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RCMP Senior Research Chair promotes undergraduate involvement in advanced research

Criminology students need not look far for some of the most current and relevant research in the field.

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By Jeff Hughes (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: May 21, 2014

Irwin Cohen is one of only three RCMP Research Chair holders in Canada.  (Image:  UFV.ca)

Irwin Cohen is one of only three RCMP Research Chair holders in Canada. (Image: UFV.ca)

Criminology students need not look far for some of the most current and relevant research in the field. Right at home at UFV, Irwin Cohen is holder of the RCMP research chair, a position and grant developed to link universities with police forces. 

“The RCMP research chairs, of which one is here, is designed to link universities and police,” Cohen says. “[To] help police with whatever their research needs, initiatives, or evaluations are … It’s also for municipal police forces, so the APD in Abbotsford or Vancouver Police.”

The findings from research conducted by the chair and those associated with the program can be applied by police forces and communities to help police departments become more efficient at their jobs. In the nine years since the program began there have been close to 100 widely ranging projects for the RCMP or municipal forces. 

“Everything from public safety surveys, where we’re just trying to get information for cities or for the police … which leads to changes in terms of outreach or priorities,” Cohen says, “all the way to full evaluations and assessments of police departments, which has led to significant change in terms of staffing … practices, procedures, everything.”

Because the research chair is directly involved with and conducts projects at the direct request of the police, he has access to information that is not usually made available. 

“Projects have really run the gambit … things you would traditionally not think that academics would get access to,” Cohen notes. “Things like police use of force or complaints against the police, all the way to on a typical shift how much or what are police eating and how to be more healthy on the job.”

Having this chair at UFV has benefitted the university and students. 

“All of the work we do involves students,” Cohen says. “Our first, second, third, and fourth-year students are getting exposed to the kind of work and experience that usually only MA and PhD students at other institutions would get … they get to work on these really interesting, dynamic projects.”

Cohen has been in the position since September, and is only the second researcher to hold the title. It was previously held by Darryl Plecas, who was a key developer in the uniquely B.C. positions, two of which also exist at SFU.

“He worked very closely with SFU, the province, and the RCMP to establish the framework and the principles of the chair,” Cohen says.

Cohen was no stranger to the program when he took the position, having already worked closely with Plecas and others involved with the program at UFV’s Centre for Public Safety and Criminal Justice Research where he was lead research associate. Plecas retired from his position at UFV upon being elected as MLA for Abbotsford South, which allowed Cohen the opportunity to step in to finish the term as chair holder. 

“Much of the work that we do ends up in the media, or results in presentations or publications that bring attention to the school or to the university,” he concludes. “It’s done a really good job of bringing the name of UFV and the school of criminology much more in the public eye.”

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