Dr Abigail 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 focus on issues around police, policing and places of detention, and in particular the use of force and less lethal weapons in such environments. Between 2013 - 2016 my ESRC funded PhD research drew on elements from criminology, sociology and law, using quantitative and qualitative techniques, from binary logistic regression to actor-network theory, to explore the use of the projectile electric-shock weapon the Taser in England and Wales. From 2017 - 2020 my ESRC Future Research Leaders Award allowed me to continue to explore issues around police use of force in England and Wales, the link between less lethal weapons and the right to life, and the role of non-human actors in place of detention. I have a monograph under contract with Routledge which will explore some of these issues, and in particular, the role of the Taser in policing and use of force, in more detail. Please see the 'Research' and 'Publications' page for more information on previous and planned publications.
Impact is a large part of my work and I was delighted to win the ESRC Impact Prize for Outstanding Early Career Impact in 2018. You can watch a short video about some of my impact work here: https://esrc.ukri.org/news-events-and-publications/impact-case-studies/research-prompts-public-data-on-police-use-of-force/. As this indicates, I engage in a range of impact activities alongside my research. I previously worked for the UK NGO the Omega Research Foundation (2009 - 2018) 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 also engage in a number of other impact activities (detailed on the impact page). I can be contacted at @abidymond, at the email above and, for press enquiries, via Exeter University's press team.
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. This work is inherently interdisciplinary and mixed method in scope and, as such, I am particularly interested in logistic regression models, mixed methods approaches, the advantages and limitations of statistical analysis in policing research, and the data collection and reporting methods that might best capture police use of force, and deployment of less lethal technologies. I have also developed a keen interest in theories concerned with the role of different technologies, and how best to conceptualise and capture their impact - a line of enquiry that has led me to focus on the contributions that can be made by Actor-Network Theory and social constructionist approaches.
Between 2017 - 2020 my ESRC Future Research Leader's Award on 'Less-Lethal Weapons in Law Enforcement' allowed me to develop many of these themes in a set of inter-connected research programmes focusing on a number of areas, including:
- The production of a monograph on police use of force, including Taser (forthcoming with Routledge);
- Working on the police Use of Force Reporting Review in England and Wales, and with colleagues in the College of Policing, to analyse the data collected as a result of this review (please see the impact and engagement page for further details).
- Working alongside the UN Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture on the production of a Practical Manual for detention monitors to assist them in monitoring the use weapons and restraints in places of detention.
Drawing on my prior research I continue to be interested in issues affecting vulnerable groups, both in the UK--where, together with Professor Dave Cowan and colleagues, I have been working on issues around homelessness and local authority homelessness reviews--and internationally, building on my primary 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:
2019 - 2020: together with Professors Rappert and Skinner, we were awarded Open Society Foundations funds for work scoping the possibility of a Lethal Force Monitor.
2017 - 2020: ESRC Future Research Leaders' Award (part-time).
2015 - 2016: £6, 800 (ESRC/SWDTC grant) for research placement with the National Police Chief's Council (part-time June 2015 - June 2016).
2013 - 2016: £52,347 (ESRC/SWDTC grant) for PhD fees and living expenses.
2013 - 2016: Bid Co-ordinator for a £1 million award from the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights for the Omega Research Foundation’s research and engagement work, 2013 - 2016.
2014 - 2015: £5, 000 (ESRC/SWDTC award) for the Taser Experts Meeting detailed above.
2002 - 2005: £3, 000 (University of Wales, Aberystwyth) Entrance Scholarship and Merit Award for undergraduate study.
Current PhD students:
- David Lindsay - Changing Tunes: the performative and affective power of music in prisons (second supervisor - 40%).
Prospective PhD students:
Please email me if you are interested in doing a PhD in the following areas, as I would be delighted to hear from you: 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
I engage in a range of impact and engagement activities alongside my research, focusing on ensuring that the use of force and weaponry by State agents is appropriate, accountable and informed by the best available evidence and human rights standards.
I was delighted to win the ESRC Impact Prize for Outstanding Early Career Impact in 2018 and you can watch a short video about some of my impact work here: https://esrc.ukri.org/news-events-and-publications/impact-case-studies/research-prompts-public-data-on-police-use-of-force/
At the international level, my activities include:
- (2017 to present) Being appointed, as one of only 30 participants worldwide, to a Working Group to develop new UN guidance on less lethal weapons internationally (formally referred to as The United Nations Human Rights Guidance on Less Lethal Weapons in Law Enforcement), launched in Geneva by the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Humans in October 2019.
- (2019) Selected by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Regional Office for Central Asia and the OSCE Uzbekistan Country Office as an expert on detention monitoring and use of force, working with project partners to run a workshop on detention monitoring in Uzbekistan (September 2019, Laynor).
- (2018 - 9) Selected by the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights as an international expert on police use of force. Co-organised a workshop with the OSCE, the Polish National Preventive Mechanism under the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and the Omega Research Foundation on monitoring less lethal weapons (October 2018, Warsaw) and a workshop for the Slovenian NPM with a particular focus on Taser (November 2019, Ljubljana).
- (2017 to present) Being an Invited Speaker at the ‘Expert Seminar on Current Challenges to Human Rights: Policing of Assemblies, Use of Force and Accountability’ organised by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. This meeting served as a consultation for Special Rapporteur’s forthcoming report to the UN General Assembly on the topic, providing an opportunity to input into the text (May 2017, Geneva). I was subseqeuntly invited to feed into a draft version of the Special Rapporteur's report, and the final version--which references my PhD research on Taser--can be found here: http://undocs.org/A/72/178
- (2017 to present) Invited to present to the UN Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture’s (SPT) 32rd Session, focusing on my research on the use of less lethal weapons and restraints in places of detention and opportunities for further collaboration with the Committee. (June 2017, Geneva).
- (2015) International Detention Monitoring Bodies Workshop; Conceptualised and organised workshop on documenting less lethal weapons, attended by UN Committee Against Torture, the UN SPT, Council of Europe’s Committee for Torture Prevention (March 2015, Geneva).
- (2014) ‘UK research on Taser’ A Presentation to Taser International (including to the Chief Executive and Senior Management Board). November 2014, Taser International HQ, Arizona.
At the national level my activities include:
- (2019 to present) Appointed to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of the Constabulary External Reference Group, focusing on assessing police legitimacy in their annual inspections.
- (2019 to present) Member of the ESRC’s Strategic Advisory Network, tasked with providing expert support and advice to the ESRC on strategy, pre and post award and other issues.
- (2018 to present) Member of College of Policing's Curriculum Development group, helping to develop training on conflict resolution / use of force.
- (2015 to present) Member of the Programme Board providing high level strategic oversight to the Police Use of Force Reporting Review. I also conducted a survey of current practices by police forces and to produce policy recommendations (please see my publications page for further details).
- (2018 to 2020) Member of the National Taser Reference Group / Stakeholder Advisory Group, providing external advice and scrunity to the NPCC on the use of the weapon and issues associated with it.
- (2016 to 2020) Member of the College of Policing’s Guideline Review Committee, established to draft a new nationwide police policy (also referred to as Authorised Professional Practice) on the Safer Resolution of potentially violent incidents, and to act as a pilot trialling a new, evidence-based, consultative way of developing Authorised Professional Practice in future. Further information about the Committee can be found here: https://www.app.college.police.uk/about-app/guideline-committee/safer-resolution-supporting-officers-and-staff-to-manage-conflict-without-force/
- (2016) Engagement with the Home Affairs Select Committee. Working with a coalition of NGOs, I initiated and drafted a joint letter and subsequent advocacy initiatives calling on the Home Affairs Select Committee to conduct an enquiry into police use of Taser.
- (2015) Taser Experts Meeting. I conceptualised and organised this meeting attended by the Home Office, NPCC, police, industry, the IPCC, NGOs, lawyers and academics (March 2015, London). Further information about the meeting can be found here:
- (2013 – 2015) Member of the Metropolitan Police Taser Reference Group.
I am often asked to give talks on Impact Work to academic audiences, including PhD students and Early Career Researchers. Talks given to date include:
- (2017) 'Researching alongside the police' Rising to the Challenge of having an impact with your research; University of Exeter.
- (2016) 'Police use of Taser: A case study of Impact work by an Early Career Researcher' internal Business School event at the University of Exeter.
- (2016) 'Impact Work and the PhD: Tips for PhD students' Internal event for PhD researchers in Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology, University of Exeter.
- (2016) 'From PhD to Policy? A case study of Police Use of Force in England and Wales. Great Ideas Start with Discussion; University of Exeter, May 2016
- (2015) ‘Doing Policy Engagement: How to have an Impact’ How to work with policy makers from both national and local government; Uni. of Bath, December 2015.
- (2015) 'Doing interdisciplinary research and impact work' Presentation to students on MA Security, Conflict and Justice; University of Bath.
- (2014) Ethical issues in doctoral research and impact work. Presentation to Law School MRes students; University of Bristol.
- 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 (between 2009 - 2018) 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.