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A peek into the latest policing research from the SEBP - issue 17

Space constraints mean we could only provide the briefest summaries of some interesting and important research in the 17th issue of the SEBP newsletter. These do not do the studies justice, but have hopefully piqued your curiosity enough to bring you here.

Artwork by Mr Ian Harrison Shields of Life

Evidence Based Policing Worldwide 2023 by David Cowan

In 2020 Detective Superintendent David Cowan of Australia's Victoria Police, was awarded a Churchill Fellowship, which supports citizens to follow their passion for change through learning from the world and bringing that knowledge back. He set out to make sense of evidence-based policing (EBP) and its practical application to police in an operational environment. This report shares his experience in implementing evidence-based work in operational environments and his insight gained from carrying out structured and semi-structured interviews with over 70 specialists and executives up to Chief Commissioner from all over the world. His resulting report seeks to shift policing to be more evidence based, more innovative, more collaborative and more open to science and research ‘having a seat at the table of police decision making'. He argues, to develop evidence-based practice, agencies must focus on ‘what works’ and the application of science in policing. And that all starts with the development of a culture that values research, collaboration and a belief in the potential of police to lead evidence based work. Currently, while there are leaders and practitioners who are driving evidence-based practice’, agencies need to "step up and take the lead to ‘unfreeze the change’". He argued that EBP should be seen as one of the pillars of transformation and the adaptation of policing, adding that while EBP will continue to grow as a pillar of democratic policing, the question is which agencies will drive that change and be part of creating a legacy for community safety and the professionalism of police in the future, and which will be left behind.

Reasons rape investigations are closed by police: Operation Soteria Bluestone Briefing 3 by Jo Lovett, Sukhwant Dhaliwal, Gavin Hales, Liz Kelly, Priya Nath, Asmita Sood, Jade Swaby, Gordana Uzelac, Fiona Vera-Gray, David Buil-Gil , Andy Myhill

Research over the past four decades has shown that the vast majority of rape cases recorded by police do not progress beyond the initial police investigation. Whilst the numbers of recorded rapes have followed an upward trajectory for many years, charges and prosecutions have ‘plummeted’, leading to searching questions about why rape investigations are failing. This briefing shares the results of research investigating why police in England and Wales close rape cases. It is part of the large-scale, UK Government funded Operation Soteria Bluestone, which aims to improve police investigations of rape and other sexual offences. Researchers conducted a deep dive into around 750 rape cases across four police forces, closed by police using the Home Office crime outcome codes of 14, 15, and 16. These codes are used for cases that are closed without further action because of evidential difficulties—Outcome 14 (no named suspect) and Outcome 16 (named suspect)—and where these difficulties include the victim-survivor not supporting an investigation. Outcome 15 is where the victim-survivor supports action and wants the suspect charged, but police determine that evidential difficulties prevent them from taking further action. Significant numbers of cases are closed as the result of victim-survivors telling the police about a rape but not supporting an investigation. The report finds formally recording (‘criming’) cases that victims do not want reported and then attributing the closure of these cases to a ‘victim-based’ outcome, perpetuates a policing culture that sees rape victims as difficult and unreliable. The report recommended changes including reviewing Home Office Counting Rules, which they say are contributing to an investigators’ culture of fatalism in rape cases, taking more care to use accurate, non-judgemental language when describing victims, and embedding a context-led approach across the police response to rape which takes into account the circumstances of a case.

A Field Test of Police Vehicle Presence on Speed(ing): Parked, Unoccupied, and Effective by Rylan Simpson, Quentin Frewing, and Sukhdip Tiwana

Speeding kills. But the evidence shows that police officers can do something about it. This study demonstrates that an empty police car parked by a busy main road in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, is enough to reduce speeding. During a seven-day period, a marked police vehicle—the specific model of which was randomly assigned by date—was parked nightly alongside the offramp of the busy highway from 8:00 pm to 6:00 am. Prior to, during, and following the deployment of the unoccupied police vehicle, radar-recording devices passively captured the speed of passing vehicles before and at the location of the police vehicle. The study, published in Crime & Delinquency, reveals that the unoccupied police vehicle reduced both speed and the proportion of speeding vehicles along the offramp. Although many vehicles still sped at the target location, even in the presence of the unoccupied police vehicle, the average speed at such location when the police vehicle was present was approximately 7 km/hour less during the intervention period. Deploying an unoccupied police vehicle allows police to increase their presence at a location without inducing a significant burden on officers. However, and consistent with related research, such effect was temporally bound to the period of the study when the police vehicle was present.

The Policing Productivity Review, by Alan Pughsley QPM

An environment of budget pressures suggests difficult choices ahead for the public sector. Public agencies, including the police, will need to evidence, more than ever, that they are providing value for money and becoming more productive. This review was established to ‘identify ways in which forces across England and Wales can be more productive and improve outcomes'. It sought to find out whether police are productive in their response to areas of rising demand, such as domestic abuse or fraud, whether they are developing the right capabilities to match their operating needs and whether policing resources are being used productively in the criminal justice, social or emergency arena. Led by the National Police Chiefs’ Council, it makes recommendations which it claims could free-up 38 million hours of police time over the coming 5 years, which could be used to attend more burglaries, cases of domestic abuse, and other crimes. These include improving police data and how it is used, promoting initiatives such as Right Care Right Person, which shifts how mental health demand is dealt with, improving collaboration with other parts of the criminal justice service, and pushing innovation in science and technology. It finds that forces have more in common than is sometimes argued and that targeted financial incentives to forces will help unlock productivity improvements. Working with a small number of forces, it pilots a model process tool to enable police forces to improve public trust and satisfaction and deliver improved outcomes for those they serve.

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