A Lethal Force Monitor: Next Steps
Open Society Foundations
Dr Abi Dymond
Senior Lecturer (Sociology and Criminology)
Welcome to my web-page!
I'm a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Exeter, and my current research interests and impact work focuses on the use of force and violence by the police and other state officials, including lethal force and so-called ‘less-lethal’ weapons such as the electric-shock weapon the ‘Taser’. Theoretically, I aim to work across disciplines, bringing insights from Science and Technology Studies to bear on criminology to generate new understandings in this area. Methodologically, I aim to promote evidence-based policing, and mixed methods research. I engage in a range of qualitative work, including interviews and observational work (perhaps most extensively on police use of Taser) and also use quantitative methods. Having helped establish a new police use of force reporting system in the UK, I secured ESRC funding to analyse the data gathered under this system, believed to be one of the largest use of force studies in the world.
I engage in a range of impact activities alongside my research, both nationally (via my work advising the National Police Chief’s Council, College of Policing, the Independent Office of Police Conduct and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of the Constabulary) and internationally (working with UN Special Rapporteurs, the UN Prevention of Torture Subcommittee, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and the OSCE, amongst others). I previously worked for the UK NGO the Omega Research Foundation and also received travel costs from Taser International between the 2nd and 8th November 2014 to attend the Annual Conference of the Institute for the Prevention of In Custody Deaths and to present my research to their Senior Management.
I was delighted to win the European Society of Criminology Early Career Prize, awarded by the Policing Working Group (2021), and the ESRC Impact Prize for Outstanding Early Career Impact in 2018. You can watch a short video about some of my impact work, produced by the ESRC for this award, at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTdNezg6kn8&list=PLhv2mBITlrX4to_EOOGSaXwRMJPfsck81&index=8
Please see the research and impact pages for more information about my work.
Research group links
- Department of Sociology and Philosophy
- Human Rights and Democracy Forum
- Science and Technology Studies
My current research interests and impact work focus, predominantly, on issues around police, policing and places of detention, and in particular the use of force and less lethal weapons in such environments (please see the overview, publications and impact page for more details). Although this is currently my main area of focus, drawing on my work prior to entering academia (as detailed on the biography page) I continue to be interested in a range of issues affecting vulnerable groups. This includes work in the UK, where together with Professor Dave Cowan and colleagues, I have worked on issues around homelessness and local authority homelessness reviews, and internationally, building on my research with survivors of sexual and gender based violence in the Eastern Democractic Republic of Congo, and with communities affected by copper mining in Zambia.
I have been lucky enough to receive a range of funding for my research, including:
Funding from the College of Policing, via a subcontract, to work on a project entitled: 'An independent research programme on the causes of ethnic/racial disparities in the police use of Taser' between 2022 - 2023. Awarded this bid as part of a Consortium with UCL, Keele and Staffordshire Universities; for more information, please see: https://www.college.police.uk/research/projects/independent-research-programme-causes-ethnicracial-disparities-police-use-taser and https://www.keele.ac.uk/kpac/fundedprojects/taserd/.
Funding from Open Society Foundations (£67, 000 for a project in 2020 entitled Toward a Lethal Force Monitor: Enhancing State Accountability for Loss of Life in Law Enforcement, and £86, 871 between 2021 - 2023 for a follow up project entitled A Lethal Force Monitor: Next Steps) Co-PI with Professors B. Rappert and S. Skinner (Exeter).
Funding from the ESRC, including their prestigious Future Research Leader's Award (£224, 455 between 2017 - 2020) and £10, 000 towards impact activities given as prize monies for receiving the ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize: Early Career Impact in 2018.
Current PhD students:
- David Lindsay: Changing Tunes: the performative and affective power of music in prisons (self-funded; second supervisor).
- Annaliese Jackson: How does the stopping and searching of young black men impact mental health and well-being? An in-depth analysis on the negative effects of stop searches on Afro-Caribbean communities within the UK (Funded via the University of Exeter’s PTA Scholarship in Criminology; second supervisor).
Prospective PhD students:
Please email me if you are interested in doing a PhD in the areas listed, as I would be delighted to hear from you. However please do contact me for an informal discussion / chat prior to sending any documentation or research proposals through, so that we have a chance to discuss potential topics, supervisors, suitability, timescales etc at an early stage in the process and in the evolution of your thinking.
- Police and policing, particularly issues around use of force, discretion and accountability.
- Detention monitoring, torture prevention and human rights bodies.
- Prisons and other places of detention, especially the use of less lethal weapons, other technologies and non-human actants in such environments.
- Policy making and 'impact' in academia and criminal justice settings.
External impact and engagement
My impact work focuses on two key areas; i) the use of force by the police; and ii) building the capacity of detention monitors and torture prevention bodies to monitor the use of force by others.
My work on use of force includes the following:
· Advising the IOPC on their Review of Cases Involving Taser (published in 2021), including advising on their proposed methodology, acting as a reviewer of an advance version of the document and providing input into their recommendations.
· Since 2020, working alongside the College of Policing and National Police Chief’s Council to input into a new training curriculum for use of force for all police forces in England and Wales. See https://www.college.police.uk/article/npcc-and-college-policing-pledge-improve-officer-and-staff-safety for more info.
· Working with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of the Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Service to develop new monitoring methodologies for HMICFRS inspectors to use when assessing force via my appointment to their External Reference Group.
· Helping to establish an unprecedented and internationally acclaimed reporting system for the use of force by police in England and Wales, for which I was awarded the ESRC Celebrating Impact Award in 2018. ESRC funding (2017 – 2020) then allowed me to build on this work by doing initial analysis of the first year’s worth of data gathered under this scheme, believed to be the largest use of force study in the world.
· Improving national practices on police use of force through drafting new national guidance issued by the College of Policing (specifically their Conflict Resolution guidance which came into force in 2020).
· Membership of the National Taser Stakeholder Reference Group (2018 – 2020).
· Directly contributing to two new United Nations standards, one on police use of force, torture and ill-treatment, and a second on the human rights implications of less lethal weapons in law enforcement. I contributed to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture’s 2017 Report to the UN General Assembly, which focused on the use of force by police officials and my input on advance drafts of the text were reflected in the final document. I also played a direct role in the drafting of the new United Nations Human Rights Guidance on Less Lethal Weapons in Law Enforcement (the so-called Geneva Guidelines) via my appointment to the Expert Group that drafted the text.
· Looking forward, at the time of writing I have been appointed to the research team looking at the disproportionate use of Taser on Black and Ethnic Minority Communities, commissioned by the College of Policing as part of the Police’s Race Action Plan, which is expected to conclude and publish it’s findings in 2023.
My impact work on torture prevention and detention monitoring includes the following:
· Working with the UN Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture (SPT) and the Omega Research Foundation to inform torture prevention practices, including via a co-produced resource entitled Monitoring Weapons and Restraints in Places of Detention: A Practical Guide for Detention Monitors (as listed in the publications list and which helped underpin the Impact Case Study). Initially provided in English, French and Spanish, and circulated by the SPT and NGOs to more than 60 national torture prevention bodies worldwide, this was subsequently translated by request into seven additional languages (Arabic, Indonesian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Slovenian and Uzbek).
· Providing a training course to accompany the guide, which was run for torture prevention bodies and detention monitors in Austria (2020), Brazil (2019), Indonesia (2019), Poland (2019 and 2020), Uzbekistan (2019), Slovenia (2019) and Kyrgyzstan (2022) via partnerships with the UN, NGOs and / or the OSCE Torture Prevention Lead. Taken together, these trainings reached over 150 participants, predominantly detention monitors, across the participating countries. In 2022 the Practical Guide was used as the basis for a workshop at an OSCE regional workshop on “Monitoring the use of force and equipment in the criminal justice system” reaching 48 participants from detention monitoring bodies and NGOs across 28 countries.
· Providing bespoke training, based on the Guide, for members of the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture, and for the OSCE Torture Prevention Lead.
- SOC2063 - Policy Analysis in Criminology
- SOC2065 - Punishment, Imprisonment and Detention
- SOC2098 - Sociology of Imprisonment
- SOC2101 - Police and Policing
- SOC3098 - Sociology of Imprisonment
- SOC3101 - Police and Policing
- SOC3121 - Policy Analysis in Criminology
- SOC3123 - Punishment, Imprisonment and Detention
Prior to entering academia in 2013, I worked for, and with, a range of human rights and international development NGOs. As Research Associate at the Omega Research Foundation for nearly a decade I led on an EU funded, multi-stakeholder project assessing and developing good practice in the use of less lethal weapons--including electric-shock weapons--in law enforcement and corrections.
Before this, I was Campaigns Officer for the social enterprise the Big Life Company, working on issues around homelessness, housing insecurity and social exclusion, and Policy Analyst with the international development NGO the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund. In this latter role, I worked with local partners to conduct primary research into, and engage in advocacy work on, various development issues in sub-saharan Africa. This included research into copper-mining on the Zambian copper-belt, and on sexual and gender based violence in DR Congo.
I place a high emphasis on volunteering and community work, and for the last decade have undertaken voluntary work alongside my paid responsibilities. Previous volunteer roles include working with The Big Issue in the North (where I set up and ran service user forums), Manchester Rape Crisis (as a helpline volunteer), Victim Support (where I specialised in providing emotional and practical support to victims of domestic violence and violent crime) and the Independent Monitoring Board at HMP Exeter, where I focused on Safer Custody and use of force, amongst other issues.