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A peek into the latest policing research from the SEBP - issue 2

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

Rapid Video Responses (RVR) vs. Face-to-Face Responses by Police Officers to Domestic Abuse Victims: a Randomised Controlled Trial, by Stacey Rothwell et al.

The police risk being overwhelmed by the volume of calls for service they receive, as demand increases and becomes more complex and existing systems struggle to cope. HMICFRS inspections have found delays in attendance to domestic abuse calls in a quarter of police forces, attributing this to rising numbers of calls and a lack of officers to respond to them. It was within this context that Kent Police carried out the first randomised controlled trial of rapid video response (RVR) for victims reporting domestic abuse. By carrying out the trial, researchers sought to discover whether police could "increase victim satisfaction and improve efficiency by providing an optional immediate video response from a uniformed police constable to domestic abuse victims, when their offenders are not present, rather than scheduling a delayed face-to-face police attendance”. In an experiment designed with the help of the Cambridge Centre for Evidence Based Policing, half of the 517 domestic abuse victims in the trial were randomly allocated to receive the RVR response from a trained constable, while half received the usual traditional physical response. Constenting, eligible victims spoke to a trained officer over video within minutes of calling and could report any crimes and receive safeguarding advice, while police could assess risk and begin an investigation. Any investigative or safeguarding steps that police were unable to complete over a video call were tasked to be completed by other officers either immediately or at a future point in time depending on risk. The results showed RVR was an average of 656 times faster in responding to the victims than business as usual, taking three minutes as opposed to the 1969 minutes taken to deploy a police car. The researchers found RVR produced higher victim satisfaction among female victims (89 per cent) compared to control victims (78 per cent). Arrest rates for suspects were 50 per cent higher in the RVR group (24 per cent) relative to the control group (16 per cent), with three times more arrests during follow-up investigations on RVR cases. Trust and confidence in the police improved more for abuse victims receiving RVR than those receiving business as usual. The research was published in the Cambridge Journal of Evidence based Policing. Based on these conclusions, Kent Police have launched RVR county-wide as an optional offering for domestic abuse victims.

Reforming the police through procedural justice training: A multi-city randomized trial at crime hot spots, by David Weisburd et al.

There is substantial evidence that proactive policing can have meaningful effects on crime, especially when it is focused at crime hot spots. However, there is at the same time strong concern that proactive policing may lead to increased police abuses and damage to public trust and confidence in those areas. In this context, a team of researchers set out to discover whether police can be trained to treat people in fair and respectful ways and whether this would influence evaluations of crime rates and police legitimacy. The researchers randomly allocated 120 crime hot spots and 28 officers to a procedural justice (PJ) and business as usual response in three US cities. The former group received an intensive training course in the components of PJ (giving voice, showing neutrality, treating people with respect, and evidencing trustworthy motives) while the latter received no particular guidance. Researchers used police self-report surveys to assess whether the training influenced attitudes, systematic social observations to examine impacts on police behavior in the field, and arrests to examine law enforcement actions. They also conducted household surveys to determine resident attitudes toward the police and measured impacts on crime. The researchers found training led to increased knowledge about PJ and more procedurally just behavior in the field as compared with the control group. Furthermore PJ officers made many fewer arrests. The researchers also found a 14 per cent decline in crime incidents in the PJ hot spots during the experiment. However the researchers found that while residents of the PJ hot spots were significantly less likely to perceive police as harassing or using unnecessary force, there were no significant differences between the PJ and control hot spots in perceptions of police legitimacy.

Organisational barriers to institutional change: The case of intelligence in New Zealand policing, by Angus Lindsay Trevor Bradley Simon Mackenzie

Faced with complex crime problems, an expanded ‘mission’, growing public demand and cuts to resources, police forces around the world have developed evidence-based, intelligence-led approaches, which they hope will help them manage crime, public demands and resource deployment. Over recent decades Intelligence-led Policing (ILP) has become a central component of attempts by New Zealand Police to engineer a transformative shift away from ‘reactive’ policing to more ‘proactive’ approaches to crime reduction, by making crime intelligence central to decision making. However, research published in the Howard Journal of Crime and Justice, found that despite rhetoric claiming that ILP's "time had come", and the efforts made to implement it, it had not catalysed the promised major reorientation of frontline policing or the way that it is delivered. The researchers conducted 20 in-depth semistructured interviews with Police Intelligence staff at all levels of the hierarchy. They discovered those in the intelligence community felt they had been unable to gain legitimacy with the rank and file officers and police leadership. The researchers highlighted five critical barriers to implementing a successful ILP project in New Zealand: differing conceptions of police ‘intelligence’ work; the adequacy of training; problems with the management of police intelligence units; barriers encountered within the tasking and co-ordination model; and problems relating to the ‘actionability’ of intelligence products. The researchers suggest ILP has not delivered on its promise due to the structural resilience of traditional police culture and an ingrained reluctance to allow long-established practice and procedural norms to be fundamentally changed.


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