Spotlight on EMPAC experts: Daniel Ash

This time, we feature Daniel Ash, who is our EMPAC SPOC (single point of contact) at the University of Northampton. Danny is a great example of a ‘pracademic’ – someone who has worked in professional practice and also conducted research. He spent over 20 years as a police officer with Northamptonshire Police before moving to work full-time at the University, where he now works as a senior lecturer in Criminology and Criminal Justice.

Dan’s time in policing was mainly front-line, as a constable, sergeant and  acting inspector in Custody. Policing-wise, he specialised in the Early Intervention Team based at Northampton, working with Chief Inspector Mark Evans.

Research impact

Dan has a strong focus on applying theory to practice, based on a broad range of criminological research. We can see the impact of his translating of research theory into operational practice in his work at Northamptonshire Police. Chief Inspector Evans explains, “Dan developed a strong framework of research evidence that allowed us to move forward on operationalising much of what is written in the literature on early intervention and adverse childhood experiences.  This paved the way for him to design processes, policies and information sharing agreements.  We began sharing data in situations that didn’t involve immediate risks to children; we just weren’t doing partnership work in this way before all that work was carried out.  The early intervention hub has been a genuine success story for Northamptonshire police.  This was cutting edge stuff, and the work Dan did was key to its success.”

Since 2017, Dan has been teaching at Northampton, but he has also ventured further afield to the University of Cardiff for joint research and to guest lectures at Keele University, where he has just submitted his doctoral thesis. He is also a co-applicant and co-investigator with Stirling University for a £2 million Economic and Social Council Research (ESRC) grant exploring children and families affected by domestic abuse, which is likely to influence national policy. You can read about this research here:- (

The travels don’t stop there though, as his expertise in multi-agency early intervention has also been in demand internationally in France, Romania and Italy.

International reach

Dan worked in Jönköping, Sweden, in 2019 exploring the similarities and differences between UK and Swedish policing. As part of a funded research project, Dan then worked on ‘Below 10’, a three-year project involving six EU nations.  This involved working in Paris, Bucharest and Cuneo to  research the effects of, and solutions to, children leaving education early and all of the negative life outcomes that school drop-out can entail, including criminality.

Connecting that international perspective with UK policing, as part of ‘Below-10’, Dan worked with Northamptonshire police officers and young people on a project called Cycl-opps, which targeted at risk young people. You can see media coverage of Cycl-opps here:-

Joint research over three years with the School of Psychology at Cardiff University engaged with children in Northampton’s Early Intervention Hub, to identify links between empathy recognition and behaviour.  This research has generated four journal articles (see references at the end of this article), which document the research evidence so it can be used in the UK and internationally.

Dan’s doctorate, at Keele University, was all about how front-line policing happens, utilising body-worn video footage and semi-structured interviews with police officers. This ground-breaking researching, using critical realism and grounded theory, has led to fresh insights to inform front-line policy making and re-imagine the role of police training.

What next?

As a pracademic, Dan has been able to apply his solid grounding in policing practice to contextualise the benefits of research into operational application. That work continues. Northamptonshire Police’s Chief Superintendent Mick Stamper said, “Dan has achieved a theory that could help us to consider new ways of improving front-line policing. I am looking forward to working with Dan later this year to explore ways of operationalising this work.”

Dan explains, “I’ve been motivated towards research because I wanted to better understand things like professional judgement and unconscious bias in policing. I have found that front-line policing cannot be quality assured just through training and policy alone. I wanted to find out what else was needed, to help improve the consistency of quality policing.”

Dan’s expertise in early intervention and driving up the quality of policing outcomes has already made a significant impact, and, by effectively bridging theory to application, looks set to influence a whole new generation of policing practitioners.

You can reach Dan direct at:-


  • Wells, A.E., Hunnikin, L.M., Ash, D.P. and Van Goozen, S.H., 2020. Low self-esteem and impairments in emotion recognition predict behavioural problems in children. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment
  • Wells, A.E., Hunnikin, L.M., Ash, D.P. and Van Goozen, S.H., 2020. Children with behavioural problems misinterpret the emotions and intentions of others. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology48(2), pp.213-221.
  • Hunnikin, L.M., Wells, A.E., Ash, D.P. and Van Goozen, S.H., 2020. The nature and extent of emotion recognition and empathy impairments in children showing disruptive behaviour referred into a crime prevention programme. European child & adolescent psychiatry29(3), pp.363-371.
  • Hunnikin, L.M., Wells, A.E., Ash, D.P. and Van Goozen, S.H., 2020.  Can facial emotion recognition be rapidly improved in children with disruptive behaviour? A targeted and preventative early intervention study.  Development and Psychopathology (accepted for publication, 7 Jul 2020)


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