interview consent form and recording agreement
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