Posts in category "Student Experience"

Students Praised for their Efforts

By Martyn Hordern,

Staffordshire Police Assistant Chief Constable has praised the work of Staffordshire University students who completed summer placements with the force Forensic department.

Five students took part in the 6-week placements which are a feature of Staffordshire Forensic Partnership – a long standing partnership between Staffordshire Police and Staffordshire University to push the boundaries of forensic science in the county.

The students undertook four projects which included researching the best ways to retrieve data from instant messaging apps and methods for retrieving DNA from a car steering wheel. At the culmination of their placement, they presented their findings to police and university staff at Staffordshire Police Headquarters.

ACC Jennie Mattinson said: “What particularly impressed me was how well they connected in with our forensics department from an operational perspective and how all the students have really thought about the operation impacts of their research and how it can change our practices within forensics.”

“That’s what is really important because we can be much more efficient and effective at what we deliver, enabling us to detect more crime or provide that better service to the public which is what it’s all about.”

Two of the projects focused more broadly on forensic awareness. One, undertaken by Integrated Masters student Sarah Hartley involved creating simple guidance around forensic packaging.

Sarah Hartley, MSci Forensic Investigation student said, “I was working with the Forensics Submissions team to create a pictorial guide for staff and prison officer and anyone who might need it.

“It’s basically guidance to explain step by step what they need to do when packaging exhibits so that any issues with sealing or incorrect packaging would be eliminated before it got to the Submissions team.”

Sarah said the placement had given her valuable insights, adding: “It really opened my eyes to the different roles I could go into after uni.”

SFP co-ordinator Martyn Hordern added: “This was the first time students have been able to present their work in this way since 2019 due to COVID. All four presentations raised lots of interest and questions and it was clear from the students’ feedback that the placements were really useful in terms of working with the police and giving them an idea of the jobs and careers available. We’re grateful to all those who supported the students on their placements and wish the students all the best for the future.”

Listen to what the Police and the students had to say about the placements.

Posts in category "Student Experience"

2022 6 Weeks Placement Presentations

By Martyn Hordern,

Last week (13th July) we concluded our 2022 6 weeks placement projects with the students presenting their findings. This was the first in person event since 2019 due to COVID.

We had 5 students presenting on 4 subjects which had been set by forensic specialists from Staffordshire Police.

ACC Jen Mattinson and the students.

Two projects were around forensic awareness an area of focus this year for the partnership. One was around creating a simple set of guides around forensic packaging to ensure a first time correct approach, another was based on looking into the Crime Scene Assistant App both from a police and academic perspective.

As always we had plenty of choice for students to look into the world of digital forensics with the chosen project looking at retrieval of data from instant messaging apps using a range of forensic tools.

Lastly, working with the forces Forensic Investigations team we had a student looking at recovery of DNA from car steering wheels comparing swabs to mini tape and trying to mimic how a car thief would seed their DNA onto the car.

All four presentations raised lots of interest and questions and it was clear from the students feedback that the placements were really useful in terms of the insights it gave them into working with the police and its clear some future career choices had been made.

Grateful to all those who supported the students, this is in addition to the day job and those who attended on the day especially ACC Mattinson for her closing comments and awards to students and staff.

Likewise, thank you to staff at Staffordshire University including School of JSS for their support.

Best wishes to the students who graduate this time, some to carry on in academia and others to start their careers hopefully in forensics.

Posts in category "Student Experience"

Second Employability Event a Success

By Martyn Hordern,

The first day of December 2021 saw the Partnership hosting an employability event entitled Journeys into Policing and Forensics.

This followed on from our inaugural event in the spring which saw police, forensic and academic staff all coming together to provide practical help and advice to students.

On this occasion the focus was on personal stories from a variety of speakers detailing their Journeys into Policing and Forensics with the aim of providing advice and guidance to students shortly to commence their own journeys into the field.

The Omicron outbreak impacted on attendance but almost 50 students were in attendance to hear IOP lecturer Martin Steventon, former students Sarah Felton, Craig Ratcliffe, Adam Newberry and Staffordshire Police’s Sam Danton tell of their experiences. After the event a video presentation from the worlds first Forensic Jeweller Maria McLennan was shared with the students who had signed up for the event.

Some common themes emerged which were tenacity and determination, looking for opportunities and volunteering as a means of gaining experience and confidence.

The success of the event was such that an event later in 2022 is planned in a slightly different format but again with employability at its centre.

Posts in category "Student Experience"

Careers Employability Event a great Success

By Martyn Hordern,

A recent event hosted by the partnership on MS Teams was a great success and saw some 70 students join in to gain an insight of how to give themselves the best chance of success in their search for jobs post graduation.

More details can be found HERE

Posts in category "Student Experience"

Student Creates Weapons Database to Crackdown on Stabbings

By Martyn Hordern,

A Staffordshire University student has created a new database to identify weapons used in stabbings. BSc (Hons) Forensic Investigation student Lauren Yare led the study into textile stab damage for her final year project. She tested weapons seized by Staffordshire Police along with household knives to build a database of characteristics to effectively identify knife types.

Lauren, 21 from Connah’s Quay in North Wales, explained: “I tested the weapons on four types of fabric and the damage produced different characteristics, such as fraying and curling. Blind testing was conducted to show the effectiveness of the database and overall it produced a 69% success rate.

“The police could use a database like this to help identify weapons used in stabbing crimes and potentially save valuable time in their investigations.”

Lauren is also completing a virtual six week placement with Staffordshire Police as part of the Staffordshire Forensic Partnership. She is working with the National Ballistics Intelligence Service to look at improvements when recovering evidence from gun crimes.

She will present findings from both projects in virtual presentations to Staffordshire Police this summer before returning to complete an MSc Forensic Science.

Lauren said: “It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to work with the police on a project like this. Everyone has been so welcoming and it is a great experience for the future.”

Posts in category "Student Experience"

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’

Beckie with Steve Cooper head of Staffordshire Police Digital Forensics

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.

All set for Beckies presentation

‘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.

Posts in category "Student Experience"

Student experience blog of 6 week project placement with Staffordshire Police Forensics

By Martyn Hordern,

Beckie Edwards (first left) and fellow students on their first day

The student experience is an important part of the Partnership and we are delighted that one of this years students was willing to put her experiences and thoughts onto paper. Beckie gives a great insight into how she became interested in a placement through to starting a six week research project with Stafford Police Forensics in this the first of a two part blog.

Part 1 – How I became involved 

This blog is going to focus on my experience whilst on a six week placement with Staffordshire Police, through the Staffordshire University Forensic Partnership. My particular project was based in the Digital Forensics department, but before I go into that I will tell you a little about myself! My name is Rebecca Edwards and I am studying a Forensic Biology degree at Staffordshire University. I really wanted to be involved in this placement scheme because it has been my aim to work in forensics since I was around 13 years old – therefore this was my dream placement! Prior to this I had no experience in a real-world setting so it was a great opportunity to get a feel for what it would really be like as a career. To begin with I will take you through the process of how I applied and my journey through the placement, up to what I’m doing now!

‘I hadn’t previously heard of the Staffordshire Forensic Partnership’

I hadn’t previously heard of this partnership until it was mentioned to me one day in a conversation with a lecturer and it took my attention straight away. To initially sign up I had to email David (senior lecturer at the University) a short personal statement to express interest in the placement and why I would like a position. David was so helpful in providing me with all the information I needed and keeping students in the loop about the progression of our applications, telling us what we needed to do next.

I found this open day incredibly informative’

After the initial expression of interest, I was amongst the students chosen to come along to an open day. The purpose of this was to ask any questions, have a tour of the police headquarters in Stafford (where we would be based) and to meet the staff. I found this open day incredibly informative as I had no idea how a police HQ operated, how the hierarchy of departments and staff were structured or the magnitude of workload they collectively deal with! We found out at the start of the day that the placement is based around a project that you would like to do and research the topic to eventually present your findings to staff at the end of the six weeks. To begin with I had absolutely no idea what to do my project on and how I could possibly think of anything to help such a vast department of experts. However, we were later given a really interesting presentation from the forensics staff who gave us suggestions for projects they would like students to do this year, highlighting areas that are in need of new ideas.

‘That is the great thing about forensics; it is so versatile and has so many routes to explore!’

The project suggestions ranged from trialling different lifting tapes to be used at crime scenes, to new ways of analysing information collected from satellite navigation devices. The idea that interested me the most was related to collecting data from games consoles. I chose to do this because my interest in the digital side of forensics has grown massively over the last year and I had been contemplating studying a masters in that area upon completion of my degree. (That is the great thing about forensics; it is so versatile and has so many routes to explore!)

‘searching the news for real world examples of how my project would help the community ‘

Once we had chosen a project topic, we had to then write a project proposal (one side of A4), outlining why we wanted to do that topic and the reasons why further research is needed. I come from a biology background so hadn’t covered the digital much in my previous modules, so I had a lot of research to do before I could write my proposal! I started with learning the very basics of how hard drives are structured, the ways data is extracted from them and why games console extraction is different to say a PC or laptop. I picked lecturer’s brains and read a lot of journal articles until I felt like I had a good starting knowledge to talk about the project. Something I found helpful was searching the news for real world examples of how my project would help the community. Games consoles that are taken into police possession would be for reasons relating to criminal activity, a prevalent one being child grooming. This is due to the popularity of playing over the internet and often with strangers. Therefore, being able to quickly and effectively take information from the devices of suspects is paramount to the safety of a large number of victims. A quick Google search of issues relating to this really shocked me as I didn’t realise how often it occurred on that platform and made me want to help even more! I feel it is important to understand how your project will help not only the police force but also the general public, as helping the community is at the heart of policing no matter what your role is, and having a passion for what you are working on is important in every area of life!

‘However this method carries a lot of risks and issues, both ethical and technical’

Without going into too much detail, there are basically two ways of extracting data from a device, ‘live’ and ‘dead’ extraction. Dead extraction involves the traditional process of taking the drive out of a device and making a copy of it, interpreting everything that is on there. This way you will find relevant evidence on there, even after the suspect may have tried to delete them. However with the rise of internet use and data being stored on a cloud, live extraction is becoming more popular as it involves actually turning the device on and looking at it as the suspect would. This way you can see things in areas you may not with dead extraction. My project was originally revolving around how to improve methods of live extraction from games consoles as it is more difficult to get an image of console hard drives and therefore live extraction is the preferred method. However this method carries a lot of risks and issues, both ethical and technical. For my proposal I researched this area heavily and included real world examples to cover every aspect of the area.

‘I was absolutely over the moon to be offered one’

Once we had submitted our proposals to David, we had to wait to be offered an interview. The staff at HQ selected the students for interview and then we were informed of interview dates and times. I was absolutely over the moon to be offered one and even if I wasn’t to progress any further, I knew it was a good opportunity to experience what an interview for a career in this area would be like and to be honest I had never been so nervous for anything else in my life! The interview was at the HQ and the staff instantly put me at ease and asked questions about me, my interests and my project. They seemed really impressed with the amount of research I had done and even suggested ways to advance my project to focus more on specific areas. After the interview we then had to wait to find out if we were successful or not.

‘I was ecstatic! ‘

The day came and I found out I was one of the few lucky students to be given a placement and I was ecstatic! It was daunting as I was going into an unknown environment and was worried I didn’t know enough or would be prepared enough however, my levels of excitement surpassed this so couldn’t wait to start. We had to complete a number of vetting forms which were quite extensive and therefore took a number of weeks to be processed, then the placement could commence.

Before we started the placement, we attended an induction day at headquarters. We were introduced to the Partnership Coordinator Martyn who gave us all the information we needed. He provided us with induction check sheets which tracked our progress and helped us visualise the things we needed to be aware of to give us the best start possible. He was our first point of contact and stayed in regular contact with us throughout the whole placement, asking if we had any issues and was always just an email away or you could go and knock on at his office if we were unsure of anything at all. We were then taken to our relevant departments where we could meet the rest of the staff we would be working with, finalise our project ideas and start to plan our time.

In Part 2 Beckie describes her experiences working with Staffordshire Police Forensics through to the day when she had to present her project to Partnership members and her mentors.