Staying safe on the roads

Adam Greenslade standing in front of police carOrganisations around the country have been running campaigns to highlight National Road Victims Month and, now that the DVSA have begun reopening driving test bookings and more cars are back on the roads, road safety should be a consideration for everyone.

Based on his expertise, we asked Lecturer in Policing, Adam Greenslade, to share some advice with us on how to stay safe on the roads.  

“According to Gov.uk, 27,820 people were killed or seriously injured on our roads between June 2018 and June 2019. As a career police officer, I spent many operational years in the specialist area of roads policing and now, as a lecturer at the Institute of Policing here at Staffordshire University, I share my knowledge and experience with the roads policing officers of the future.

Reflecting on the many incidents I attended over the years, from country roads, motorways, to built-up urban areas, the first thing I would say is, “accidents” in a roads sense are best described as “collisions” as in most instances they are entirely avoidable with some basic common-sense care when driving. Adam Greenslade sitting in his police car

Here are the things I found to be the five top causes of collisions during my policing career:

  1. Speed

Things happen faster when you’re travelling faster and in simple terms, the quicker you’re travelling the less time you have to react if something does happen. I’ve been to countless jobs where the first words out of the driver’s mouth were “there was nothing I could do to avoid it, it all happened so quick”. 

Slow down and give yourself time to take in and react to what is developing around you.

  1. Over Confidence

Whether it’s a new or a more established driver, over confidence or an over estimation in their ability or lack of understanding of the performance of their vehicle was something I saw time and time again. Driving too fast for a bend, going for an overtake on a country road when you can’t see what’s round the next bend or what’s coming out of that gateway, speeding up for an amber traffic light and jumping the junction instead of slowing down to a stop, underestimating the effects of snow, high winds or heavy rain on vehicle handling… the list is endless. All too often drivers would come unstuck (literally in the case of driving too fast on an icy road!) and end up in a collision.

Know your vehicle and know your own abilities, be realistic, don’t take risks or chances with your own and others’ lives… and never be an “amber gambler”!

  1. Mobiles – texting

Despite stiff penalties and publicity people still use mobile phones and other electronic hand–held devices when driving. They may have a hands free, but you would still turn up at really bumps and find that a driver involved had been checking emails, texting or browsing the web on their phone or a tablet. Literally trying to steer with one hand, text with the other, with their eyes off the road and their mind concentrating on the message not the developing danger ahead of them.

Leave your phone in the glove box and check it when you get where you’re going.  If it’s a long journey and you really can’t be out of touch for that long, pull over, have a brew and catch up on your messages. Don’t risk it while you’re behind the wheel. It really isn’t worth it.

  1. Impairment

Alcohol and drugs are a sad but common factor at collisions. Time and time again you would find at least one of the parties in a collision had consumed drink, drugs or in some instances both. Any alcohol will impair your driving ability, whether you are over the limit or not. It affects your judgement, your reactions, gives you false confidence and increases your risk taking. As for drugs, well, you don’t have to be a pharmacist to know that whatever the substance it’s going to seriously impact on your cognitive and psychomotor functions.

If you’re driving, don’t drink, at all. Don’t take drugs, any. If you’re on a prescription, follow the advice on the bottle, if it says don’t drive, don’t.

All the myths about “it’s OK with a big meal”, “I’m OK on 3 pints”, “I’m more chilled after a spliff and drive better” is a load of old rubbish. You’re risking yourself and others. You will get caught, lose your licence and if your involved in a serious incident you may well go to prison. Just don’t do it.

  1. The vehicle

Vehicle condition or items carried in or on it are a frequent cause of collisions. You could fill a warehouse with the number of ladders and planks of wood that I have picked up off the carriageway after they have come off a roof-rack and caused a collision. Defective tyres can drastically reduce your grip and ability to stop or blow out entirely and cause a loss of control or a vehicle to overturn. Basics like faulty lights, worn windscreen wipers or running out of screen wash affect your ability to see and be seen. Even something as simple as a break down can put you and your passengers at risk, especially if you’re in a live lane of a motorway or dual carriageway… and on the subject of passengers’ safety, make sure they are wearing their seatbelts and children are in a properly fitted appropriate child-seat that you check every journey. In a collision any loose object, whether it’s a box of shopping or a passenger, flying about inside the vehicle is going to cause a serious injury if it hits you.

Keep your vehicle roadworthy – especially basics like brakes, lights and tyres, top up your screen wash and secure loads both inside (especially passengers!) and outside the vehicle.  Oh, and always defrost your glass before you move off on winter journeys.”

Watch the video for Adam’s 7 top tips for staying safe on the road:

World Day Against Trafficking in Persons

Human trafficking is the trapping of people using violence, deception, or coercion and exploiting them for personal or financial gain. The National Crime Agency have said that it’s difficult to know exactly how many victims there are of human trafficking and modern slavery in the U.K. In 2019, of 10,627 potential victims of modern slavery that were referred to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), officials believed that 8,429 were victims.

This year, World Day Against Trafficking in Persons focuses on the first responders who work to identify, support, counsel and seek justice for the victims of trafficking.

Lecturer for the Institute of Policing, Phil Parkinson, took time to reflect on his work supporting the fight against human trafficking and modern slavery.

“Prior to entering academia, I had a very interesting career as a police officer. I found that I had a real affinity for dealing with victims of various crimes, along with a passion for investigative interviewing.

Amongst the highlights of my time as a police officer were the years I spent working in a specialist unit dealing with offences against and/or involving children, and intra-familial offences; in particular sexual offences. The experience I gained in that unit instilled in me a recognition of the need for the authorities to identify and protect the most vulnerable in society, together with an appreciation of just how powerless some people can truly be.

After leaving the police, I spent six years working with Lincolnshire Police as a specialist crime trainer, a large part of my role being to train police officers and other staff in interview techniques and how to use those techniques to obtain quality information from witnesses, victims and suspects.

I left the above role in order to form a training company (Zakon Training) together with a business partner. Amongst the contracts that we secured were the delivery of various training events for staff employed by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA).

The GLAA deal with offences under the Modern Slavery Act 2015, and offences include keeping someone in a condition of slavery or servitude and also human trafficking. These are of course very serious offences that carry penalties up to life imprisonment on conviction.

Whilst I was involved in the design and delivery of all the training for the GLAA, such training covering various specialist areas, I was most pleased and proud to be involved with training GLAA investigators and other staff in advanced interview techniques used when obtaining accounts from witnesses, victims and suspects.

I am well aware that the GLAA staff I have helped to train have dealt with some very serious and high-profile human trafficking cases. I am proud to say that the training that I and the other Zakon Training staff delivered has upskilled many of the GLAA staff such that they became more confident in their abilities, and more sure of proving cases in court and thereby helping more victims.

Another specialist group of people that I have worked with through my association with Zakon Training has been police interpreters. Many of the victims, witnesses and suspects in human trafficking cases do not have English as a first language. Without the help of interpreters, it would be very difficult for prosecuting agencies such as the police and GLAA to obtain accurate and timely accounts from the victims in particular, or for suspects to be dealt with legally and ethically. 

I have helped Zakon Training to deliver a number of workshops to hundreds of interpreters from all over the UK, covering such subject matters as their role in the police interview, and the recognition of modern slavery and human trafficking offences and victims.”

Join the conversation using the hashtags #EndHumanTrafficking and #HumanTrafficking on social media.

You can find out more about how to report suspected cases of human trafficking here.

Natter Me Duck

Policing Lecturer and Mental Health Coordinator, Deborah Sproston-Bewley, talks about the ‘Natter Me Duck’ initiative she created to help out students during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Within a few days in March the measures to stop the spread of Covid-19 became immediate and were drastic. You don’t have to be at the epicentre of the pandemic for your life to be turned upside down; due to the Covid-19 lockdown, it is a scary time for students.

Our campus became quiet and our classes moved on-line, all of which impact on the students.

We have students who are still living on campus and maybe feeling sad and isolated.

I am the Mental Health Coordinator for the school, and as such I thought about what I could do while we were all in lockdown and unable to communicate with each other on a regular basis. 

I came up with Natter Me duck, which is a platform through collaborate that students can log into on a specific day and just have a natter, not just with me but with other students.  For those of you that don’t know in Stoke-on-Trent duck is a common phase used.  E.g. you OK duck?

The idea behind ‘Natter Me duck’ was for students to natter about anything.  From how I cut my fringe? how do I bake a cake? or I’m suffering with anxiety due to void 19. It is a place where students can share their experiences and support and advise one another.  

The main aim is just to have a natter and for students not to feel isolated and on their own.  

An e-mail is sent out to all 750 students in our school which informs them of the date and time of a ‘natter me duck’ session and gives them the link to join.

Step Up to Policing and Criminal Investigation

If you are thinking of studying at university, but are worried about your qualifications or haven’t studied in a long time, then have you seen Staffordshire University’s Step Up to HE programme? Robyn Leese, now a Policing and Criminal Investigation student, is one of many of our undergraduate students who progressed through the programme and has shared with us what she thought of it.

What motivated you to apply for Step Up?

I applied to the Step-up Course after doing 2 A-levels which did not guarantee me a place on my desired course. During the Step-up course you will develop new skills which help you progress in your higher education course.

How do you feel now you have progressed onto your degree? Did Step-up help prepare you?

Now I have completed the 1st year of my degree I am glad I did the Step-up course as it enabled me to learn new skills which have been needed for my course such as, correct grammatical techniques along with learning how to reference correctly. It also gave me the confidence to interact with new people which has benefitted me not only with my course, but outside the lectures too.

Would you recommended the Step-Up Course? What advice would you give to students considering returning to education?

I would definitely recommend doing the Step-up course, as it has helped me with my course and all the members of staff are so lovely and supporting through the whole process. If you are a student returning to education then I would advise you to interact with those on your course, as well as your lecturers as it makes it so much more fun and easier. I would also advise you to take as many opportunities as you can as it will make your university experience so much better.

Finding Time for Pleasure in an Accelerated Society: Multitasking while Driving

Dr Leanne Savigar-Shaw, Lecturer in Policing, discusses why people multitask when driving and the implications for the Police.

For many of us, it is difficult to keep up with the demands of daily life – to complete all work-related tasks, to provide childcare, to keep up with our social lives, keep up with an exercise regime and still walk the dog at the end of the day. There are so many possibilities for activities in a single day, so much that we feel we must achieve, and yet seemingly so little time in which to achieve it. We feel hurried, under time pressures to complete tasks and consequently, stressed at the thought of it all. Some academics describe this as an acceleration of the pace of life. We might respond by either reducing the amount of time spent on each activity – by cutting the amount of time we spend with relatives, or attending one gym class rather than two. Or we might perform tasks simultaneously, multitasking to achieve more than one outcome within the same amount of time – we might walk the dog and call a friend at the same time.

Another area where multitasking has been observed is within vehicles – performing more than one task when driving to save time or relieve some sense of the pressure associated with this accelerated pace of life. Drivers have been found to use the car as an extension of the office, making phone calls to contact colleagues and clients, to prevent their loss of custom or income through work. Drivers have also been caught contacting family via video call to make the most of their time when so much of it is spent driving as part of their working day. Mobile phone use while driving has been found to increase over recent years, despite the issue of multitasking while driving in this way having the potential to produce significant consequences. Drivers have even been caught performing extremely private acts whilst driving – with the vehicle sometimes perceived as a private space not unlike our own homes. Where we struggle to find time for activities that bring us joy, time spent driving may be increasingly perceived as time wasted; time that we could spend doing those things we enjoy, or making time for those things by performing activities we have to do whilst we are driving.

This has implications for policing – policing of the roads becomes evermore difficult in a society that encourages people to multitask, particularly where time spent driving is perceived to be time ‘wasted’. This is simply one of a multiplicity of sensitives in relation to the policing of the roads – it is perhaps more complex than meets the eye.

COVID19: Why is it important for road safety?

Lecturer in Policing, Dr Leanne Savigar-Shaw has written a post about the concerns around the manner of driving during lockdown and how the change in lifestyle may impact road safety moving forward.

There have been recent concerns around the manner of driving during lockdown, particularly in relation to speeding, with the MET police lead for road safety highlighting the potential implications that could have on the NHS in already pressing times. Having recently hosted a seminar around driver distraction, I have been left wondering how this change in lifestyle many of us have experienced, and the changes in road user behaviour reported, may impact upon our road safety moving forward.

Our relationship to the roads context has changed greatly during the period of COVID-concern and lockdown. We are using vehicles less, but encouraged to walk to aid our mental health. Our relationships to people and work have also changed; conversations with family have taken place using mobile phones and other technologies, work has been conducted via laptops and computers. Indeed, my own work has all taken place using a laptop as lectures have been delivered remotely and meetings have taken place online. This may have long-term benefits – work that can be conducted remotely or communication that can take place online may continue to do so in some respect.

At some point, however, we will be released from ‘lockdown’, many people will recommence travelling to and from a place of work, travelling to visit relatives, and travelling for holidays throughout the UK. The number of vehicles on UK roads will again increase. Will the increases in speeding that we have recently observed continue? People who haven’t driven a vehicle for a significant period of time may be returning to the roads. Their confidence may be reduced, with the potential to influence how they drive on the roads. Those who have only driven short journeys may again be taking long journeys. Will their concentration be hindered? Are they at greater risk of becoming tired or drowsy while driving?

Relating specifically to the issue of driver distraction, those who have become increasingly accustomed to the use of technology, and have a new routine for communication via video call, may believe that they have to continue that routine alongside the task of driving. Rather than being more focused on the task of driving in a time where it is likely necessary, are drivers going to be more distracted? Will those drivers who have been in contact with colleagues at any point of the day via email or video conference during lockdown feel inclined to answer a communication from those same individuals, even when they are in their vehicles?

There are lots of questions for police forces and other organisations to consider in relation to their roads policing strategy and to ensure that individuals remain safe on the roads in the coming weeks and months as we continue through this strange period of time.

Ninth, Annual FACS Conference

On the 22nd April, the Forensic and Crime Science Society (FACS) held their ninth, annual student-led conference. This event usually takes place in the Science Centre, but this year our students didn’t let Covid-19 deter them and hosted the event online.

The event was organised by Jade Wheeler, the president of the FACS Society and a Forensic Investigation student, along with Dr Rachel Bolton-King and “our brilliant, friendly and brave level 6 students in forensics and policing to share the findings of their final year research”.

Rachel also said that “I think the students have done a brilliant, professional job with their presentations”.

Rachel kicked off the conference with a Welcome Talk, outlining the importance of the conference.

Jade Wheeler then outlined the event and introduced each of the presenters and their research topics.

Lauren Yare, a Forensic Investigation student, presented her research first on the ‘Effect of Fabric Type on Knife Identification using Stab Damage’.

Next was Lauren James, a Forensic Investigation student, who present her research on the ‘Effects of Restricting Air Circulation and Oxygen on Decomposition’.

Third was Rebecca Neville, a Policing and Criminal Investigation student, who presented her research on ‘The Reliability and Accuracy of Available Doorstep Crime Data. This video is confidential and is therefore unavailable to view.

Finally, Shan Pryce, a Forensic Investigation student, presented her research on ‘Public Perceptions and Reporting of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

Associate Professor Rachel Bolton-King concluded the event with a Closing Speech, congratulating the students for all of their hard work.

Laura Walton-Williams also presents a Careers Talk for anyone interested in pursuing a career in Criminology, Forensics, Law, or Policing.

You can watch all of the videos of the FACS Conference here.

Well done to everyone who took part!

A Time for Reflection

Senior Lecturer and Course Leader for the BSc Policing and Criminal Investigation degree, Ian Ackerley reflects on the role of police during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Sunday 19th April 2020 represented nine years since my beloved football team Stoke City played a memorable FA Cup semi-final at Wembley Stadium beating Bolton Wanderers 5-0, an important detail for the near 50,000 Stokies who travelled south to London that day.

At a loss for something useful to do during the current lockdown I watched some footage of the build up to the game revelling in the atmosphere whilst at the same time looking with incredulity at how close everyone was in an age where there was no concept of or need for social distancing. After 34 years as a police officer and more recently as a university lecturer in policing, the images of people celebrating success caused me to reflect on how quickly times have changed.

It is a tribute to the resilience, adaptability and sense of fair play of communities that the police have not had an even tougher job in responding to the new norms of social order which for the most part appear to have been respected impeccably. The service has approached its duties with the pragmatism that those of us who have served would expect. The Service’s strategy of Engage, Explain, Encourage and Enforce is perfectly reasonable combining and passing the Human Rights Act 1998 tests of legality, necessity and proportionality. In addition, where officers have made mistakes whether well intentioned or foolishly the police have responded and apologised with good grace and in a timely manner.

Against this backdrop it is sad that the prevailing narrative has, in some parts of the press, been dominated by a portrayal of the police as idiotic, overzealous and hypocritical. Such approaches at worst deny and at best fail to recognise the commitment of officers and police staff the length and breadth of the country. Whilst crime as a whole may have dropped, the complexity of domestic abuse, child protection and online criminality adds massively to the myriad tasks being undertaken by officers and staff. The service has acted both proactively to identify breaches of the regulations and reactively to multiple calls from the public concerned about individuals and groups not complying with the social distancing rules.  Police officers and police staff have played and continue to play a unique and vital part in ensuring that people stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.

Whenever the new normality emerges from the containment of Covid-19 there will, amongst many other things,  be reflections, recriminations, structured debriefs and inevitably a public enquiry. From my knowledge of the Police Service I am certain that it will embrace and respond to their conclusions.

 

Volunteering to give back – A Special Constable

One of our staff members is currently volunteering as a Special Constable to help the police forces during this difficult time.

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/29108968@N06/2904708084

Why did you decide to join?

I had friends who were joining and explained about it. I thought it was a great opportunity to give back in a practical way, with my forensics and law experience. I spent a lot of time talking to police officers and I thought it was a good opportunity to give back to the police forces.

Why do you think a Special Constable’s role is important?

People don’t tend to see what Special Constables do from the outside and don’t know what it means to be a Special Constable. You get an immense feeling from helping someone. People have seen so much of what the NHS are doing to help [with the current Covid-19 situation] but they don’t always see what the police are doing. Teams are self-isolating or becoming ill, so they are relying on [Special Constable volunteers] who are not working, and it is nice that everyone has come together.

What has changed since Covid-19 in relation to your role as Special Constable?

Evening shifts are different with the night-time economy of bars and pubs being closed. The streets are quiet but lots of people are driving more irresponsibly because of it being quiet. There has been an increase in domestic violence and mental health issues. Services are relying on the police where they are unable to help and domestic violence victims do not have any respite because of lockdown.

Is there anything you would like to add?

It is a brilliant opportunity. I have trained with people from different jobs from banks to teachers. Anyone can do the job; it teaches you a lot about yourself and gives you new skills. I have developed my communication skills and become more confident. It is something you should consider, even if for one day or evening a week.