Learning the Lessons – Making the magazine

Published: 25 Jul 2023

Megan Oliver, Learning and Improvement Lead at the IOPC, answers questions about the Learning the Lessons magazine, including how it’s made, who’s involved, and plans for the future

Let’s start with the basics, what is Learning the Lessons?

Learning the Lessons is a magazine produced by the IOPC that we use to influence improvements in police policy and practice. 

Each issue of the magazine focuses on a particular theme, for example police custody, or call handling. The magazine features anonymised case studies from real investigations and reviews we have completed into complaints and conduct matters. They are designed to highlight key issues in policing that we see through our work.

At the end of each case study, we ask reflective questions of those working in policing – ranging from frontline officers and staff to those working in policy, learning or management roles. 

These questions are designed to unpick key learning opportunities by asking readers to reflect on their own knowledge, training, or force policies and guidance. The aim is to encourage policing to consider ways to prevent adverse incidents, and improve service delivery through changes to policy and practice.

Alongside case studies, we explore work happening across local police forces, advocacy groups, academia, and in national organisations like the College of Policing and the National Police Chiefs’ Council. The magazines include spotlights on good practice initiatives, new national guidance or training, and signposts tools and resources designed to help forces.  

How do you decide on themes for upcoming issues?

We consider a range of insights to inform our decision about what theme to focus on. This includes:

  • the areas of focus set out in our Strategic Plan
  • feedback from colleagues who identify areas of growing concern
  • reader surveys to see what people would like to see covered 
  • areas of policing impacted by significant change

Because of the nature of policing, each issue of Learning the Lessons typically covers a number of sub-themes. For example, an issue focused on police custody may still cover key issues around mental health, young people, and the use of force.  
Sometimes we cover a topic for the first time, and sometimes we re-visit a previous theme where there has been significant change, or we are seeing new areas of concern.

Who is involved in producing the magazine?

Learning the Lessons is produced with the help of a range of people dedicated to improving policing.

The magazine is produced by my team with the support of other specialist teams from across the IOPC. Each issue has an ‘editorial group’ – which is completely unique in its make-up for each issue. This group contains people with specialist knowledge in the relevant topic, experience working in a relevant role, or even lived experience they wish to share. 

The editorial group helps us to understand key issues, identify case studies, quality assure content being developed, put us in touch with external contacts, and helps share the magazine externally with their networks.

We also work with a range of local and national stakeholders. This includes police forces across the country, charities, community and advocacy groups, academics, and people working in the police accountability space. Stakeholders play a key role in the magazine’s development by sharing expertise, advising on case studies, and by writing articles. They also share emerging good practice, changes to legislation, or new national guidance and training. 

Here’s just some of the organisations who regularly help develop the magazine:


How does Learning the Lessons improve policing?

After each issue of the magazine, we run a survey to ask readers to tell us about the impact it has had. We also encourage stakeholders to contact us to share feedback directly.

Recent feedback surveys for issues focusing on abuse of position for sexual purpose, and call handling have been very positive:

  • 98% of respondents felt the magazines were a helpful tool to improve policing, and that the magazines provided useful knowledge to supplement information received from training, briefings or practical experience. 
  • 100% of respondents working in relevant police policy roles said they would consider making changes to policy, guidance or training they were responsible for to reflect learning from the magazine.

We also receive other feedback about how the magazine has influenced change. Readers have told us:

  • Case studies from the magazine are being incorporated into training packages for new officers and staff.
  • Briefings are being provided to senior leaders to highlight gaps and action required based on learning from the magazine.
  • Forces are sharing lists of reflective questions with staff in relevant roles to understand current performance and opportunities to improve practice.
  • Contact is being made with organisations writing articles for the magazine for forces to find out more about support and tools available.

What does the future look like?

Alongside continuing to produce Learning the Lessons and continuously improve the magazine in line with feedback, we have a few additional important areas of focus:

  1. To expand the reach of Learning the Lessons, to help it to influence improvements to police policy and practice on a larger scale.
  2. To explore opportunities to share learning between new issues of the magazine, to provide regular content useful to our audience.
  3. To continue to expand on who we work with by building on contacts in both policing and non-policing roles.
  4. To continue to seek feedback, to continue to improve the content and impact of the magazine.

How can you get involved?

We want Learning the Lessons to reach more within policing – especially those who can make use of the learning it contains. If you work in policing and can help with this, please get in touch. We can offer free physical copies of the magazine to post out to forces to share with officers and staff.

If you’d like to get involved in the development of the magazine, you can complete our online expression of interest form to join our Development Panel. Panel members with relevant expertise are invited to review and provide feedback on content around six weeks before publication of each issue of the magazine.

Or simply read previous issues of Learning the Lessons.