Posts in category "Reports"

Staffordshire Forensic Partnership Annual Review 2022-23

By Martyn Hordern,

This is the fourth annual review during my time as co-ordinator and the first one that wasn’t in some part affected by COVID since my first year. The review also includes the thoughts of Rachel Bolton-King, the Partnership’s Visiting Professor in the first VP report.

The lack of COVID restrictions allowed the Partnership to offer placement opportunities with minimal impact and it saw some really productive and interesting projects ably supported by volunteer mentors from within Police Forensics to whom I am grateful as always.

The year also saw the presentation of our inaugural Rob Shaw award for the placement student of the year for 2021 of which more later on. The award for 2022 is due to enter the judging stage shortly.

The partnership was active on several fronts being an active participant in the creation of a Partnership Toolkit drawn up by the FCN where both the coordinator and Tim Lee from Staffordshire Police gave presentations. There was a similar input into the creation of a Digital Forensic Apprenticeship by the same body with the partnerships links to the University seeing it being asked to be an academic partner in the new entry route into the field.

This last year saw the University taking on the Chair of the Partnership programme board and April was to have been the first meeting on the University campus and at the new multi-million pound Catalyst Building. Unfortunately, illness and a clash of diaries on a hitherto unseen scale saw the meeting cancelled.

The spring saw the review of the partnership finally starting to see some momentum which continued throughout the year.

The partnerships links to four current PHD students were maintained to various degrees with strong relationships developed with Forensic Investigations around the use of crime lights at scenes and the use of virtual reality to train forensic investigators.

Long term placement students has been an ambition of the partnership for a number of years. Working with Police HR a policy process has been developed but ongoing changes within Forensic Submissions (seen as the most likely post for such a placement) have prevented the matter moving forward to the point of seeking to place a student into the department. However, what should not be overlooked is the fact that agreement has been reached on the postholder being paid, a process that benefits the whole of Staffordshire Police has been devised and a likely area of working identified. Should funding and HR issues be resolved then everything is in place to recruit. As with the creation of student volunteers I am grateful to the forces local Unison branch officers for their consideration and assistance.

Following on from the unsuccessful KTP funded work on the use of virtual reality to assist first responders, visits have been made to the Health Innovations centre of the University based at Stafford where on a couple of occasions we were hosted by Emily Browne, who kindly gave time up to the partnership to show case the facilities. This saw a slight shift in focus from the use of VR to a wider consideration of simulation and its uses in training and more so in creation of scenarios to assist in validation for Forensic Investigations especially as regards complex crime.

One of the simulation rooms at the Health Innovations Centre, Stafford.

The year also saw some slight changes to placement opportunities. The annual 6 weeks independent projects are a voluntary offering to students and in no way linked to their qualification. Traditionally they have been offered and managed by police staff with little input from university colleagues. Given the very nature of the partnership, efforts have been made to encourage collaboration between police and university staff and also to develop final year project offerings to students with similar support.

A pilot FYP supported by Ryan Groves (DFU) and Dr Sarah Fieldhouse started in September and in September 2023 projects involving Sam Danton (Police Submissions) and Jody Dunnett at the university will look at forensic packaging policy within Staffordshire Police and testing of street level drugs seizures to ascertain purity and cutting agents etc.

Volunteers is another area that has been further developed this last year. An email request in 2020 from a student enquiring about volunteering opportunities led to discussions with the forces then Volunteers Coordinator and in time, following research with other forces saw the development of three roles within forensics which would be aimed at final year students. The reporting year ended with the satisfactory conclusion of all relevant consultation and the process is now at the stage where subject to agreement from the various teams and the board the roles can be advertised to students.

May 2022 saw the first unrestricted summer placements since 2020 where the force welcomed 6 students conducting research in 5 projects across all areas of forensics over a period of 6 weeks. At its conclusion the students presented their findings to ACC Mattinson at police headquarters in again the first in person presentations since before COVID. The practical relevance to police forensics was clear to see with ACC Mattinson commenting how impressed she was with the connection to the various teams in forensics and how the operational impact was a feature in all the research.

2022 6 Week Placement Students a their Presentation Event

May also saw the two MSCi placement students from the spring of 2022 presenting their research to university staff as well as police supervisors. Both projects were well received and the Good Sam project was subsequently presented to the Force’s Evidence Based Practise Board by the student. This led to the Force’s Public Protection Unit taking an interest in the application and its use in cutting response times to domestic abuse cases.

The summer saw a computing student accept a research dissertation challenge from the partnership to develop the KEV SOMU application to the next stage of development which resulted in an excellent proof of concept that not only looked the part but would assist users as envisaged by Adam Newberry who suggested it as a project some time ago.

The workstreams of the Partnership continue to meet and develop ideas and conversations. As is often the case members move on to new roles away from Staffordshire Police and the University or take on new responsibilities in their ‘day job’ which impacts on their work within the partnership.

Within those constraints I remain grateful to a core of staff who are a real asset to the partnership. The year saw several collaborative meetings where staff from across the workstreams met together and these were by far the most productive preventing any ‘silo’ thinking and leading to joined up decisions. One example was the continued focus on forensic awareness which impacts on all areas of forensics from crime scene to laboratory where efforts to resolve this perennial problem had some small gains.

A 6 week placement looking at packaging guidance was well received and networking between the Professional Development Unit and Forensic Investigations saw input from the latter into course material and content that is delivered to the force’s Student Officers.

In addition, work to develop the KEV SOMU app in the latter stages of the year and an application for STAR funding from the Home Office in collaboration with Professor Elhadj Benkhelifa to develop an application to support officers (ultimately unsuccessful) was further evidence of the commitment in this area. Conversations with the Police Digital Service at the beginning of the year led to further discussions at the end of it to look at the Digital Forensics application.

Following the departure of Professor Graham Williams from the university and after discussions, Associate Professor Rachel Bolton-King was offered and accepted the role as Visiting Professor. Following vetting Rachel now has access to police IT and forensics teams and has already made a positive impact across them.

The October 2022 Board meeting saw the first presentation of the Rob Shaw Award on a sunny day at the Catalyst. Rob’s daughter Emma and son Robert were on hand to present the award and to hear some fine words as to how those who knew their dad remembered him.

The first two recipients were Megan Hildrew a Forensic student who graduated in 2021 and fittingly Patryk Wos a computing student. Both have gone on since graduation to careers in their chosen field and as was remarked at the time are a fitting testimony to the value of placements to the employability of students.

Patryk Wos, left, and Megan Hildrew, right, with Rob Shaw’s children, centre.

One of the coordinators responsibilities is to sit on the Evidence Based Practise Board within Staffordshire Police. This ensures a joined-up approach between the partnership and the wider force. During the year, as mentioned presentations have been made to the board, arranged through the partnership including by students. The coordinator is part of a small team tasked with ‘operationalising’ evidence based practise within the force with part of that including cataloguing the 50 plus research projects created by student officers. In November a student who needed to complete 40 hours voluntary work was recruited via the university for this task and completed the work to a high standard and presented her findings to the board. The year ended with Professor Claire Gwinnett presenting her DASA funded work around VAWG to the board.

Working with Dr Sarah Fieldhouse the partnership has made a number of attempts to secure funding to further develop the use of SmartWater forensic marking as part of VAWG initiatives.

This tactic has a remarkable preventative record but there are opportunities to improve victim preparedness, collection of evidence and forensic examination of scenes. However, approaches to the Home Office and STAR were unsuccessful. Despite this the partnership has continued to work with the Force lead in this area and facilitated an opportunity to promote the initiative at the Evidence Based Practise Board to gain further traction within force and also through the Home Office to be invited to be part of the ‘Accelerator’ programme designed to assess the worth of novel tactics.

December saw our third employability event under the ‘Journeys’ banner with this event being entitled Journeys into Digital Forensics. Dean Northfield from the University was a central character in making the event happen and once again, we were indebted to Dr John Wheeler for assisting with the cost of refreshments. As well as former students from the world of police digital forensics, we had former students from HMRC as well as private providers describing their journeys into the field. Some fantastic presentations were supported by input from two private providers (CCL and Sytech) and Staffordshire Police recruitment each giving an insight into their particular recruitment processes. In addition, there were some excellent networking opportunities enjoyed by all present.

Collage of the speakers at the December 2022 Employability Event.

January’s Programme Board meeting had an emphasis on the SFP Review that was initiated in late 2021 but in reality, started in earnest during the late spring of 2022. A small team of the coordinator, David Flatman-Fairs, Claire Millar and Rachel Bolton-King had begun to meet and discuss the current position and potential for future developments of the partnership.

However, what became clear was that for the strategic direction of the partnership to be fully assessed then an external reviewer was essential. The programme board discussed this fully before deciding to ask Sarah Page from Staffordshire University to conduct a strategic workshop involving stakeholders at all levels of the partnership. This is planned for June 2023. Following on from that Sarah will produce a report for the board’s consideration. Sarah is noted for her work in the area of collaborative partnerships.

The new year saw two MSCi students commencing 13 week placements with Forensic Investigations. These placements are always keenly contested, more so this year with fewer students than before but with a similar number of opportunities for them to carry out a placement. The placements on this occasion were looking at the force’s response to Cannabis Factories and the use of 360-degree cameras to record crime scenes.

The year ended with the 6 week placement recruitment process. There was a disappointing response to offering students an opportunity to attend Staffordshire Police Forensics for a tour and to then learn of the opportunities for research placements. Such was the lack of interest that the open day was cancelled albeit the opportunities were still offered but just three students expressed an interest in a placement. It is hoped that 2024 will see renewed interest in such opportunities.

The employability of students undertaking such activities is well proven, evidenced not only by an award some years ago but more recently by the news that one of our 2022 MSCi students and one of the 2022 6 week placement students have both secured roles as direct entry Detectives in Staffordshire and Great Manchester Police forces.

Another benefit of the work streams meeting together was the formation of a working group involving police Crime Scene workstream members and Forensic Investigation management together with Professor Claire Gwinnett to work together on how to approach the accreditation of Complex Crime Scenes. This follows the well-deserved accreditation of Volume Crime across the force in Staffordshire, one of the first forces in the country to achieve a force wide accreditation. This working group will also look at using the simulation facilities at the university to aid the future complex crime accreditation work within the force.

At the end of the period a Media and Marketing student was secured on a 3 month placement starting in June to look at how the partnership ‘markets’ itself by use of digital media and how better it can improve its content to raise awareness of the work done between the two organisations. The resulting work will feed into the review process.

Throughout my time as co-ordinator I have striven to try as far as possible, to ensure each partner organisation gets the maximum benefit from the arrangement. The University continues to derive the attractiveness of the partnership to prospective students and of course the interaction between its academics and forensic specialists is invaluable to ensure teaching is as close to the real world as possible.

The research projects offered to students continue to be practically based and of use and interest to police staff. It allows for research that would otherwise not get completed due to time pressures. Students spending time working with police staff get a unique insight into the force and I remain convinced that this puts the organisation in a good position to recruit the brightest and best students post-graduation. In addition, free access to the Catalyst working spaces has continued to benefit police forensic teams over the last 12 months who have been able to meet away from the workplace. Opportunities around validation and the use of the Crime Scene House and to come the simulation suite continue to benefit the force. The force has also begun to benefit from dedicated time to the partnership as a result of Rachel Bolton-King’s work which equates to a day a month.

Individually Police staff have a range of benefits from the arrangement which include in no particular order, 25% discount off a Masters degree in Digital Forensics, free access to short courses, free access to Microsoft and Adobe qualifications, attendance at lectures and free transport to the Forensics Expo event in London. Some staff also do guest lectures that are mutually beneficial to all concerned with the individual developing themselves as well as the students they speak to.

Looking forward to the workshop and work of Sarah Page will I feel be an opportunity to further develop the partnership and to give it a renewed sense of direction and development over the next 5 years or so.

I continue to be grateful to the support of David Flatman-Fairs and Claire Millar and also those throughout the partnership who make the time in really busy schedules to help to sustain and improve it.

Martyn Hordern

Visiting Associate Professor Report for SFP Annual Report 2022/23

In August 2022 the SFP Visiting Professor role was re-instated with my vetting approved, IT setup and pass issued in January 2023. Over the last 7 months, I have been supporting the Forensics Department by acting as a critical friend within four Wider SMT meetings and since January have spent at least a day each month at Headquarters (Western Road), typically based in the Submissions Office. To date, my main focus has been getting to know the team and better understanding the structure, operation, challenges and opportunities across faced the Department. I have been actively engaged in staff discussions relating to improving procedures in Forensic Submission and staff wellbeing within teams. I have been made very welcome within the Department and have already had detailed tours of the Smithfield site and significantly expanded Digital Forensics Unit, and been immersed in the activities and processes operating within the Forensic Submissions Unit. Already, this has been an excellent learning opportunity for me personally. The knowledge gained will feed back into curriculum development to further enhance learners’ skills, create more immersive learning opportunities and continue to ensure alignment with contemporary employer/sector needs, particularly as a number of our alumni work in units across the Department. It has been interesting to see Niche and OneNote being adopted for property/exhibit and casefile management. There is a real opportunity to adopt the template-based OneNote approach in modules requiring contemporaneous notes/diaries and/or completion of statements as forms of assessment. In addition, the roles of Forensic Submission Assistants, Officers and Advisors could be further embedded where forensic strategies are covered for example.

Most recently, we have started to plan the development of forensic strategy and decision-making competence assessments for forensic investigators (FI) using the university’s immersive facilities and bringing in the expertise of the suite’s technical specialists to simulate various scenarios and locations commonly encountered by Staffordshire Police’s FIs. I have also been invited to deliver a Workshop Wednesday to FIs at both Lichfield (April) and Smithfield (May) sites to enhance awareness and practices in the recovery of firearm-related evidence at scenes. Also, to provide input and support strategy development with Forensic Area Manager Joanna Hill for a Senior Investigating Officer Course provided by Staffordshire Police’s Learning and Development (L&D) Department, which involves a firearms scenario. We are currently exploring other areas where university colleagues could offer input into other FI workshops and/or may support future L&D events moving forwards.

Over the next 12 months I will continue to act as a critical friend to the Department and seek further opportunities for both university staff and students to support the Forensics Department and wider Force. We will initially focus on designing competency-based assessments for an initial pilot and if successful, wider implementation. In parallel we will explore opportunities for funding these activities through a KTP (Knowledge Transfer Partnership) for example, and the potential for commercialisation of any product(s) generated. Building on this, we could further support work to extend the current scope of accreditation, and the future planning for complex and major crime accreditation. This work could be facilitated through, for example:

  1. Proposing Live Briefs for placement students or MSci interns to conduct desk-based projects and write initial validation plans (shorter term).
  2. Vetted staff/PhD student to develop an evidence base on which future validation studies are designed (longer term).

Rachel Bolton-King.

Posts in category "Reports"

Staffordshire Forensic Partnership Annual Review 2021-22

By Martyn Hordern,

This is my third annual review of the various activities under the auspices of the Staffordshire Forensic Partnership.

April 2021 started with the easing of COVID 19 lockdown measures as the vaccination programme continued albeit restrictions continued in some form or another during the summer and onwards. This again impacted on our 6-week summer placements which I feel were the least successful in recent years.

As mentioned in last year’s review we lost our friend and colleague Rob Shaw in Match 2021 and shortly into this current year the board agreed that the Rob Shaw award would be instituted in his memory and given to the best placement student each year. At the time of writing the time is nearing the point of judging the award for 2021.

It should not be overlooked that the design created by the University School of Design, Technologies and the Arts is a fantastic piece of ceramic art and a testament to the man Rob was. I am grateful to Ed Austin and David Finney for their assistance and especially to David who designed and made the award.

May saw the three spring MSCi students presenting their project presentations and all three from Digital Forensics Unit, Forensic Investigations and Submissions were good and relevant pieces of work that have gone some way towards informing forensic practise going forward.

The same month saw 4 students commencing 6 weeks placement projects looking at quality, validation, drugs testing and data available to officers via social media. Once again there was not an opportunity to present their projects for the students due to COVID and also the nature and timing of the placements not being conducive to presentations.

June saw the police and university jointly bidding for STAR Home Office funding to develop the stab damage database devised by a previous final year project student in 2020. Ultimately the bid was unsuccessful, but the feedback will be really useful in shaping future bids. It has however, I feel focused minds towards making more bids to support the partnerships work in the future.

In 2020 Staffordshire Police’s Forensic Recovery Unit outlined their requirements for an app to assist with workflow and the early summer of 2021 saw its delivery to Police IT for evaluation. The forces ongoing IT transformation has frustrated its implementation along with initial testing identifying some minor bugs. That said it is a good example of what can be achieved.

The summer of 2021 saw the first tentative discussions for a new qualification on offer from the university for a MSC in Enhanced Forensic Practise drawn up by Professor Graham Williams and early discussions were positive and the course is going through the various validation processes as I understand.

A feature of this year was the continued work done to work with Staffordshire Police’s HR team to create a long-term placement policy not only for the partnership but across the force. Initial work done to create the policy has been further shaped to include all forms of placement from work experience upwards.

As of May 2022 it is close to being approved at which point the partnership can look to offering year long placement opportunities to students.

The continued benefits of the partnership were highlighted in the autumn when police Early Intervention staff alongside Forensic Submissions met with university academics and staff to look how best to support a vaping amnesty for schools in the county amid concerns that the vapes contains controlled substances. Reluctance on the behalf of schools to get involved has stifled progress but the opportunity to have quick analysis of surrendered items remains on offer.

The highlight of the year without doubt was the completion of the formal collaboration agreement by all parties after detailed discussions over a period of time. This was signed off at the October Programme Board meeting at which the suggestion was made by ACC Justin Bibby that the role of chair be by rotation on a yearly basis.

The meetings to that point had been chaired solely by the Police but from January 2022 it was to be chaired by Helen Poole from the university with later meetings to be hosted at the Catalyst Centre at the university.

The autumn of 2021 saw the recommencing of the Work Stream meetings which had been on hold due to COVID along with the fact that the police did not have the capability for virtual meetings on Teams by in large.

These meetings have already seen a reaffirming of solid working relationships and the creation of some new ones especially within the Digital and Cyber workstream with new leads from both the police and the university adding a fresh vitality and new opportunities.

December 2021 saw the second in a planned series of employability events for students soon to graduate from the university. The inaugural event earlier in the year was well received as was this one. With a theme of Journeys into Policing and Forensics, students were given an insight in the variety of ways in which police officers and staff and former university students, as well as current staff got into their chosen field. I am grateful to Dr John Wheeler who funded refreshments at the event from his budget.

A question and answer session along with an opportunity to network was well received with positive feedback from many students who had attended. The intention is to run a third event in the autumn of 2022.

Promotion of the partnership is an important part of the work of the co-ordinator and this is achieved in a variety of ways. A Twitter feed of almost 700 followers provides a quick and easy means of communication. The SFP ‘blog’ page hosted on the university web site allows for longer news items to be relayed. However, we live in an age where there is a need to cover several bases and the new year of 2022 saw the launch of the SFP’s LinkedIn page, an aspiration for some time. Whilst its still in an embryonic state it has over 140 followers and is in a good position to develop further over the coming months.

Over the years the partnership, primarily through the University comms team has accumulated a number of video’s from events that are hosted on the University YouTube page. However, they weren’t catalogued specifically under the SFP and this has now been completed with our very own SFP Playlist which provides another resource and means to promote the work we do. I am grateful to Julie-Anne Slevin for sorting this out.

Another ongoing benefit of the partnership is the recycling of police equipment that is still useable and brings real world experience to students. Following the national Kiosk replacement programme Staffordshire Police have donated some of their old kiosks to the university to enable students to have experience of extracting data from mobile devices. Other useable but surplus to requirements equipment has also been donated to allow students to have practical hands on experience which supports the partnerships work in student employability.

January 2022 saw the start of our MSCi 13 week placements with Staffordshire Police. Two students completed their placements in early May. One looked at the testing of cocaine and crack cocaine in an effort to provide a standardised process for the EDIT kits and the other looked at an app called Good Sam that has possibilities outside of forensics as well as supporting the attendance at crime scenes.

The partnership continues to make new friends and connections and in February quite through chance the co-ordinator was invited to speak at Keele University’s forensics students’ careers day.

Very much like the events the SFP had organised this was aimed at giving advice, guidance and opportunity to soon to graduate students. Whilst the input the SFP delivered was focused on policing careers in its many varieties it also allowed an opportunity for professional discussions. I am sure there will be the opportunity for further such discussions in the future.

Back in 2019 one of the six week projects was based on the FITs LED torches supplied by CopperTree. These torches continue to have an ever increasing opportunity of use within forensics and over the last few months of this reporting period there have been discussions with Dr Sarah Fieldhouse over the potential for a PHD student to work alongside Staffordshire Police’s Forensic Investigation team to look at the use of these torches in a variety of situations. The year ended with a student commencing her work in this area.

A spin off from this was work done by SmartWater to protect victims using a spray device which the partnership has been followed with interest for some time. Early work has been done to look at potential projects in this area to support efforts to mitigate violence against women and girls.

March saw the recruitment of students for our annual 6 weeks summer placements. Interest was a little less than in previous years but 6 students for 5 projects were selected and we look forward to once again welcoming them into Staffordshire Police for their presentation day in July the first one since 2019 due to COVID.

Throughout the year the partnership has been represented on the Centre Leadership Team of the Centre for Crime, Justice and Security headed by its director Professor Claire Gwinnett who is also a work stream lead. It has also further embedded the partnership across the university landscape. This has allowed for further networking and connections to be made and one saw Dr’s Leanne Savigar-Shaw and Lauren Metcalf presenting to the Police’s Evidence Based Practise Board in the spring which has potentially created further opportunities for both the police and the university in the area of evidence based policing / practise.

There is currently a review of the partnership, spurred on by the signing of the agreement. Its aim is to look at all its activities with a view to seeing what works, what could be done better and what we could try as a fresh initiative. Early work has suggested student volunteers within forensics and replacing the 6 weeks placements with police staff supporting final year projects via suggestions for research.

Key to any partnership are the relationships between those people involved in it as without them then progress would not be made. There are some solid relationships across those involved in the SFP which continue to develop. There is still a competing demand across all of the members of the work streams to find the capacity and time to contribute but on the whole, most achieve that which is to their credit.

Once again Dean Northfield has been a great support especially as regards student employability and placements. He is now aided by Adam Newberry, Staffordshire Police’s loss has been the University’s gain in this regard.

Over the last few months Dr Sarah Fieldhouse has as been mentioned, assisted in developing a PHD student project that will benefit Forensic Investigations and we are looking to collaborate further as regards a project aimed at assisting to reduce violence against women and girls. In fact, along with another academic the partnership could be supporting in total 3 or even 4 PHD students which is I feel great progress.

I feel that at this point in time, some 6 years on since the partnership was formally launched that we are in a position to really kick on in terms of developing projects and implementing them into the day to day operations of forensics.

The review which I hope we can conclude in the coming months should determine what that looks like and as long as partners are able to provide sufficient time to enable staff to carry these activities out then I feel we will truly make a difference.

The period of this report concluded with the news that Professor Graham Williams was moving onto pastures new in academia and we wish him well. His idea of the visiting professor role was hampered by COVID and late last year we had discussed re starting it, as I feel, and he ultimately agreed that a lot of the areas he wanted to address remain there waiting.

I will conclude by thanking once again David Flatman-Fairs and Claire Millar for their support. I am allowed to get on with the job in the knowledge that they are there to support me when needed and that degree of autonomy is a great asset in my view.

Posts in category "Reports"

Staffordshire Forensic Partnership Annual Report 2020-21

By Martyn Hordern,

The year started (police financial year) as we entered the third week of the COVID pandemic and the resultant restrictions on our daily lives. Indeed, the Programme Board meeting in May of 2020 was cancelled due to the pandemic.

It ended with the sudden passing of our friend and college Rob Shaw who had been a big part of the partnership and instrumental in it getting to where we are today. The partnership is resolved to marking his passing in a fitting manner.

As the pandemic took hold all but two 6-week placements were cancelled leaving only those that could be carried out remotely and from the student’s homes. However, they were very impactive and one has had a national significance.

That project was around the internal force process for the seizure of firearms evidence and the links to NABIS (National Ballistics Intelligence Service). Supervised by Rachel Bolton-King, the project built on an internal Staffordshire Police report and linked in with NABIS itself. The resulting report was widely circulated both internally and via the Forensic Capability Network. A further project was carried out in the spring of 2021 (working directly with NABIS and not the SFP) looking at training and awareness provision nationally as a result of the initial work.

The second project was around supporting SOMU teams and saw the creation of a KEV SOMU application (KEV standing for Keeping Evidence Valid) which was down to Rob Shaw’s help and direction. Work on this continues as part of the 2021 placements.

COVID put paid to a presentation day at force headquarters but the students showcased their work via recorded presentations that were hosted on the police’s YouTube channel and received positive reviews and over 30 views.

In last year’s annual review, I commented on how securing the legal agreement was tantalisingly close and it remains so some 12 months later. COVID has impacted on progress but, this has not precluded the continuing good working relationships between all parties, and all are agreed that to conclude the agreement is a priority for the forthcoming weeks and months. Following the 2019 / 20 review of the Work Streams they had just started to get up and running when COVID intervened and meetings were put on hold throughout the period. As coordinator I am keen that they recommence and Police access to Teams will make a big difference in terms of reducing the need to travel and being environmentally friendly as well as making people more productive.

The latter meetings of the Programme Board during the year were hosted on Teams and I am grateful to those who made it possible.

It is worth pointing out that the Evidence Based Practise Board did not meet during the pandemic and therefore there is nothing to report on this occasion.

Another long running aspiration of the partnership was the facilitation of long-term student placements primarily as part of a sandwich course.

Following a direction from the Programme Board, Police HR appointed a lead for the work and Rebecca Crellin, the SFP coordinator, Unison and John Cumberbatch from EBP have developed the policy and process’s which are at this time, being fine-tuned prior to acceptance by the Force. Part of the process is that the student gets paid for the placement ensuring no one is disadvantaged and that the police get the brightest students and can compete with other organisations.

Throughout the pandemic, the Partnership has developed good working relationships with the Forensic Capability Network with staff from both organisations contributing to the development of the network in several areas.

July 2020 saw the retirement of Stuart Bell who had made such a big contribution to forensics within Staffordshire and further afield over a period of some 30 years. Stuart’s contribution to the partnership has been significant and it was pleasing to see the University award him an Honorary Visiting Fellow role as recognition of his contribution to forensics and the partnership.

Stuart Bell pictured on his last day

November 2020 saw the appointment of further Honorary Visiting Fellows with Adam Dodkins, Adam Newberry and Samantha Danton from Police Forensics all bestowed the title for their work with the university.

Adam Dodkins (centre) along with Samantha Danton pictured with partnership coordinator Martyn Hordern

Partnership working has at its core relationships between staff from the respective organisations and it is those relationships that ensure that progress continues to be made.

Over the last few months Dean Northfield, a senior lecturer at the university, has been instrumental in developing several areas.

He helped to lead a joint employability event aimed at supporting graduating students seeking employment within forensics and or policing and has worked on an improved placement process for the MSCi students. The employability event was well received attracting attention across the university as a model to be followed as well as supporting students as they approach the end of their academic studies. It is hoped to make it a yearly event.

Another positive development during the year was the opportunity for Police staff to gain Adobe and Microsoft accredited qualifications in various software through the University’s digital skills. The pilot was generally successful and is now at the point where it will be opened up to the wider number of police staff as part of a CPD opportunity.

The 2021 MSCi 13-week placements were still running as we ended the reporting period. Three students will be researching projects examining forensic torches used by Forensic Investigators; understanding the Footwear process within the force and cleaning of mobile devices within Digital Forensics Unit to reduce bio hazards.

The year also saw the partnership supporting a Knowledge Transfer Partnership bid around Virtual Reality training for first responders which was successful. It is hoped that police forensic specialists will play a full part in pressure testing as well as advising on the development of the package.

The partnership was nominated for an award as part of the university’s Celebrating Staff Success process under the Connected Communities category.

Connected Communities Nomination
Connected Communities Nomination

2020 also saw the University acquire two drones and a training package to further enhance their offering to students and the partnership. The use of drones in terms of photogrammetry opportunities as well as the extraction of data from them in criminal investigations provides some exciting opportunities and we look forward to future projects.

Financially the partnership runs a modest research and expense budget and Police work stream specialists and placement mentors are making more use of the opportunities the budget presents to carry out research work and placements for the benefit of both parties.

As I write this review, we are just on the cusp of the 2021 6-week placements commencing looking at a broad spectrum of projects that encompasses drug testing, validation with Forensic Investigations, Digital Forensics awareness and further development of the KEV SOMU app. COVID continues to be a spectre in the background but we remain ever hopeful that where required students are able to come to police premises.

The communications strategy for the partnership continues to be implemented. The last year saw some SFP branded lanyards designed and distributed to students and staff involved in the partnership. Additionally, the Police intranet now has a SFP page with links to the partnership twitter page and also to the coordinator’s email address. In addition, the Law Policing and Forensics blog page at the University now has a SFP section. The SFP twitter page has almost tripled its followers in two years. The partnership continues wherever possible to reach a wider audience and in February of this year the coordinator (himself an ex cadet) and Adam Newberry from Digital Forensics gave a presentation around forensics and the partnership to some 40 police cadets via Teams.

SFP branded lanyards

During 2020 the university has been working towards setting up the Centre for Crime, Justice and Society. The leadership and theme leads for the centre are starting to meet and the SFP Coordinator sits on this group in an External and Media  Liaison role. The work of the partnership and that of the centre will I suspect become closely aligned as we go forward.

I would like to conclude by thanking Claire Millar and David Flatman-Fairs for their support throughout a difficult period in policing and academia not only to myself personally but also to the partnership.

Thanks should also go to all the work stream leads who contribute to the partnership especially Adam Newberry and Dean Northfield for their willingness to help, share ideas and develop projects.

Martyn Hordern

May 2021

Posts in category "Reports"

Staffordshire Forensic Partnership Annual Report 2019-20

By Martyn Hordern,

At the July 2020 Staffordshire Forensic Partnership Programme Board meeting, a review detailing the partnerships activities for the period of May 2019 to April 2020 was presented by the Partnership Coordinator.

What follows is an abridged version of that review.

The start of the year saw the students 6 week placements based at Staffordshire Police Headquarters and The Smithfield Hanley.  

The students presented their findings in July 2019 and all who were present can testify that the standard of research and quality of presentation was very high. Work continues on developing two of the projects. FITS LED (now purchased by the force) continue to have increasing ways of supporting forensic investigators and we have a student hoping to validate their use in the spring of next year and the SOMU guide is in its infancy as an ‘app’ for staff to use. The app is being developed by a final year computing student and I am grateful for the support of Rob Shaw in getting to the stage we are at.  

YouTube videos of interviews of some of the students from presentation day provide a reference source for potential students either coming to the university to study or considering a placement

The two students interviewed are great ambassadors for the partnership.

The two students interviewed are great ambassadors for the partnership.

Just before these placements the partnership through academics at the university assisted the national Transforming Forensics team with some impact work around ISO 17025 accreditation for digital forensics units across the country. This was used to inform future activities.

We are tantalisingly close 

One of the main objectives for me on commencing my role as Staffordshire Forensic Partnership Coordinator was to secure agreement of all parties to the draft collaboration agreement that I inherited. We are tantalisingly close  at this time.

In recent months the partnership has developed an efficient and effective vetting and induction process for placement students which has been shared with the forces Evidence Based Practise Board and will hopefully support other partnerships in the force. 

We have agreed processes to manage and monitor finances, a business development plan and a communications strategy all of which have required drafting, consultation and agreement. 

The year also saw a review of the Work Streams that had been in place for some time, and after deliberation by the board a new three work stream system was adopted which will hopefully provide some resilience to the partnership. 

There is a desire to have 12 months placement or interns and a consequence of which has seen myself networking with a number of forces across the country to ascertain how they manage interns. As a result there is now a draft policy document for the partnership which requires wider research and consultation.

Awarded the best article in the CSI Eye publication for 2018.  

It is always pleasing to monitor the development of former placement students, be they Crime Scene Investigator’s (CSI), a University lecturer or coming into force as a digital investigator for the defence. It is equally pleasing to see former students acknowledged for their efforts and in October 2019 Nadine Jones was awarded the best article in the CSI Eye publication for 2018. 

Over the year the partnership has gained a greater prominence within the force and outside through the coordinator sitting on the Evidence Based Practise and Innovation Board (EBPI). Nadine Jones and Rachel Bolton-King have both presented to the board on behalf of the partnership. A good number of the more recent student placement projects are now hosted on the EBPI database of projects, indeed the partnership accounts for over half of those listed.

In recent months academics and work stream leads at University have been given access to a number of placement projects as well as a ‘catalogue’ of those that have been done to date. 

‘Visiting Professor’ role

Following his appointment as Professor, Graham Williams suggested to the board that he devote what amounts to half a day a week to the partnership in a ‘visiting Professor’ role. The pandemic put paid to his visits to the force but already he has started to generate ideas for projects and funding as well as ensuring teaching at the university is in tune with current policing methods., We are all optimistic about what this role can provide as the partnership moves forward. 

As we entered the New Year, two Masters students elected to undertake projects with the force including one working on the national Collision Investigation validation of pedestrian throw. Additionally, we supported two final year students with their projects and the spring saw 11 students from the Department of Computing spending a day within Digital Forensics at force headquarters.  

January 2020 saw the agreement of a communications strategy that underpins the good work done to date to publicise the partnership. Over the year the partnership’s Twitter feed has doubled in followers and has made over 100,000 impressions. 

The last few months have seen police staff attending lectures at the university through the partnership as part of their Continued Professional Development (CPD) and once we are back to normal it is hoped these will become a firm fixture. Similar work is being finalised to give police single point of contact staff access to the university’s online library and a wide selection of academic material.

Following the Work Stream review, all three reformed Work Streams have met once and good progress is being made with projects being suggested and developed. In fact, COVID 19 came at a time when some real traction was being made on several fronts.  

Aspirations going forward are to cement Collision Investigation into the streams and also develop further a fledgling partnership started by Claire Gwinnett with the Rural and Wild Life Crime team at Staffordshire Police. 

With funding in place, I am excited at a Fitbit project being developed by Dean Northfield and staff from Digital Forensics Unit (DFU) as well as a proposal to look at drones which would see training given to University staff and a candidate from DFU.

March 2020 saw the partnership supporting a Knowledge Transfer Partnership bid headed by Professor John Cassella to develop first responder training in crime scene management at major incidents utilising virtual reality and machine learning technology.

Over the year contacts have been made with the University of Central Lancashire, University of Portsmouth, Forensic Capability Network, NABIS and Dorset Police Digital Forensics as well as a number of commercial suppliers to the world of forensics. Going forward it is hoped that these contacts will continue to be of great use to the partnership. 

Financially the partnership spends little over and above the wages of the coordinator.  

The COVID 19 pandemic has paused our progress to some degree, the 2020 six week placements were cancelled after careful consideration (apart from one) 

Looking forward it is hoped that we can have 12 month placements in place within the next 12 months, that the Collaboration Agreement is signed off, that the visiting Professor / Industry Fellow role grows and that the reach of the partnership continues to expand.

Recognised expertise in ballistics

The Fitbit and Drone projects offers great potential and opportunities, as does the NABIS six week project which draws on Rachel Bolton-Kings recognised expertise in ballistics. I am keen that once we do get to some semblance of normal that we seek placement students at an early stage and kick start the work streams.

I am grateful to everyone involved in the partnership for their support and work over the last twelve months, especially Stuart Bell and David Flatman-Fairs who continue to be on hand to assist, advise and approve. 

Martyn Hordern 

Staffordshire Forensic Partnership Coordinator