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A peek into the latest policing research from the SEBP - issue 14

Space constraints mean we could only provide the briefest summaries of some interesting and important research in the 14th issue of the SEBP newsletter. These do not do the studies justice, but have hopefully piqued your curiosity enough to bring you here.

Consistency of Supervisory Interpretations of Stop‑Search Justification in London: A Vignette Assessment Analysis by Andy Brittain, Christopher Sims, Vincent Harinam and Heather Strang

The use of stop and search remains a controversial issue in the UK. This is particularly due to ongoing concerns about racial profiling and discrimination. This study sought to test whether such discrimination was present in decision-making of police supervisors in relation to stop and search. It used a vignette survey design, presenting 15 real-world stop and search examples from within the Metropolitan Police's South Basic Command Unit policing area to 118 frontline uniformed supervisors. Researchers introduced a randomised characteristic assignment of the ethnicity of the subject featured in the vignette to compare officer decision-making when the suspect is Black or white. They analysed responses using both Likert scale and free-text responses, a combination of descriptive statistics, inferential methods, and text mining. The study, published in the Cambridge Journal of Evidence-Based Policing, found, despite being presented with the same material, there was substantial variability in supervisor assessments of whether vignettes provided sufficient legal grounds for conducting a stop and search. Nevertheless it found no substantive difference in the justification of stop and search powers between white suspects and Black suspects. Therefore the researchers concluded, within the limits of the methodology, there is no racial disparity in perceptions of legal thresholds for conducting searches across a range of circumstances.

Public perceptions of policing: A review of research and literature by Pamela Hanway and Olivia Hambly

Police officers are an essential part of the social fabric of communities they serve, but without the trust and confidence of the public, they will be seriously limited in their ability to do their job. This literature review aims to understand the importance of public perceptions of policing and considered what confidence and trust mean. It also reviews factors that can influence public perceptions of policing and interventions that may improve them. The review finds strong evidence showing that the relationship between the police and public is negatively affected if there is a poor quality of police-citizen contact, and by a lack of community engagement. If the public views the police as lacking legitimacy, working in procedurally unjust ways or not engaging with them, then confidence and trust will reduce. The public will also be less likely to cooperate with the police. Evidence also shows that socio-demographic variables, such as age, ethnicity and community cohesion, can impact public perceptions of policing. The police should consider these individual and social group variables when engaging with different communities. The review recommends targeted interventions that engage with different communities are more likely to improve the individual’s perception of policing, than a one-size-fits-all approach.

Police Use of TASER: Multi-Level Predictors of Firing and Drawing in One-to-One Use of Force Incidents by Abi Dymond, Katharine A.Boyd, and Paul Quinton

The ability to use force, when required, is a defining feature of the police role — as well as a highly controversial one. One of the most contentious force options are Conducted Energy Devices (CEDs), the most well-known of which is the TASER. This study is is one of the first to examine factors associated not just with the firing of TASER, but also the drawing of the weapon. It explores factors operating at the level of individual incidents, but also employs multi-level modelling —a statistical technique capable of examining data with a hierarchical or nested structure — to explore organisational level factors, differences between agencies and how these may impact police use of TASER. Published in Police Quarterly, this article analyses data from 16 police agencies in England and Wales where one officer, carrying TASER, used force on one member of the public (N = 11,176). When compared to incidents involving handcuffing only, resistance, gender and mental health status of the member of the public and the need to protect officers or others were associated with increased odds of TASER drawing and firing. Incidents involving lone officers increased odds of firing compared to incidents where they were accompanied by an officer not using force. Compared to the white reference category, incidents involving Black/Black British members of the public, or a male officer, were associated with increased odds of drawing compared to handcuffing. Incidents involving Asian/Asian British members of the public, or children, were associated with decreased odds. As the proportion of incidents where TASER was carried increased, odds of use decreased.

ISACURE Phase 1 Summary Report by Associate Professor Sarah Bennett, Dr John Gilmour, Ms Kristi Anderson, DS Katrina Carr and DSS Kirsten Helton

Studies within Australia and abroad indicate many victims of sexual violence experience inconsistent and, at times, negative interactions with police. Poor case outcomes, underreporting, and negative victim experiences have been linked to police handling of sexual offences, pointing to widespread bias toward victims, inconsistent decision making, and insufficient knowledge and skills. Specialised training in the investigation of sexual offences has been identified as an important factor in helping to reduce high attrition rates and improve victim outcomes. In response, Queensland Police developed the Investigating Sexual Assault, Corroborating and Understanding Relationship Evidence (ISACURE) course. The two-week programme provides investigators with an intensive consolidation of knowledge and skills related to legislation, sexual offending, victim engagement and trauma, as well as self care strategies to reduce secondary traumatic stress. The Queensland Police approached University of Queensland researchers to evaluate to effectiveness of the training in shifting police responses to sexual offences. The first phase of the ISACURE evaluation involved the first quasi- experimental trial to examine the long term impact of police training to practice in actual cases of sexual assault. It enabled researchers to measure differences in applied investigative practices between the participants randomly allocated to the specialised training course and the participants who were not, over time. Three studies were carried out:

Study 1

  • employed an experimental design to evaluate training impacts

  • involved 115 investigators across two groups ISACURE (n 60) and control (n 55)

  • drew on official crime data and pre/post training surveys

  • found significant positive impacts of ISACURE training on investigator knowledge, attitudes, and case outcomes

Study 2

  • employed a matched sample design to evaluate training impacts on a larger sample

  • involved 377 investigators across two groups, control (n 135) and ISACURE (n 242)

  • drew on official crime data and pre/post training surveys

  • found significant positive impacts of ISACURE training on case outcomes, offender progression, victim referrals, investigator knowledge and attitudes

  • Investigators who completed the ISACURE programme showed a significantly lower rate of unsolved sexual offence cases (20.9%) compared to the control group (33.2%) For female investigators who completed the course, the results were particularly impressive, with a rate of 19.7 percent when compared to the control group (47.7%)

Study 3

  • employed a qualitative design to explore the perspectives of investigators

  • drew on semi structured interviews with 32 investigators across two groups ISACURE trained (n 22) and non ISACURE trained (n 11)

  • revealed important differences between investigators who had undertaken ISACURE and those who had not in perceptions of sexual offending, victim engagement, awareness of bias, investigative tools, and best practice for the investigation of sexual offences

Overall, the evaluation found the ISACURE course facilitated an in depth understanding of trauma and how trauma informed practice fosters improved engagement strategies with survivors and led to better outcomes for them. The finding that specialised training can enhance investigatory outcomes has implications for training and practice beyond sexual offences.

ISACURE Summary Report June 2022
Download PDF • 1.35MB

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