Rivka Smith

Dr Rivka Smith

Research Associate
University of Sheffield

Tell us about yourself

I’ve worked at the University of Sheffield since 2015, in both a research and teaching capacity, as well as co-chairing the Sheffield University Policing Research Group.

I am a Trustee of Causeway, a national charity that exists to support marginalised and vulnerable people to recover from trauma, protect them from further harm, and help them develop independent and fulfilling lives. This includes survivors of modern slavery and those caught in cycles of exploitation and crime.

I have good working relationships with my local NHS Health and Social Care Trust, having been involved with developing their service user engagement strategy in 2021. This, for example, led to working with partners, academics and peer researchers in undertaking a scoping review to understand the value of lived experience in mental health training and education.

My theoretical and empirical research contributions are primarily criminological, sociological, and socio-legal, with my main area of interest concerning the intersection between law enforcement and public health.

My doctoral research was a mixed-methods study examining police mental health triage schemes, commonly referred to as “Street Triage”. The purpose of this research was to provide a rich, contextualised account of these partnerships, undertaken with a critical lens. Its central objective was to explore what could be understood about the origins, purpose, implementation, and delivery of policing and mental health partnerships.

My teaching includes vulnerabilities in the criminal justice system, the policing of mental ill-health, and law enforcement and public health.

I am currently working with Dr Matthew Bacon on the “Police-led Drugs Diversion” (PDD) project, which involves undertaking a process evaluation of Durham Constabulary’s innovative Checkpoint diversion scheme.

Prior to this, I worked on the ESRC-funded “Good Police Custody Study” (GPCS) led by Professor Layla Skinns. I later worked on Phase Five of this project titled “Dignity in Justice”, which was concerned with making changes to police custody practices and the experiences of detainees.

Why did you want to become a Research Affiliate?

I wanted to become a Centre Affiliate because I have a keen interest in the work being undertaken at the Centre, particularly (but not limited to) the Mental health and routine police work project.

My prior research in this area was the first to include the lived perspectives of those being policed in this context. Not only has the omission of lived experience been noted in prior police research in this area, but as a lived experience researcher myself, I understand fully the notion of co-production primarily found in the NHS and ensuring research that engages vulnerable groups is meaningful not only for the research centre, but for those who participate.

How does your research connect to the Centre’s mission and values?

In every research endeavour during my career to date, the way varying vulnerabilities are produced, exacerbated, and addressed by policing, in different contexts, has been the focus e.g., mental ill-health, police custody, and drugs policing. My work has recognised the importance of independent interdependence and in taking a solution-focused approach. It has led to working with policing partners, shaping the future of local policing initiatives in a way that research has highlighted could better support the needs of the vulnerable people they serve.