Research Highlight

Australian scholar discussed security networks at Ting Forum

May 31, 2015

By Christine Palka

On April 16, the School of Criminology hosted a David & Cecilia Ting Occasional Forum on Justice Policy for the SFU community. The forum, titled “On the Properties & Organizational Challenges of Security Networks” was arranged and moderated by Associate Professor Martin Bouchard. 

The forum invited Dr. Chad Whelan, a senior lecturer in criminology at Deakin University, Australia to discuss his research on security networks.

The term “security networks” refers to collaborations between agencies in the security field such as the police, border services, federal special agents and the military. Collaborations among such agencies are increasing in number and in importance as agencies realize that working together will help them achieve broader collective goals like enhanced national security.

Whelan’s research aims to help improve the functionality of security networks. Although many agencies understand the growing necessity of working together on issues of national importance, they must work to better understand best practices when collaborating. Shared goals will be reached more efficiency by improving how these agencies interact with each other.

“Most of these agencies are focused on their targets such as disrupting crime and terrorism. While they often talk about interagency relationships, it is normally after something happens that they focus more on themselves and their relationships with each other. And when there have been incidents, we often see that cooperation, coordination, collaboration, and information sharing doesn’t happen as well as it could have, with the benefits of hindsight. Agencies know that they can be doing more to improve, but true collaboration is something that requires considerable and ongoing effort,” said Whelan.

His research focuses on two broad categories for evaluating and understanding how organizations function: structural properties and relational properties. Structural properties include the design, size, level of goal consensus and internal coordination for network activities. Relational properties include the many factors shaping relationships between security networks at the interpersonal and interorganizational levels, including organizational culture and trust.

“Understanding the different structural relationships and contingencies that shape the way police agencies relate to one another will improve cooperation, organization, collaboration, and of course integration, especially for defined work units focusing on achieving integration,” said Whelan on the purpose of his research.

“Relational properties are not so well understood but are equally important. They evolve around organizational culture, trust and personal relationships. It comes down to the people that are working in these groups and how they trust each other and how they work together. In that sense, it will help the agency identify their work environment and what type of people they want to employ.”

Applying this research to security networks will help agencies recognize their internal culture, providing useful information on improving interactions within the organization itself and with other agencies. The overall aim of applying this research to security networks is to improve performance and deliver better results.

The School of Criminology thanks the David and Cecilia Ting Foundation for making this event possible. The David and Cecilia Ting Foundation provides funding for public forums to discuss key issues of interest to the community, across Canada and beyond. The School also thanks the forum’s panel of discussants for their valuable contribution to the event: Garth Davies, Associate Professor, Criminology and André Gérolymatos, Director of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Centre for Hellenic Studies’ at SFU.

Further Reading


Whelan, C. (2012) Networks and National Security: Dynamics, Effectiveness and Organisation (Ashgate: Surey, UK).

Book Chapters

Palmer, D. and Whelan, C. (2014) 'Policing and Networks in the Field of Counter-Terrorism', in Lowe, D., Turk, A. and Das, D. (eds.) Examining Political Violence: Studies of Terrorism, Counterterrorism, and Internal War (CRC Press: Boca Raton, Fla).  

Journal Articles

Whelan, C. (forthcoming) 'Security Networks and Occupational Culture: Understanding Culture Within and Between Organisations', Policing & Society.

Burcher, M. and Whelan, C. (forthcoming) 'Social Network Analysis and Small Group ‘Dark’ Networks: An Analysis of the London Bombers and the Problem of ‘Fuzzy’ Boundaries', Global Crime.

Whelan, C. (forthcoming) 'Managing Dynamic Public Sector Networks: Effectiveness, Performance and a Methodological Framework in the Field of National Security', International Public Management Journal.

Whelan, C. (2014) 'Managing Dynamic Security Networks: Towards the Strategic Managing of Cooperation, Coordination and Collaboration', Security Journal.

Whelan, C. (2014) 'Surveillance, Security and Sporting Mega Events: Toward a Research Agenda on the Organisation of Security Networks', Surveillance & Society, vol. 11, no. 4, pp. 392-404. 

Warren, I., Palmer, D. and Whelan, C. (2014) 'Surveillance, Governance and Professional Sport', Surveillance & Society, vol. 11, no. 4, pp. 439-453. 

Whelan, C. (2011) 'Network Dynamics and Network Effectiveness: A Methodological Framework for Public Sector Networks in the Field of National Security', Australian Journal of Public Administration, vol. 70, no. 3, pp. 275-286.