Student experience blog of 6 week project placement with Staffordshire Police Forensics – Part 2
By Martyn Hordern,
Day to day being on placement
In this the second of two blogs, Staffordshire University student Beckie Edwards describes her experiences whilst conducting a research project with Staffordshire Police Digital Forensics as part of the Staffordshire Forensic Partnership.
‘You choose your own schedule which teaches good time management’
I ended up fine tuning my project to trial a fairly new technology to aid in the live extraction of data. I chose to spend my first week researching this technology in order to fully understand what I would be doing and plan out the following weeks. The good thing about this placement is that you choose your own schedule which teaches good time management and allows you to be in as little or much as you need based on your requirements.
‘I felt really prepared for the weeks ahead and confident in my abilities’
Upon arriving I was introduced to Jemma who specialises in games consoles in the Digital Forensics Unit. She answered every question I had without hesitation and she talked me through the current methods of extraction that they implement and examples of forms so that I had a good understanding of how it all works. After receiving so much information from everyone I felt really prepared for the weeks ahead and confident in my abilities to start working on the project.
‘Working alongside staff in this environment demonstrated to me in real-time the hurdles technicians face’
Every day I was learning so many interesting facts and regulations and gained a good understanding of how it works behind the scenes. I continued working with Jemma and covered all aspects of live acquisition. I brought my own console in to practice on, as for obvious reasons I couldn’t use the ones in police possession due to them being a part of live cases. Working alongside staff in this environment demonstrated to me in real-time the hurdles technicians face and gave me the chance to ask them directly what they would improve if they could. I then started my own research, carrying out typical live previews on my console and using the new technology to see if it would be of use to the police.
At the end of the project, we are required to make a presentation and present this to staff members from both the police and the university, who are invited to watch and ask us any questions they may have. Being a university student, I am very used to making presentations and writing up scientific reports therefore did not face any issues in writing or structuring these. I created the presentation so that non-technical readers could understand and the report included more detail as it will be used by the forensics staff working in that area.
‘It was comforting seeing some familiar faces that I had been working with’
In the run up to my presentation I was so nervous but as soon as I got there it went away. It was comforting seeing some familiar faces that I had been working with who were there to support me. My presentation went a lot better than I anticipated and everyone who attended seemed really interested in my project, giving me great feedback. I realised I had nothing to be nervous about and overall it was a great experience which will develop my professional skills.
‘Help people who were in the same position I was in a few months ago and deciding if to apply or not’
I made this blog as I was approached by Martyn (Partnership Coordinator) to write up my experience and I jumped at the chance as I would love to be able to help people who were in the same position I was in a few months ago and deciding if to apply or not! I enjoyed writing this as I really took an interest in everything I’ve done and therefore made it easy to remember and write about!
I feel I have really benefitted from this placement and I have absolutely loved every day of it! It has gave me an insight into how forensic departments operate, what processes are carried out and what protocols are followed. It has really reinforced my ambition to go into this line of work when I graduate and if anything, increased it! It is definitely something I could see myself doing as a career and hope I am lucky enough to do this in the future! I feel like this will be a great addition to my CV, giving me relevant experience that I will inevitably need. It will also benefit me in my final year of my degree as I have a real-life working example of how it all works and have practical experience to accompany the theory we learn in lectures. I was the first 2nd year student to get onto this scheme (as it is usually 3rd year students), therefore I feel I have a unique opportunity to apply my knowledge to my studies and help others learn from it.
Not only does it benefit me as a student looking forward to a future career, but it also benefits the police force as fresh ideas are always needed and students may provide an insight or perspective on an issue that may not have previously been viewed. It also provides the force with extra people to help research areas they may have been wanting to work on but didn’t have the time or man-power to dedicate themselves.
‘everyone went out of their way to help me with whatever difficulties I had’
‘My expectations were nowhere near as good as the placement itself’
My expectations were nowhere near as good as the placement itself! I thought my placement would be similar to the open days, for example all of the screens being turned off when we entered the room etc. However, once I completed my induction(after vetting) , people treated me as an equal and carried on working around me, integrating me into the office and chatting to me. I appreciated this as it really gave me a feel for what it would be like to work in a place like this and the whole team were so incredibly friendly and welcoming! I didn’t think I would learn as much as I did but I feel like I have come away with so much knowledge and understanding of processes and legislation I didn’t even know existed! I expected to not get much help due to the staff having a lot of their own work to get through but everyone went out of their way to help me with whatever difficulties I had and Jemma took so much time to talk me through everything which was really helpful!
The future and advice for candidates
I have now started my third year of my course and thinking about what I want to do upon graduation. My placement project was such a success that I am now continuing the research for my dissertation! I am so pleased to have the opportunity to do this as I find it very interesting and means I can continue to utilise everything I’ve learned over the last few months. The continuing support from the police staff has been amazing and you can tell they have a genuine interest and appreciation for what the students do.
The main advice I would give to students who may be reading this would be to go for it! You have nothing to lose by applying, and even if you are not successful, the application process is an experience in itself! I would say to always believe in yourself and your abilities, I hadn’t done anything similar before but settled in straight away. Finally I would say to choose something you are interested in – if you find a topic you really want to do you will surprise yourself with how much you will learn about it in a short space of time and it will boost your work rate so much.
Thank you for taking the time to read about my experience and I hope you have found it informative!
The Partnership are really grateful to Beckie for finding the time to discuss her experiences of doing a placement within Staffordshire Police Forensics. We are sure that her thoughts will help many students currently considering applying for a placement and indeed those who have not yet got to that point in their studies.