Dr Matthew Bacon

School of Law

Senior Lecturer in Criminology

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+44 114 222 6828

Full contact details

Dr Matthew Bacon
School of Law
Bartolomé House
Winter Street
S3 7ND

I was appointed as a Lecturer in Criminology at the School of Law in September 2012, after completing my PhD at the University of Sheffield. For my doctoral research, which was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, I carried out an ethnographic study of police detectives, drug law enforcement and proactive investigation. Prior to joining the School of Law, I worked as a Research Associate at the University of Manchester on a project looking at the contractual governance of drug users in treatment.

I am an interdisciplinary researcher with expertise in policing, drug policy and qualitative research methods. My theoretical and empirical contributions are primarily criminological, sociological and socio-legal. My main area of research is drugs policing. I am interested in exploring the complexities of the police operating environment and how policing interventions are conducted, to promote enhanced understanding of their role and impacts. My recent research is concerned with innovation and reform in drugs policing, especially alternatives to criminalisation and other harm reduction measures at the interface between law enforcement and public health. In the field of police studies, my work also focuses on police culture, as well as discretion, criminal investigation and organisational reform. It pushes the concept of police culture in new directions by bringing into play the sociology of culture and organisational theory to capture nuance behind the cultural knowledge police officers deploy as they deal with the challenges and ambiguities of their occupational duties.

I am institutional co-lead of the N8 Policing Research Partnership and a founding member of the Sheffield University Policing Research Group, which was set up in 2014 as a forum through which to create and maintain collaborative relationships between policing scholars and practitioners working for South Yorkshire Police and the Office of the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner. These roles involve promoting evidence-based practice and collaborations in knowledge exchange, enhanced training and research co-production.

  • PhD in Criminology, University of Sheffield
  • MA in International Criminology, University of Sheffield
  • LLB (Hons), University of Durham

I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Research interests
  • Drug Law Enforcement and Innovations in the Policing of Drugs
  • Drug Policy and Practice
  • Illicit Drug Use, Markets and Drug-related Crime
  • Police Culture
  • Discretion and its Relationship with the Law and Other Rule Structures
  • Criminal Investigation and Covert Policing
  • Multi-agency Criminal Justice Partnerships
  • Evidence-based Policing and Police-academic Partnerships

I am happy to discuss potential PhD supervision in my areas of research interest.



Edited books

Journal articles


  • Bacon M (2023) Police ethnography in exceptional circumstances In Fleming J & Charman S (Ed.), Routledge International Handbook of Police Ethnography (pp. 373-390). Abingdon: Routledge. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Coomber R, Bacon M, Spicer J & Moyle L (2022) Symbolic drugs policing: Conceptual development and harm reduction opportunities In Bacon M & Spicer J (Ed.), Drug Law Enforcement, Policing and Harm Reduction: Ending the Stalemate (pp. 87-110). Abingdon: Routledge. View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download
  • Bacon M & Spicer J (2022) Harm reduction policing: conceptualisation and implementation In Bacon M & Spicer J (Ed.), Drug Law Enforcement, Policing and Harm Reduction: Ending the Stalemate (pp. 13-38). Abingdon: Routledge. View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download
  • Bacon M & Spicer J (2022) Drug law enforcement, policing and harm reduction: An Introduction In Bacon M & Spicer J (Ed.), Drug Law Enforcement, Policing and Harm Reduction: Ending the Stalemate (pp. 1-12). Routledge RIS download Bibtex download
  • Bacon M & Spicer J (2022) Conclusion: From Stalemate to Progress In Bacon M & Spicer J (Ed.), Drug Law Enforcement, Policing and Harm Reduction: Ending the Stalemate (pp. 298-304). Routledge RIS download Bibtex download
  • Bacon M (2021) Ethnography In Erel U, Irwin-Rogers K, Medien K, Nightingale A & Westmarland L (Ed.), Social Research (pp. 155-187). Milton Keynes: The Open University. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Bacon M & Sanders T (2016) 'Risky' research and discretion in pursuing the criminological imagination In Jacobsen M & Walklate S (Ed.), Liquid Criminology: Doing Imaginative Criminological Research Aldershot: Ashgate. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Bacon M (2014) Police culture and the new policing context In Brown J (Ed.), The Future of Policing London: Routledge. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Bacon M (2013) Dancing around drugs: Policing the illegal drug markets of the night-time economy in England and Wales In Saitta P, Shapland J & Verhage A (Ed.), Getting By or Getting Rich? The Formal, Informal and Criminal Economy in a Globalized World (pp. 261-283). The Hague: BJu Legal Publishers. RIS download Bibtex download


  • Coleman C, Whitfield K, Thirkettle M, Bradshaw H, Bacon M, Parker M & Miller O (2022) Knife crime imagery and messaging: effective intervention tools or ineffective sensitisers? Experimental and eye-tracking findings View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download
  • Bacon M, Shapland J, Skinns L & White A (2018) International Strand Summary Report (N8 Policing Research Partnership) RIS download Bibtex download
  • Bacon M, Quinlan T & Thompson D (2017) Evaluation of South Yorkshire Police’s ‘Partnership Data Sharing Hub RIS download Bibtex download

Title/Description: Policing drugs in a rapidly changing environment: Challenges, innovation and reform

  • Awarding Body: British Academy
  • People Involved: Dr Matthew Bacon
  • Dates: 2018 - 2020
  • Amount (£): 10,000

Title/Description: Innovation and application of knowledge for more effective policing   

  • Awarding Body: HEFCE
  • People Involved: N8 Policing Research Partnership (N8PRP)
  • Dates: 2015 - 2020    
  • Amount (£): 2,999,822 

Title/Description: Knife crime imagery and messaging: Effective intervention tools or ineffective sensitisers

  • Awarding Body: N8 Policing Research Partnership (N8PRP)
  • People Involved: Dr Matthew Bacon, Dr Charlotte Coleman (Sheffield Hallam University) and Dr Kate Whitfield (Sheffield Hallam University)
  • Dates: 2020 – 2022
  • Amount (£): 18,700
Teaching interests

One of the best parts of being an academic is being able to teach students about subject areas that I find fascinating and worthwhile. Since joining the University of Sheffield, my career has been focused on research-led teaching and student-centred learning. I employ a variety of pedagogical approaches in order to inspire passionate curiosity, accommodate different learning styles, and encourage student confidence, development and achievement.

My teaching is delivered through blended learning and uses innovative methods to create inclusive and interactive learning environments that encourage students to participate. My aim is to enable students to become critical, analytical thinkers and independent learners with a diverse knowledge base, transferrable skillset and commitment to social justice. I also want students to enjoy the learning experience and make the most of their time at university.

My teaching practice is best illustrated through the module LAW3030 Drugs, Crime and Control, which I have been convening since 2013. LAW3030 is driven and informed by my research on policing and drug policy. It is designed to prepare students to develop solutions to complex drug problems. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, it analyses drugs issues from different perspectives, exposes students to cutting-edge research, engages with contemporary policy debates, and promotes evidence-based decision making and political awareness.

Recent assessments asked students to make policy recommendations for tackling the complex issues of ‘county lines’ drug supply, record levels of drug-related deaths, or the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on drug markets. I also organise guest policymaker/practitioner lectures to help students see the real-world application of their studies and gain an insight into career possibilities.

I am Lead Educator for the School of Law’s Crime, Justice and Society Massive Open Online Course (MOOC).

In 2021, I won the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Learning and Teaching for Embedding Sustainability.

Teaching activities

The modules I teach are:


  • Drugs, Crime and Control (Convenor)
  • Contemporary Issues in Crime and Justice
  • Criminal Process
  • Criminology of War
  • Representations of Deviance and Social Control
  • Responding to Crime (and Victimisation)
  • Situating Crime
  • Introducing Criminological Research
  • Policing and Policing in a Global Context


  • Policing and Society
Professional activities and memberships
  • Member of the Centre for Criminological Research (CCR)
  • Editorial Board, Policing & Society
  • Editorial Board, Journal of Qualitative Criminal Justice and Criminology
  • Steering Committee, British Society of Criminology Policing Network