The National Intelligence Model: The barriers to its success

Paige Keningale, PhD Researcher

Introduction

The National Intelligence Model (NIM), first introduced in England and Wales in 2000, was portrayed as the major vehicle through which intelligence led policing (ILP) is being delivered in England and Wales (Tilley, 2008). It was intended to standardise policing practices and provided minimum standards to ensure the common employment of ILP as a policing paradigm (Newburn, Williamson and Wright, 2007). As such, compliance, or conformity with the NIM was deemed necessary to ensure a common system across all police services to accumulate, analyse and employ intelligence products to aid decision-making (Seidler and Adderley, 2013). This blog sets out the intelligence products and analytical techniques used within UK police forces and highlights limitations of the NIM that can potentially hinder the decision-making process. This blog draws upon the existing literature but also quotes participants from my past research, interviews with intelligence practitioners, which explored their cognitive processes when analysing information which could lead to intelligence failures (Keningale 2020).

Intelligence Products and Analytical Techniques

Police decisions are informed and supported by four intelligence products. Firstly, strategic assessment which aims to give an overview of the current and/or long-term issues affecting or likely to affect a force or basic command unit. These assessments assist the planning of decision-making within the intelligence unit, by drawing inferences and making recommendations for prevention, intelligence enforcement and future policing strategies (College of Policing, 2022). The strategic assessment is potentially the most significant document in the NIM process, due to its influence in determining the control strategy and its distillation of priorities from a broad range of sources (John and Maguire, 2004). The control strategy sets out and communicates the operational and long-term priorities for crime prevention.

The second product is a series of tactical assessment which involves identifying the short-term issues for consideration by the Tasking and Coordination Group (TCG) that will then be used to draw inferences about the available information and make recommendations for prevention and future policing activity (NCIS, 2000). The third product, subject profiles, aims to assist in the prioritisation of the information which is needed on the suspect and set long-term and short-term goals. They are usually developed by the TCG to provide a report of any suspect involved in the crime being investigated. The fourth intelligence products are problem profiles, which are similar to subject profiles, although this product provides a greater understanding of emerging crime or other high-risk concerns rather than focusing on people. The purpose of problem profiles is to provide an assessment of a specific problem or series of problems that may be criminal (College of Policing, 2022).

Related to the intelligence products are analytical techniques which assist decision-making – subject analysis, market profiles and risk analysis and results analysis –which evaluates the effectiveness of how any investigation was handled, the usefulness of resources and identifies good practice and issues that might have hindered the outcome (Lowenthal, 2008). Overall, the quality of each product is important to the effectiveness of the system as a whole. Having established the role of intelligence products and analytical techniques, it is possible to consider how the products are used within police services and to further understand the differentiated approaches when using the assessments to assist decision-making – noting that different products have different limits.

Limitation One: Quantity of intelligence reporting

In situations where intelligence-reporting is particularly voluminous it is not uncommon for out-of-date information to clutter up the information environment and which can eventually paralyse an intelligence system (Sheptycki, 2004). ‘Information overload’ is a result of problems associated with noise, however, it is also more than that and links to lack of analytical capacity and administrative support within law enforcement agencies. Administrative support includes supporting the internal operations of the organisations as well as the police services interactions with the community and other government agencies.

Limitation Two: Variation in the use of products

Forces’ varying understanding of NIM is a drawback in particular of strategic and tactical assessments (John and Maguire, 2004; Ratcliffe, 2004). Police services continue to approach the preparation and content of their strategic assessments very differently which could affect the decision-making and the reliability of the information analysed (John and Maguire, 2003). John and Maguire (2003) found some Basic Command Units’ assessments (both strategic and tactical) showed an unstructured collection of data on a range of crimes due to the variance of tasked assessments set by the TCG and Strategic Tasking and Coordination for different forces. Additionally, how the assessments are understood within the police force, and if these are/are not used correctly can affect the decision-making process.  

Performance indicators often dominated tactical assessments at the expense of other priorities. There was also a tendency for the tactical assessment to be retrospective rather than predictive in nature, focusing on trends that had arisen in the intervening period since the previous document was produced (John and Maguire 2004). Subsequently, tactical options decided upon tended to concentrate on short-term resolutions rather than looking at long-term interventions which the NIM aims to achieve (John and Maguire, 2004). The implications of short-term resolutions are that they overlook other pieces of intelligence and can disregard potential outcomes of an investigation.

Limitation Three: Lack of training

Subject profiles can play an important role within decision-making, yet John and Maguire (2004) found that there were inexperienced analysts using subject profiles and that there was a lack of training around subject profiles. This was supported by one respondent interviewed by the author who suggested that new/ less experienced analysts were not trained to a certain standard, but also more experienced analysts were not sufficiently trained:

“Some analysts work 16/17 hours a day analysing large sets of data without sufficient training. We need to educate the analysts but also the more experienced”

This can cause difficulties in terms of the reliability of analysed data and decision-making, due to the force and specific police personnel not fully understanding what information to prioritise and what actions are necessary.

Limitation Four: Time consuming

Problem profiles are useful in terms of decision-making, however these are often seen as time consuming as the police have to constantly identify links between their own information and information on other police databases (Aepli, Ribaux and Everett, 2011). Identifying pieces of data which are believed to assist the decision-making process is a challenging task and one that is unable to be achieved quickly, thus this may affect the outcome of the investigation if there are time constraints set by policymakers who need information fast.

Limitation Five: Uncritical/biased analysis

Analysis of data is a key stage of the operation of the NIM. For example, if the analyst is unable to clarify decisions and think critically when handling data, the decision-making process will become problematic (Richards, 2010). One respondent who was interviewed by the author argued:

“What leads to misinterpretations is whether that analyst understands the limitations, the provenance and apply the appropriate analytical techniques […] it’s like a bad workman blaming his tools”

Although many of the respondents who were analysts agreed that there is a lack of training, making the decision-making processes more challenging. The biggest problem they find is:

“People make the intelligence dirty when they first get it and put their own spin on things”

Biases can be the result of cognitive limitations, processing strategies, specific motivations, and cognitive styles. Analysts need to be aware of the dangers of ‘dirty intelligence’ as it can cloud their judgements which in turn, can negatively affect the decision-making process.

Limitation Six: Policymakers

Policymakers within the police are sometimes dissatisfied with what they get from intelligence analysts. Equally, analysts are sometimes frustrated by the apparent misuse or disuse of what they produce. Policymakers may pressure analysts and other police personnel for products so they (policymakers) can make an appropriate policy judgement in a timely fashion (Richards, 2010). One participant noted:

“There are constraints and pressures, you know…we will put resources into a different case due to their pressures of wanting and needing answers to their questions quickly”

However, such pressures can result in analysts making quick decisions and both the analyst and policymaker not fully understanding each other’s job role.

Closing remarks

The National Intelligence Model provides important opportunities for law enforcement managers, whether from the police service or another law enforcement agency. It aims to provide a picture that drives effective strategy, solving priority problems and targeting the most active offenders, as well as informing the management of risk (Richards, 2010). However, there have been many criticisms of the effectiveness of the model especially in relation to decision-making. I argue that not enough research has been conducted on the influence of policymakers and how this affects decision-making when using the NIM. Perhaps the College of Policing could delve further into some of the above limitations through funding future research in specific areas that seem most problematic within policing- providing solutions for the most pressing of the police’s problems that exist internally.  

Paige Keningale is a PhD Candidate in Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Surrey. Email: pk00517@surrey.ac.uk   LinkedIn: Paige Keningale

Lived Experience Advisor Scheme – Office for the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall

Dr Davina Cull

In 2020 we set up a lived experience advisor scheme at the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall. The scheme aims to engage people who have an experience of the criminal justice system in commissioning, policy and strategic change. Framed as an approach which contributes towards social justice by enabling people affected by crime to have a voice and influence change – the scheme moves beyond tokenism and towards a model of co-production where partners and lived experience advisors work together on discrete projects and tasks which benefit from their input, experience and skills. An example of the types of projects a participant might be involved in will vary, but over the first two years we have had lived experience advisors become a member of a strategic group, co-produce strategies and develop toolkits and resources. This blog aims to provide a short outline of the scheme and share some of the benefits and challenges of the approach in practice.

Lived experience engagement is still quite niche within this sector, so we have learnt a lot over the last two years, but we have found this work to be incredibly rewarding for all involved. One of our most notable successes has been a yearlong project called ‘altered but not defined’ which has established comprehensive guidance on how to communicate with the public about sexual harm if you are a journalist or a public sector communicator. Working side by side with us, our lived experience advisor, a survivor herself, has offered not only insight but the level of due diligence and care that comes from an insider and someone who knows what it feels like first-hand. As a result, the work becomes more authentic as it is shaped by real world experiences.

We have also been able to appoint a lived experience advisor to our strategic victim and witness board as a champion for the rights and entitlements of victims. Again, as a survivor of domestic abuse, she is not defined by what has happened to her but uses her experience to challenge stereotypes and influence change for people in our criminal justice system who have experienced harm. As she is also neurodivergent she also brings a variety of other experiences and characteristics to her role, all which offer more useful learning and insight.  These are just two of the inspirational people we have met and worked with through our scheme.

However, a scheme of this nature also has several considerations which should be in place before we can say it is not exploitative or harmful. Firstly, the environment people come into must be safe, supportive and congruent with supporting people who have experienced trauma. Secondly, relationships need to be honest, open and transparent – built on a foundation of mutual benefit. Thirdly, people should be renumerated and recognised for their contribution as an equal partner. And lastly, the work must be valued by everyone who engages with it. To ensure we address these aims we provide training for staff members who support lived experience advisors, which includes training on trauma, and we often work in pairs. We have also spent time together reflecting on our roles and the challenges of enabling effective engagement which encourages mutual support and learning. 

We also recognise that meeting these aims can be challenging in different contexts and for some organisations.  We have witnessed this by receiving our fair share of ‘tokenistic’ requests to use our lived experience advisors. Some examples have included asking people to give their views on the content of a leaflet or attending a one off meeting – neither of which are likely to foster meaningful outcomes. But each time this has happened we have given our partners more of an idea of the sorts of projects people could be involved in and as a result our scheme has developed clear boundaries that are designed to benefit everyone involved. We have also learned that we are able to build safe, trusting and mutually beneficial relationships – enabling outsiders to come in and us as insiders to go out. The team at the OPCC were naturally nervous about whether they had adequate listening and support skills, as well as the time and resources to effectively do this work. Whilst some colleagues have recognised that they do not have the skills to do this work, many others have actively worked with lived experience advisors on different tasks and projects.

So, what are the implications of this type of work for us as a criminal justice system? Arguably, at its heart this work is restorative. It gives voice to those affected by harm, and those responsible, alongside a community of criminal justice practitioners and leaders also affected. It is outcome focused and speaks to the needs of those involved to make things better or make good. It is forward looking as it doesn’t dwell on past experiences but uses them to affect future change. But lived experience engagement is not without its critics. The accentuation of the word ‘lived’ can become the most controversial and provocative aspect of this work, provoking arguments about the superiority of one person’s experience over another’s, individualism verses collectivism, the legitimacy and value of an individual’s experience to advance our knowledge and whether having lived experience offers an individual a moral authority over those who do not. 

When we hear these arguments we try to counter them with responses that show just how valuable these experiences are and how they do more than just highlight the process or experience itself. Through meaningful engagement we learn more about the struggles or the efforts individuals have adopted in order to overcome them. When we do this, we learn more about what this experience means for that person in the context of their life, but also the insight they can share with us about how different factors have acted on them and their experience, such as inequality, race, poverty, gender, or class for example. This enables us to stay connected to our work and to be better informed.

Two years on and we are currently reflecting on our scheme, what has worked and where we go next. We recognise that we need to offer more support for our lived experience advisors when they are doing more in-depth lived experience engagement work, especially where it involves a particularly harrowing type of harm. We hope to partner with an independent support service in the future. What has worked overall, is the feedback we get from everyone involved about how powerful it is and how much it makes them question and challenge their practice. Many are humbled and emotionally moved by what they hear. Furthermore, in the coming months we will be involving lived experience advisors in several important work streams around the prevention of domestic abuse through behaviour change work and the need to effect change for women and girls affected by violence. We will also be maturing our approach to commissioning new services by working alongside people who will be using them. We are currently trialling this co-design methodology in the development of a new support service for people affected by serious and fatal road collisions.   

If you want to find out more about our scheme you can visit our website: Lived experience advisor scheme · Devon & Cornwall Police & Crime Commissioner (devonandcornwall-pcc.gov.uk)

Dr Davina Cull is Criminal Justice, Partnerships and Commissioning Manager at the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner Devon and Cornwall. Email:  Davina.CULL2@devonandcornwall.pnn.police.uk

Doorstep Crime: The policing ‘scripts’ that decriminalise

Dr Rachael Aplin

The purpose of this blog serves not to detract from the ethical, hard working professionals within the rank and file, of which the writer was proudly part, but instead to expose the shirking uniform carrier(s) (Reiner, 2010) that avoid workload through the perverse ‘cuffing’ of crime (Patrick 2014, p.4).  Through a mixed method analysis the author exposes how, through the use of linguistical scripts, some officers are able to “no crime” cases. In doing so, officers pragmatically apply inappropriate discretion in order to circumvent procedures, which stifles investigations and breaches National Crime Recording Standards (NCRS).

Prior to 2002, crime recording rates across 11 police forces varied between 55% and 82% (HMIC, 2000:x) signalling the necessity for National Crime Recording Standards (NCRS), which aimed to promote consistency in crime recording between England and Wales police forces (Home Office, 2003).The modus operandi of Doorstep crime involves elderly victims being pressurised on their doorstep into having unnecessary work done to their property for an exorbitant fee (Rogue Trader);  or where offenders utilise a falsehood or “distraction” to gain access to a property as a trespasser (Distraction Burglary); which includes purporting to be a bogus official, pretending to be a reputable businessman or miscellaneous guises i.e. ball in the back garden, car ‘broken down’, needing the toilet etc.

Through one police force’s Intelligence Branch the author forwarded questionnaires to 43 England and Wales police forces, resulting in 26 forces responding with 31 completed questionnaires. Additionally, she examined classified police incident data from one force (68 cases) and undertook a Trading Standards focus group. It was only through examination of electronic police data, comparing officers’ summary write-ups with the initial accounts from victims and witnesses, that contradictions and breaches to NCRS were clearly discernible. Such data are ordinarily classified, neither accessible nor exposed and remaining hidden under the ‘sacred canopy’ (Manning 1977, p. 5) of police street operations. Of the police incident reports examined, 44% failed NCRS. There are five key mechanisms used by the unethical officer to actively deconstruct these ‘crimes’ and these are: civil dispute; rogue traders as legitimate businessmen; no property stolen; ‘consenting’ elderly victims and ‘confused’ non-lucid elderly victims.

Such ‘cuffing’ practices are effected through the silver tongued carefully crafted write ups of the officer, reminiscent of the work of Shearing and Ericson (1991). What better way to suggest there is no crime, by elevating the status of the criminal to a bona fide legitimate businessman such as a ‘roofing contractor’ or ‘tradesperson’. Such language lends officer credence to the script of “civil dispute”. The argument oft presented is that the elderly victim has willingly entered into a contractual agreement with the trader, “no matter how unscrupulous that contract may be” (survey no.14). So regardless of the sum fraudulently taken, the repeat victimisation or even the ‘capacity’ of the victim, this is rendered by the unprincipled officer as no longer a ‘police’ matter. Another reliable script is for officers to suggest victims ‘consented’ to traders entering the property, a fact which was not borne out by the evidence. Yet even if this was true, the consent of a victim is legally negated when they discover the deception/false representation (Home Office 2011), so the offender still constitutes a ‘trespasser’ and the definition of burglary is met.

Another significant finding, exposed by comparing officer summaries with victims’ accounts documented on police incident logs, is that particularly when no property has been stolen, there is either an omission in the report that offenders entered the property (sin by omission); or the officer directly manufactures the explanation that traders did not enter the property.  All, it appears, to avoid the submission of a crime report and the workload this generates:

In the case of an 80 year old with Alzheimer’s, despite the incident clearly stating the perpetrator ‘entered his father’s property’ no action is taken and police merely provide ‘reassurance’ to victims and neighbours (incident no.16)

A central script focuses on undermining the competency and reliability of victims, based on their perceived or real failing memory, thereby officers in these cases align with ageist stereotypes  (Aplin, 2021a):  

(Victim) was very forgetful and did not know why I had come..//.. I get the impression (victim) would not recognise the males..//.. as her memory seems very poor ..//..has been unable to confirm that a notifiable crime has taken place, therefore a crime has not been recorded (incident no.56)

Victim with learning difficulties lets a bogus official into the premises on the basis he was a ‘council decorator’ and he ‘looked around’. Concerningly, the officer in the write up justifies ‘no crime’ by discrediting the credibility of the victim, suggesting ‘the facts are different from when she has originally informed the carer of this incident’ (incident no. 2)

The AP unfortunately has no recollection of the events yesterday and can’t recall if she may’ve given the males permission to work on the driveway or even for how much, daughter has cancelled the cheque..//..the driveway was only washed and she has suspicions over how genuine they were..//..no offences disclosed at this stage. In addition, the AP states that the males have not entered the house at any stage. However, again, with the AP having Alzheimer’s it is difficult to say how true this is (incident no. 59)

In that final extract, it is only when one observes the initial report that the victim and several bogus tradesmen “‘all had a cup of tea and biscuits”’ inside the house, leading up to the elderly lady writing a cheque (incident no.59); does one identify the clear discrepancy. Someone is not telling the truth; moreover, some officers are “putting words in people’s’ mouths” (Holdaway,1983, p.112), either by removing or radically altering victim testimony, which becomes entirely drowned out by a dominant officer narrative (Aplin, 2019). Not only does evidence exist that perpetrators entered properties (thereby leading to the under recording of burglary and attempt burglary offences), victim vulnerabilities, whether physical or mental, appear to be employed as a prop by some officers, to undermine victim testimony and alter the circumstances surrounding the crime, justifying ‘no crime’ and no police investigation (Aplin, 2021a).  Moreover, this research perfectly illustrates the art of “stitching” within the perverse policing model, whereby some officers fabricate and manipulate the evidence (Patrick, 2014; Grace, 2022) in order to present an alternative narrative, reminiscent of Chatterton’s ‘defensive writing’ (1983). The ramifications are, that although academics place the assumed vulnerability of older peopleat the top of the victim hierarchy (Walklate, 2011),  aligning with Christie’s ‘ideal victim’ status (1986), this appears to be the polar opposite of the way aberrant officers depict such victims. Paradoxically, despite being entitled to enhanced safeguarding and special measures if vulnerable (YJCEA, 1999), the treatment of these victims by some officers serves to delegitimise their claim to victimhood. Such victims therefore typify the “forgotten players” of the criminal justice system (Duggan, 2018, p.3).

The central premise is that such scripts are relied on because officers pragmatically begin with the end in mind, with some carefully conducting a cost/benefit analysis as to whether a case is worthy of time investment before committing to a crime report. They are acutely mindful, as they were historically, that recording a crime generates workload, which is deemed a “drain on resources” (Edwards 1986, p.235) when officers perceive the incident is ‘going nowhere’. This method rations workload. Such research endorses Lipsky’s contention that due to large caseloads and scarce resources, public officials develop “short cuts” and simplifications which not only limit demand (2010 p.83) but actively suppress demand (HMICFRS, 2017). The very idea that officers have no discretion flies in the face of these findings. Only when crimes are recorded and investigated properly will older victims of doorstep crime be safeguarded and avoid prolonged and repeat victimisation. Until there is an ethical focus of all officers “doing the right thing” by victims, such cuffing practices will endure and voiceless victims will remain marginalised.

Dr Rachael Aplin is a Senior Lecturer in Policing and Criminology at Northumbria University and was previously a Detective Sergeant in the Greater Manchester Police. Email: rachael.aplin@northumbria.ac.uk

Comprehensive details of the research findings can be found here:

Aplin, R. (2021a) Police discretion, pragmatism and crime ‘deconstruction’: Police doorstep crime investigations in England and Wales. Policing and Society: An International Journal of Research and Policy.pp.1-20. https://doi.org/10.1080/10439463.2021.1906668

Aplin, R. (2021b) The policing, investigation and governance of ‘Rogue Trader’ fraud: Whose responsibility? The Police Journal: Theory, Practice and Principles. pp.1-20. https://doi.org/10.1177/0032258X211020038

This research builds on findings from:

Aplin, R. (2019) Policing UK Honour-Based Abuse Crime. Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan. https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-030-18430-8

Police Professionalisation, Police Education and the ‘Blue Box’

Dr Tom Cockcroft and Dr Katja Hallenberg

For many years, academics have deliberated the relationship between police institutions and Higher Education (HE) institutions. This has been particularly the case in respect of gauging the effectiveness of the HE context for the training of police officers and the impact of HE programmes on professional practice. This blog will outline the findings and implications of a piece of research we undertook exploring officers’ reflections on their engagement with HE and how it impacted their understanding of their role and policing more generally.

Our research, based on interviews with 31 officers who completed degrees whilst in active service, sought to understand how HE shapes police officers’ reflections on their relationship with their profession. This is important as the transformative properties of HE produces graduate entrants who join an organisation with quite embedded structural and cultural qualities. In other words, for all the potential benefits made possible by the PEQF there remains a challenge in making sure that the police organisations they join reflect the values that their formal training and education have oriented them towards.  

In terms of finding a conceptual framework to house our research, we soon realized, interestingly, that the research spoke to a number of separate but inter-linked areas. First, we found that the literature of public sector professionalisation agendas was helpful in allowing us to see the ways in which education, when applied to ‘new’ professions, can have, somewhat counterintuitively, a controlling rather than liberating effect upon the learner.

Second, policing literature allowed us to see some apparent disparities or disconnects between HE values and those of the police. This is hinted at by some of the work addressing what is viewed as the ‘McDonaldisation’ of policing where policework is sometimes seen to be stripped of its nuance and deeper context in an attempt to straightforwardly categorise its endeavours as successes or failures. Through this lens it is often tempting to question what it is about HE that makes it so appropriate as a vehicle for police knowledge and education.

Finally, we used literature concerning the asymmetry of employee-organisation relationships and their impact on trust, loyalty and productivity in workers. From this perspective, we were able to consider how the impact of HE education could be to distort the congruence of values between employee and organisation. In particular, we were interested in the potential for our data to show connections between these three distinct areas of academic enquiry. To this end, we adopted a ‘theory knitting’ approach, to generate new understanding of this area through bringing together different theories and combining them with researchers’ insights.

When we started to explore the data from our interviews, we identified several themes including those relating to impact on professional orientation and what we have termed the ‘Blue Box Conundrum’. In terms of the former, the data suggests that, for some officers, their engagement with HE had quite a profound impact on the way in which they approached their work.

For example,

“I think it broadened my knowledge. I think it made me think of a bigger picture. Because I think there’s a tendency as a police officer, you’re surrounded by lots of pressure, if you have the ability to step back and think, why is that pressure there? And think maybe the theory of it makes life a lot easier” 

“It just changed my whole perspective about policing. Totally altered it and gave me so much more of a – not just a strategic view but it gave me more of a sort of fundamentals and some of the theory about what we do. So instead of just doing it because I’m called to do it –which of course you do and that’s what you do. It showed me why we do it. So it gave me the why and I think that’s so important now because one of the massive failings I think in this organisation is the fact that people are never told why”

Other officers, however, saw the HE engagement as less impactful on their orientation to their work.

For example,

“I don’t think it changed me in terms of my style of policing. I think if I’d been more robust and more closed thinking then it would probably have opened me up more but I always thought I was fairly open minded to things”

“I don’t think I’m a different police officer as a result of it. Nothing’s really changed”

The data suggested that, for some officers, whilst their engagement with HE allowed for them to develop their knowledge in ways that they believe could really benefit their organisation, there existed barriers to having their expertise acknowledged or drawn upon.

“I am an expert in [subject] …I’ve written, I’ve peer reviewed …And so then the service are organising how they’re all [subject] …do you think they’d involve me? Despite me writing to them and this that and the other. No, not interested. I’ve written to the [redacted] five times because they are doing the work that I’ve already done. And they don’t even bother to write back to me”

Perhaps the most telling quotation we found, identified a disjunction between the aims of HE and those of the police.

“If you were to walk down Leicester Square you would see constables in Geltex jackets standing on blue boxes, putting off pickpockets and telling American tourists how to get to Leicester Square. And if you’re a graduate and you’ve got a first and your job is to stand on a blue box to be a visible deterrent, you’re soon going to become very disillusioned in that. […] If you’re a PC you can get a PhD in policing, it doesn’t mean anything, it really doesn’t. That’s not what you’re being employed for, you’re standing on that blue box”

This, of course, is not a literal description of what most modern police work is like, nor are we concerned about the perceived simplicity of the tasks described. However, the quote offers us a useful metaphor to conceptualise a key aspect of policing: control, both of civilians as enforcer of state control, and internally in the transactional control of officers’ working practices. This we believe is probably the greatest challenge facing policing in regard of the ongoing professionalisation agenda and the PEQF. Namely, that despite partnership with the Higher Education sector, there remains the very real possibility that, structurally and culturally, policing remains fundamentally different from other degree professions.

The success of PEQF and ability of officers who join through it to meaningfully apply their HE learning therefore requires a more fundamental change to the structures and processes within policing and its relationship with the state. In particular, greater attention, we would argue, needs to be paid to understanding this symmetry (or otherwise) between formal training and the requirements of policework. Furthermore, we believe that this dynamic provides us with some important opportunities for future research, not least in respect of exploring the tension between structure and culture in the policing.


To find out more about this research, see: Cockcroft, T. and Hallenberg, K. (2021). Unpacking the Blue Box: Structure, Control and Education in Policing, Policing and Society, https://doi.org/10.1080/10439463.2021.2016755

Dr Tom Cockcroft is a Reader in Criminology at Leeds Beckett University. Email: T.W.Cockcroft@leedsbeckett.ac.uk, Twitter: @DrTomCockcroft

Dr Katja Hallenberg is a Principal Lecturer in Policing at Canterbury Christchurch University. Email: katja.hallenberg@canterbury.ac.uk

Domestic Homicides and Suspected Victim Suicides During the Covid-19 Pandemic 2020-2021

Phoebe Perry with Lis Bates, Katharine Hoeger, Melanie-Jane Stoneman and Angela Whitaker

The harm caused by domestic abuse can be devastating and difficult to predict. The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly brought about unique challenges for all agencies involved in the protection of vulnerable people. In response, policing, including the College of Policing and specialist teams, is constantly striving to improve their approach to tackling domestic abuse.

In March 2020 there was widespread concern about the safety of vulnerable people potentially isolating with abusers. Policing had to develop a suitable response in order to ensure they were dealing appropriately with dangerous perpetrators whilst also protecting victims. The NPCC and College of Policing working with the National Policing’s Vulnerability Knowledge and Practice Programme (VKPP), developed the concept of tracking all deaths within a domestic setting. This would enable any potential lessons to be learnt rapidly as England and Wales moved through various stages of lockdown. The first report produced by The Domestic Homicides Project, examined every death identified by police as meeting the definition of a domestic homicide, suspected victim suicide or child death between 23rd March 2020 and 31 March 2021.

For domestic homicides, the overall number of deaths in the 12 months 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021 was 163. This was slightly higher than the previous year (152) but in line with the 15-year average (Home Office police-recorded homicide data[1]). There were 38 suspected suicides of victims of domestic abuse reported to the project between 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021 (there is no comparable baseline dataset for previous years). A slightly higher proportion of all domestic homicides and suspected victim suicides happened within lockdown weeks than outside of lockdown weeks, but this difference was not statistically significant. Bearing in mind the relatively short period of time the data covered (12 months), and despite the unprecedented circumstances of the last year, domestic homicides did not appear to increase substantially.

Case Typology

Cases were divided in to five types:

  1. Adult Family Homicide (AFH) – homicide of an individual aged 18 or over by an adult family member who is not an intimate partner
  2. Child Death – homicide of a child under 18 by a family member, where there has been domestic abuse in the family
  3. Intimate Partner Homicide (IPH) – homicide of an adult aged 18 or over by a current or former intimate partner
  4. Other – where the relationship is not intimate partner or familial but the victim and suspect live together, e.g. lodger or flatmate
  5. Suspected Victim Suicide – suspected suicide of an adult aged 18 or over following known domestic abuse against them

This approach allowed for the analysis of different risk factors surrounding each typology and helped to avoid conflation of different types of death, which would have undoubtedly hindered any future learning to prevent further deaths. It is a well-established typology used during Domestic Homicide Reviews (DHRs) (Montique 2019).

Important Risk Factors

Domestic homicide is a gendered issue, as women and most men were at risk from men as a majority. Almost half of all suspects were known to the police for having previously perpetrated domestic abuse, and many were serial and/or repeat offenders, often against the same victim. Victims from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups were less likely to be previously known to the police and other agencies compared with those who were from White ethnic backgrounds. The majority of victims were between 25 and 54 years of age, with a substantial group of victims and suspects aged 65 and over. Coercive and controlling behaviours were common, especially from male suspects, and existing mental health conditions in suspects, as well as alcohol and drug (mis)use were exacerbating factors.

Adult Family Homicides

When looking at adult family homicides (AFH) (18% of deaths), victims tended to be older; mainly men killing parents (often mothers) and grandparents (often grandmothers). Mental health issues were more prevalent in suspects of AFH, especially in those who were required to be under legal section, and many of these suspects were already known to mental health services. Many suspects of AFH were also known to police as a previous perpetrator of domestic abuse; not just against family members, but also against intimate partners. Suspect drug (mis)use was also identified by police in AFH more commonly than in other types of domestic homicide.

Child Deaths

Child deaths (12% of deaths) were more likely to involve male victims than female victims and were more likely than other types of domestic homicide to involve female suspects, with specific reference to mothers. Quite a few of the female suspects were previously themselves a victim of domestic abuse. There were 21 recorded deaths (84% of child deaths) that involved the death of a child where the suspect was a parent or caregiver. Three separate cases involved the murder of adolescent girls (two aged 16, one aged 17) by their stepfather, cousin, and cousin’s husband respectively. Two of these cases involved a clear sexual violence element, with evidence of sexual assault after death in one, and the victim having alleged sexual abuse by her stepfather just before the homicide in the other. The remaining child deaths were in cases where the suspect (exclusively the father) killed his partner and children

Intimate Partner Homicides

When looking at intimate partner homicides (IPH) (49% of deaths), suspects were likely to have been known to police as a suspect or perpetrator of domestic abuse, or to have been a perpetrator of undisclosed domestic abuse which only came to light after the homicide had occurred. Abuse was highly gendered, with nearly all cases involving a male suspect and a female victim, and coercive and controlling behaviour was strongly present. Victims and suspects were most likely to be in their 30s and 40s, with a sizeable group aged 65 and over. Heavy alcohol use characterised some cases, sometimes by both victim and suspect. Previous threats or attempts of suicide by the suspect was also a risk factor, especially in cases involving coercive control and in familicide cases. Separation (or attempts at separation) and previous non-fatal strangulation by the suspect of the victim were present in a sizeable number of cases

Other

There were nine suspects in six deaths of adults that were classified as ‘other’ (3% of deaths). Five victims were male and one female, with all male suspects. These cases involved housemates, lodgers or friends who did not have an intimate or family relationship with the victim(s), and also included some individuals involved in intimate partner homicide or adult family homicide cases as third parties.

Suspected suicides with a known history of domestic abuse victimisation

In cases where a victim of domestic abuse was suspected of taking their own life (18% of deaths), the victim and suspect characteristics were similar to those in intimate partner homicide cases, however, female suspected suicide victims were even more likely than female IPH victims to be previously known as victims of high-risk domestic abuse involving coercive control. The previous domestic abuse in these suspected suicide cases was highly gendered, as nearly all suspects were male and victims female. Suspected suicide victims were slightly younger than victims in other types, mostly under 45 years old. There were fewer Black and minority ethnic victims; possibly indicating under-identification of suspected victim suicides amongst minoritised ethnic groups. Previous non-fatal strangulation by the suspect of this or a previous victim was more present amongst this type of case, and as with intimate partner homicide, (attempted or actual) separation was also present in a sizeable number of cases.

Conclusions and recommendations

COVID-19 has not ‘caused’ domestic homicide, but it has acted as an escalator and intensifier of existing abuse in individual cases. Victims have been less able to seek help or advice. In some cases, victims’ access to ongoing support or help with caring responsibilities or mental or physical health conditions have been reduced. Furthermore, vulnerable children and adults have in some cases been made more ‘invisible’ to services through home-schooling and homeworking. Both victims’ and suspects’ ability to manage mental ill-health and drug and/or alcohol dependencies have been reduced by the pandemic.

It is important now that police and supporting organisations are prepared for an increased risk of domestic homicides and potentially suicides of domestic abuse victims as lockdown restrictions continue to lift. This may be particularly true of intimate partner homicide and suspected victim suicide. Ongoing situational pressures arising from the COVID-19 pandemic will persist – these may increase perpetrator risk and decrease victim resilience. It is also imperative that we are alert to ‘COVID-blaming’ as an excuse or justification by perpetrators for domestic abuse or coercive and controlling behaviour. This project has identified a number of cases in which perpetrators have sought to claim this. This analysis shows how important it is for police, other agencies, the courts, and the public to understand that COVID-19 might be used by perpetrators variously as a weapon of control and as an excuse for abuse or even murder.

Phoebe Perry is an Analyst on the Domestic Homicides Project, National Policing Vulnerability Knowledge and Practice Programme (VKPP)

Lis Bates is a Reader in Interpersonal Violence Prevention at the Connect Centre, University of Central Lancashire (UCLan)

Katharine Hoeger is an Analyst on the Domestic Homicides Project, National Policing Vulnerability Knowledge and Practice Programme (VKPP)

Melanie-Jane Stoneman is a Research Fellow on the National Policing Vulnerability Knowledge and Practice Programme (VKPP)

Angela Whitaker is the Project Lead for the National Policing Vulnerability Knowledge and Practice Programme (VKPP)

Findings from the project are available here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1013128/Domestic_homicides_and_suspected_victim_suicides_during_the_Covid-19_Pandemic_2020-2021.pdf

For further information on this study contact: vkpp@norfolk.pnn.police.uk


[1] The Homicide Index data was provided directly from the Home Office and has been re-coded in line with the project definition and therefore will not match the data published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

Children in police custody: How far have we really come since Confait?

Dr Miranda Bevan

In April 2021 it will be 50 years since three teenagers confessed, in a South London police station, to having played a part in the murder of Maxwell Confait. Readers will no doubt be familiar with the case. Ahmet Salih had just turned 14, Ronald Leighton was 15, the eldest of the group, Colin Lattimore, was 18 years old, but was identified at the time of his arrest as having ‘the mental age of a 14 year old’. The Fisher Inquiry found that each had been questioned in the absence of a parent or independent adult, that they had not been informed of their legal rights and that Colin Lattimore had been subjected to oppressive and unfair questioning.  Their convictions, which rested solely on their confessions, were overturned in 1975, but the disquiet caused by the case was a significant factor in the establishing of the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure which led, in turn, to the passing of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE).

As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, change is again on the horizon – with the legacy of the use of virtual legal advice in police custody under the Joint Interim Interview Protocol as yet unclear, the Criminal Legal Aid Review soon to report and resources ever more stretched. Against this backdrop, and as the anniversary of the Confait case looms, it seems a fitting time to ask: can we be satisfied that the sort of injustice experienced by the Confait suspects is not being repeated today?

The intervening decades have seen profound changes to the legal framework protecting children in trouble with the law, not least with the ratification by the UK of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990. International, European and domestic instruments and guidance now require a child-friendly approach to be taken, and underline the importance of effective participation, including in the police station. PACE, and its attendant Codes of Practice have themselves been repeatedly amended. But, in practice, how far have we really come since Confait? In answering this question I draw on the findings of a qualitative research study (Bevan 2019; Bevan 2021), which included 41 interviews with children and young people with experience of detention as a ‘juvenile’ in police custody (referred to here as young participants and individually by pseudonyms), supplemented by observations in three force areas and further police, professional and volunteer interviews.

Appropriate adults: My Mum’s not really good at all that law stuff, so she just keeps quiet’ (Zayn)

PACE Code C introduced the mandatory presence of an appropriate adult (AA) for child suspects, and AAs are now consistently present in child suspect interviews (Criminal Justice Joint Inspection 2011). However, despite the extraordinary demands placed on the AA (Code C 1.7A) – to support and advise the child, facilitate comprehension and exercise of their rights, safeguard their welfare, oversee due process, and support their communication with the police – the role is required primarily to be fulfilled by parents or other familial adults, and otherwise, most commonly, by trained, but lay, volunteers.

Familial AAs involved in the study frequently felt out of their depth, intimidated into going along with what officers said and lacked an understanding of what they were expected to do and how they might intervene effectively. At the same time, while the presence of familiar adults could be reassuring, it often introduced a layer of emotional complexity and tension which added to the challenges a child suspect had to navigate in detention. Lay volunteers, by contrast, had a better appreciation of the role and process, but young participants often found it difficult to connect with an unknown stranger, commonly very much older and of a different background and ethnicity to them.  

Perhaps most significantly, child suspects on observation waited on average five and half hours to see their AA  (in keeping with the Children’s Commissioner’s research) – the timing of their attendance frequently being organised for the convenience of the investigation rather than the needs of the child.  As the role is currently conceived and fulfilled, the AA is too frequently ill-equipped to insulate a child from the sort of unfairness experienced by the Confait suspects.

Legal advice: ‘I didn’t want one (a solicitor)…I just wanted to get out’ (Alex)

Today the recitation by the Custody Officer of the right to legal advice is a routine event, but meaningful engagement with that right is not.  In England and Wales child suspects as young as 10 are required to opt for legal advice (in contrast to the mandatory provision in a number of European states) and quantitative research has long identified the strikingly low uptake of legal advice by children (Kemp, Pleasence and Balmer, 2011).

Young participants provided a range of reasons for declining advice, including being too anxious and distressed to engage with the offer at all, failing to comprehend the benefits of legal advice, doubting the independence of solicitors, and being overwhelmed by desperation to get out of detention.  AAs were not always informed of their right to request legal advice themselves, and family members often declined for the same reasons as their children. Charlie Taylor’s youth justice review proposed an ‘opt out’ position for legal advice for children – my findings suggest that such a change may not go far enough.

Interview techniques: ‘..even if you did say something they will try and twist it into thinking that you’ve said something completely different.’ (Harper)

While a murder investigation, such as the Confait case, would today likely be handled by officers with specialist interview training, the less serious offences for which children are more commonly detained are not. In stark contrast to the approach taken to child witnesses, child suspects are not required to be interviewed by officers with specialist training to elicit their best evidence (Gooch and von Berg, 2019). Young participants described a range of oppressive questioning approaches in interview – including unduly repetitive questioning, the drawing of unfair inference from leading questions and heightened pressure as a result of reference being made to release – many of the tactics for which Lattimore’s interview was criticised almost 50 years ago. 

Nor is it clear that fitness for interview and risk assessment processes today are sufficiently tailored to ensure identification of the sort of learning difficulties experienced by Colin Lattimore. Even where vulnerabilities are identified, adjustments in interview, particularly intermediary assistance and speech and language support, are vanishingly rare. The blanket remedy is the presence of the AA, who is, by definition, not an expert in supporting more profound communication and comprehension difficulties.

Length and harshness of detention episodes: ‘It’s bare long. Honestly every minute feels like 10 minutes’ (Zoe)

In one significant respect things are worse than at the time of the Confait case – average detention periods have increased (Kemp, Pleasence and Balmer, 2011) . On observation the average time spent by a child in custody was 11 hours and 45 minutes.  Additionally, despite their right to accommodation and support appropriate to their age and vulnerabilities, young participants had frequently experienced largely the same detention conditions as adults – held in adult cells and with little support to cope with lengthy periods of isolation. Granted, detention periods may be protracted as a result of safeguarding concerns, and to enable the attendance of the AA. But the effect on the child’s capacity to participate effectively in the interview can be profound. By the time they were required for questioning, young participants were often too exhausted, hungry or desperate to get out, to take in legal advice, or give a good account of themselves in interview. Alternatively, many described making ‘no comment’ to get it over with more quickly, or in an attempt to retaliate for what they considered to be unjustified treatment.

So, how far have we come since Confait?  Whilst the protections for child suspects on paper promise much, in practice the position of the child in police detention is only minimally improved, if at all. Progress has, arguably, been more presentational than effective and the scope for injustice remains substantial. As no other, the Confait case taught us the critical significance of police interview, the extreme vulnerability of child suspects and the need for timely and specialist support. Fifty years on, as we contemplate further changes, we must make sure those lessons are learnt.

Dr Miranda Bevan is Lecturer in Law at Goldsmiths, University of London and a Visiting Fellow at the Mannheim Centre, LSE’. Email: m.bevan@gold.ac.uk

‘The research was supported by an LSE Studentship and an ESRC Post-Doctoral Fellowship (Ref ES/V007084/1).’

Old tricks for new dogs. What price local knowledge?

Professor Jason Roach and Professor Ken Pease

One way to denigrate experience is to invoke the saying ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks’. The unstated assumptions are that the new tricks are better than the old, and that anyway the old dog is too stubborn or inept to bother learning them. Some old dogs are indeed stubborn and inept.  But there are opinionated over—confident young dogs too. Failure to teach new dogs useful old tricks is arguably even worse than failing to teach old dogs useful new tricks.

The common issue is arrogance, both from the old sweat who thinks no-one can teach him anything, and the young tyro who thinks the same. Asking either ‘How do you know that?’ evokes a withering stare of contempt, an unspoken ‘How dare you presume to challenge my assertion?’

One of the frequent side-effects of being an academic is that the longer you are the more you tend to be drawn to revisiting some of the theory and research that you were taught as an undergraduate. In our case, this has been regular conversations about the psychology that we were taught (albeit some 30 years apart), explaining why, for example, we wrote a book, ‘Evolution and Crime’ (2013). We recently scanned an introductory psychology textbook from 1990’s to see what we might revive in pursuit of crime reduction and policing today. Instead of agreeing that each chapter topic was either still popular or too outdated for any resurrecting by us, we found it to be a rich source of not just nostalgia (although admittedly a lot of nostalgia) but of psychological ideas, theories and approaches ripe for applying to 21st century policing, that had for some reason fallen by the wayside. Unless told otherwise, this is the first of our ‘resurrection’ articles.   

Another common side-effect of aging in academia is that we tend to speak about great academics that we have had the privilege of being been taught by or have met in the past. As the first author’s list is considerably shorter than the second author’s as he much younger (and more handsome) we begin with a true legend.1

The second author (KP) was privileged to be taught by one A.R.Jonckheere, a brilliant psychologist/statistician now remembered for his eponymous Trend Test, and less recalled for providing the most endearing example of nominative determinism we know. His full name was Aimable Robert Jonckheere and he was indeed lovable. He was also amazing in the depth and breadth of his talents. Professor Gloria Laycock recalls a weekend when Jonck (as he was known to colleagues, friends and students) suggested a game of Scrabble. His then girlfriend agreed on condition that it would be in English, not any of his other languages.

During a seminar in Jonck’s office circa 1964, he described a visit he had just made to the Nobel Laureate ethologist Niko Tinbergen at Oxford. Tinbergen worked a lot with sticklebacks. Wanting to know how accurate Tinbergen’s stickleback predictions were, Jonck designated a stickleback in the tank and asked him to repeatedly predict the direction in which the stickleback would turn next. Statistician that he was, Jonck said ‘I did a sign test in my head’ and concluded that Tinbergen did significantly better than chance. The point is that prediction was Jonck’s acid test of someone’s expertise, echoing the Russian proverb favoured by President Ronald Reagan ‘Trust, but verify’.

So, what has this got to do we crime and policing? Please bear with us a little longer.

The perspective from which evidence based professional practice is branched has its origin in medicine with the Cochrane Collaboration, named for Archie Cochrane, a medic who underwent radical surgery for a cancer which he did not have. The core Cochrane insight – based upon his surgeon’s confidence that he was dealing with cancerous tissue without waiting for a pathologist’s report – was that medical practitioners claimed (in good faith) expertise which they did not possess, and which had to be tested. How do you know that someone has expertise? The evidence lies in their capacity to predict. The surgeon thought he could predict what the pathologist would report. It turned out he could not. For 2000 years of medicine, confidence outran competence.

The larger scale work was pioneered by Philip Tetlock (see Gardner and Tetlock 2015) with an honourable mention going to Nate Silver (2012). Tetlock started by studying political pundits. Put kindly, their predictive powers were execrable. He went on to craft the Good Judgement Project (GJP). The predictions which he elicited were about difficult to predict real world events. He collaborated with Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, recognising the centrality of prediction in making the intelligence services skilled.

Much of policing is understandably ‘reactive’, triggered by the reporting of a crime by the public. That said, policing requires an extensive skill set. All skills are tested by accurate prediction. Thus, skilled policing is discernible by accurate prediction. In football, goalkeeper capacity to anticipate where the penalty taker will direct the ball makes the save easier. Whereas for cricket the capacity to anticipate the googly enhances the batter’s capacity to remain. Prediction is what lets the best professional gambler get rich and bad prediction often letting the bookmaker.  Yet, for some reason, the aura of expertise typically leaves the capacity to predict untested. Why?

This has long troubled one of us in the policing context. For instance, police officers (designated Crime Prevention Design Advisors, Architectural Liaison Officers, or similar) have long advised planners on crime-facilitating design features. We could find no studies of whether these recommendations had any validity in identifying places that would be prone to crime. Our colleague, Leanne Monchuk, gave experienced Designing Out Crime Officers plans of an estate which had been built a decade earlier but with which they were unfamiliar. She then compared the locations identified by the CPDAs as crime prone with the locations at which there had actually been crime. The results (Monchuk et al. 2018) were as might have been expected on the basis of larger scale work on prediction. Nobody was perfect. Some were modestly skilled at prediction, some were random. A small study, but enough to persuade us that police capacity to make predictions relevant to their work should be tested, not assumed.

We see evidence-based policing to be of two kinds. The first is to identify those things worth doing in crime control. This is the Cambridge emphasis. The other is to so develop individual officers so that they are best equipped to do the things worth doing skilfully in the messy world of implementation. For this, we think the Tetlock approach necessary. It has the incidental effect of revealing senior officer hubris, just as Cochrane undermined physician hubris.

In hope of ‘starting the ball rolling’, here are some of the things which Tetlock established.

1. Some people are superforecasters, reliably beating the odds.

2. Superforecasters were not necessarily the most intelligent participants. They had these attributes

  • They did not see the world through a big theory lens (like Marxism)
  • There were conscientious in gathering relevant information
  • They adjusted their view readily when new information became available
  • There were ways of setting up groups which outperformed the predictive accuracy of its members.

One of us (JR) has conducted interviews with those police traditionally referred to as ‘ace thief-takers’, those seemingly gifted to spot a ‘wrong-un’ in a crowd and who invariably get more ‘collars’ than their colleagues. Although not yet complete, the findings suggest that said individuals are not simply good at predicting criminality based on the picking-up of various different cues, but that they have excellent memories for faces, and arguably, and most importantly, are willing to test their predictions and be wrong!

If you find yourself in sympathy with the ideas expressed here, we suggest that they could be incorporated into policing in many ways. For example, body worn camera footage for developing incidents be shown to apprentice officers, with predictions about how the incidents resolve themselves tested against actual outcomes. Not allowing experienced officers to escape, predictions made at Tasking and Coordinating meetings seem to provide scope for prediction testing.

Those familiar with the research on ‘super recognisers’ and will know that some police staff identified as being in the top 30% at facial recognition (e.g. based on CCTV images) or number plate recognition, have been put together in specialist teams (e.g. MPS). We posit that although memory will play a large part here, prediction will also play a significant part.

In hope more than prediction, we write this article in a hope that readers might access the GJP website, read Tetlock’s work, especially Tetlock and Gardner’s book, and recognise the potential of the approach in enhancing relevant policing skills.

Please do contact us if we have aroused your interest for testing some of these ideas

Thank you for your time.

Notes:

1: The second author has nothing to contribute to the following two anecdotes as he was not born for another five years and makes no apology for this.

Jason Roach is Professor of Psychology and Policing and Director of the Applied Criminology and Policing Centre at the University of Huddersfield and Editor for the Police Journal. Email: j.roach@hud.ac.uk. Twitter: @jrro47

Ken Pease OBE is Visiting Professor at University College London, the University of Huddersfield, University of Loughborough, Manchester Business School and Chester University. Email: kengpease@gmail.com

Transforming Police Education and Professional Development in Response to the Vulnerability Agenda and Covid-19

Dr Gareth D Addidle and Professor Joyce Liddle

Vulnerability, a complex ‘wicked issue’, is moving up global political agendas (Addidle and Liddle, 2020). It is a phenomenon resulting from a set of economic, housing, physical, family and cultural inequalities, as individuals and groups experience varying levels of disadvantage. It is also influenced by age, class, occupation, gender, ethnicity and disability, and can bring differential outcomes for individuals as a result of natural hazards such as floods, or other forces such as pandemics within broader social, economic and political changes. Vulnerability can manifest itself as poverty, marginalization and lack of assets, and arises at many levels and over time, as it renders individuals incapable of coping, or leaves them physically weak, economically impoverished, socially dependent, humiliated and psychologically harmed. This blog aims to highlight the increasing need for such issues to be contextualised and addressed in police education and professional development (as part of the broader professionalisation agenda). We argue that including vulnerability in education and development will also support the important growth in contemporary public health policing.

Ideas of equality, freedom and common good form the basis of social justice, often at variance with many injustices persisting across the world. Globally, vulnerable and marginalised communities face substantial barriers in their fight for access to quality and affordable healthcare and other services. COVID 19, a critical public health crisis, further exposed the levels of vulnerability across all societies, as the numbers of sufferers are found disproportionately in disadvantaged, impoverished or BAME communities, with rising levels of homelessness, crime and social inequality. In the UK, many of the social, economic and environmental impacts of COVID 19 remain to be seen in coming decades, but the challenges  are arising at a time when many deprived areas are yet to recover from the 2008 Global economic downturn and fiscal crisis, let alone those still reeling from the demise of traditional industries in the 1970/80s. In the past 2 years alone, Tees Valley lost most of its steel making facilities to China, and Middlesbrough, is not only ranked as the poorest and most deprived place in the country, it is also the most unsafe and insecure locality to reside in (Telford and Wistow, 2019).

Public health approaches in policing support the Policing Vision 2025 (NPCC, 2016), which focuses on: proactive, preventative activity; working with partners to problem-solve; vulnerability; building cohesive communities; improving data sharing; evidence-based practice; and, whole-system approaches (Christmas and Srivastava, 2019). Police and other statutory agencies have a duty of care to vulnerable individuals; and in order to seek appropriate solutions to the ‘wicked’ issues, suitable framing of situations can be reached by ‘holistic’ understandings on the political, social and environmental determinants leading to vulnerability, and how resources and capabilities can be used effectively (Brookes, 2019, in Addidle and Liddle, 2020). In keeping with the central theme of this blog, these duties and what they mean in practice must be reflected in education and training/development.  

Prior to the pandemic, the College of Policing, Public Health England, the National Police Chiefs’ Council and others had already signed up to the policing, health and social care consensus in 2017.  Thus, demonstrating a strategic commitment to working better together on prevention and early intervention, in recognition that the majority of police work is rooted in complex social need (College of Policing, 2020). Public health approaches, whilst different from traditional models of response policing with a focus on individuals and enforcement, build on police experiences of neighbourhood policing and problem solving. As a consequence, public health approaches to policing acknowledge the overlap between these various vulnerabilities and thus seek better crime and safety outcomes by addressing the roots of crime in social inequality and public health crises.

The pandemic has proven to be a crisis like no other, even for services like the emergency services, primed to respond to the most serious of incidents.  For all public managers these unprecedented times present not only a crisis but a continuum of crises pre-dating even the 2008 financial crisis. What the pandemic has done is hastened the need to further develop public health approaches to policing and the role of universities in this. Past and current University education and training provision in the field of Vulnerability has been fragmented across many disciplines including social work, probation policing, criminology, social policy, sociology, politics economics, business, for example. With respect to police education in particular, it has become more professionalised and governed by the College of Policing who continually strive to reflect societal changes in an evolving curricula. Likewise social work education and other disciplines are guided by national standards emanating from respective professional associations, as they too seek relevance to changing societal needs. What is perhaps now different (although has previously been acknowledged for policing generally – see Tong and Hallenberg, 2018) is the inter-disciplinary nature of the practice of policing vulnerability and how it needs to be reflected in police training and professional development.

Vulnerability is now a core area of teaching for pre-join degrees for professional policing, police constable degree apprenticeships (PCDA), degree holder entry programme (DHEP) as part of the police education qualifications framework (PEQF), and again in support of the Policing Vision 2025.These provide the means for closer partnership working and shared educational development between HEIs, College of Policing and police services across England and Wales.  Following approval and support from the College of Policing, Vulnerability is a key part of the educational curricula across all of the degree pathways in England and Wales.  Sitting alongside topics such as response policing, community policing and counter terrorism, Vulnerability is taught as both an individual unit/module/progression/evidence base and one which is interlinked with most, if not all, other parts of the police curriculum – thus reflecting the breadth, inter-disciplinarity and gravity of the issues.

From personal experience, both authors have been involved first-hand (at different levels) with curriculum requirements and educational developments in this area. A growing need for research informed teaching and evidence-based research must reflect the continuous development of these crosscutting and resource intensive areas for policing. ‘Partnership working’, as demonstrated by those as set out previously at the public health/policing strategic interface must respond holistically to a multitude of issues, concerns and priorities confronting each separate service.  The role of the police and policing is changing, therefore we contend that education and training must develop at the same pace, if not faster.

In terms of professional development, the College of Policing has a number of continuous professional development (CPD) training packages tailored to dealing with issues relating to Vulnerability.  These reflect the 13 strands of vulnerability as determined by the College of Policing: domestic abuse; adult sexual exploitation; stalking and harassment; the missing and absent; female genital mutilation; managing of sex and violent offenders; adults at risk; child abuse; honour-based abuse; modern slavery and trafficking; forced marriage; serious sexual offences, and child sexual exploitation (Cleveland Police, 2020).  These are broadly reflected in both CPD and the PEQF educational requirements and developments for police alongside the evolving Vulnerability Policing Strategies across Police Services in England and Wales. Adding to this, Chief Officers are encouraged to create and promote opportunities for officers and staff to enhance their knowledge and skills relating to vulnerability through various mechanisms, for example, briefing, policy, CPD and training (College of Policing, 2020).

Vulnerability and its associated issues are now part of all aspects of police education (and as a by-product) the work readiness of students/student officers to better deal with multifaceted and interconnected issues that they will contend with in the future workforce. Police training and education have both generally moved towards a focus on the needs of the service that reflects broader societal changes. With this in mind, it is clear that the impacts of the current pandemic and Vulnerability agenda are, and need increasingly, to be central to police education as we move into a new era of public health policing.  This is something academic education and training has the potential to address by contextualising policing for those who practice it.  This is an opportunity for the police-academic partnership to cement a ‘one for all and all for one’ relationship.

Dr Gareth D Addidle is a Senior Lecturer in Policing at Teesside University.. Email: g.addidle@tees.ac.uk

Professor Joyce Liddle is Professor of Public Leadership and Enterprise at Newcastle Business School. Email: joyce.liddle@northumbria.ac.uk

Out of Court Disposals: Setting out the two-tier framework

Cerys Gibson

The recent Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021 (the Bill) has had much media, academic and political attention since its first reading on the 9th March 2021. This blog focuses on Part 6 of the Bill, which restructures the system of adult out-of-court disposals in England and Wales.

There are currently six types of adult out-of-court disposals, each with its own Code of Practice or guidance. These are: the community resolution, cannabis/khat warnings, Penalty Notices for Disorder, simple cautions and conditional cautions. However, in 2011, the Criminal Justice Joint Inspection (CJJI) (Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate) criticised the ‘piecemeal’ approach to the current system of out-of-court disposals. After further scrutiny by the Home Affairs Committee in 2015, the Ministry of Justice, College of Policing and National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) developed a new two-tier system of out-of-court disposals to replace the current model. This new two-tier approach was piloted in 2015-16 in West Yorkshire, Staffordshire and Leicestershire. It simplified the current system of six out-of-court disposals into a two-tier model consisting of:

  • Community Resolution– aimed at first-time offenders, to resolve minor offences through an agreement with the offender and, where appropriate, the involvement of the victim. Would not appear on criminal record but may be disclosed as part of an enhanced DBS check. Generally, no action can be taken if the conditions of a community resolution are not complied with.
  • Conditional Caution– designed to tackle more serious offending and more extensive offending history than the community resolution in diverting offenders to a rehabilitative, reparative or punitive condition. Conditional cautions will generally be disclosed on both standard and enhanced DBS certificates for 6 years after it was given, where the individual was aged 18 or over at the time of the caution.

This new structure represented a seismic change to the system of out-of-court disposals, removing the simple caution, cannabis/ khat warnings and Penalty Notices for Disorder. Instead, the system of out-of-court disposals would include only two disposals, both of which encourage the police to attach rehabilitative and/or reparative conditions and involve the victim in decision-making. In its strategy on out-of-court disposals, the NPCC emphasised that this streamlined  system of out-of-court disposals aims to provide ‘rehabilitative opportunities to offenders to turn their life around at the earliest opportunity’ and result in quick and efficient resolution of cases without requiring the cost of court time.

The evaluation of the two-tier pilot found no statistically significant difference in the 12-month re-offending rates for those who had received an out-of-court disposal in the pilot areas compared to those in similar police force areas and no statistically significant difference in when offenders reoffended or the types of offences they went onto commit. Yet there is some evidence that early intervention and diversion can be highly effective in preventing reoffending and increasing victim satisfaction. Individual police forces have launched initiatives such as Checkpoint in Durham Constabulary, Turning Point in West Midlands Police and CARA (Conditional Cautioning and Relationship Abuse) in Hampshire Police, all of which contribute to this growing body of evidence and demonstrate the potential benefits of adopting a condition-focused approach.

For the last few years, the NPCC gradually implemented this new approach, encouraging police forces to adopt it when it was operationally viable for them to do so, without setting rigid time frames on this process. As a result, some forces implemented the new system while others did not. In September 2020, the government published the White Paper: ‘A Smarter Approach to Sentencing’. The Ministry of Justice noted in its Impact Assessment in April 2020 that only 11 police forces had voluntarily adopted the two-tier system of out-of-court disposals. In this Impact Assessment, the Ministry of Justice identified that this partial change resulted in a lack of consistency between forces and a complex system for the public to understand. The government therefore announced it would intervene by legislating for this two-tier system of out-of-court disposals to ensure that all forces adopted this new approach.

This brings us to the present day and the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill: Part 6, which sets out the government’s promised legislation for a two-tier system of out-of-court disposals. However, the Bill will replace the previously envisaged community resolution and conditional caution with what is in effect two types of conditional cautions:

  • Diversionary caution – designed to replace the conditional caution, with two key differences regarding the offences for which they can be administered and the upper limit of any fines administered. Diversionary cautions can only be used for indicatable offences in ‘exceptional circumstances’ and with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions (clause 77) and the Secretary of State can make regulations prohibiting their use for offenders who have already been cautioned (clause 95). The upper limit of any fines will be set in secondary legislation rather than primary legislation, meaning that Parliamentarians could only reject, rather than amend, proposals regarding the value of these fines (clause 80).
  • Community caution – designed to replace the community resolution (except for antisocial behaviour, where community resolutions will remain a non-statutory option), it is actually more similar to the conditional caution. The most important difference between the community caution and community resolution is that the community caution is formally administered by the police and will appear on an offender’s criminal record, and offenders will be required to comply with the conditions attached. This can include paying a fine as a financial condition or completing unpaid work. Failure to comply with conditions could result in a police issued fine.

The two-tier system of out-of-court disposals is very likely to become mandatory across England and Wales, with some exceptions to allow for initiatives such as deferred prosecutions.

My research into the use of conditional cautions in three police forces in England and Wales demonstrates that this implementation requires careful planning. My research evidenced the extent of work required to prepare the force and local services for the introduction of a two-tier system, and encourage frontline officers to buy-in to the new approach and provide training. Forces needed to liaise with local service providers to design interventions to which offenders can usefully be diverted and build on existing and new partnerships to try to provide these services freely so they are available to all. Forces also needed to create capacity to support this rollout, either in creating central teams to focus on administering conditional cautions, or administrative teams to monitor conditions on behalf of officers.

The sections of the Bill relating to the changes to out-of-court disposals will come into force once the Secretary of State appoint regulations made by statutory instruments. It is important that forces are given time to implement these changes to ensure well-considered, appropriate conditions are mapped out and the disposals are used consistency within the force.

This seismic change to the system of out-of-court disposals, making further amendments to the previously-planned two-tier system, may bring some benefits in reducing reoffending, improving victim satisfaction and ensuring that all police forces have a similar model of out-of-court disposals. However, the changes sit at the crossroads of a number of issues, with three important concerns summarised below:

  • Consistency of out-of-court disposals. The eventual legislation for the two-tier system will mean that offenders in different police forces should receive similar out-of-court disposals. This will result in a more consistent approach than the variation inherent in the partial voluntary adoption of the previous two-tier model. However, the offenders’ actual experience of the disposals, in terms of what they are required to do, and whether they will need to pay for it, will vary between forces.

When conducting my research into the use of conditional cautions in three police forces in England and Wales, I found there was a wide variation in the conditions used, as forces relied on their relationship with their PCCs and local service-providers to map out appropriate conditions.

As more forces adopt the new two-tier model, data will be needed on the conditions used in each force and the costs involved to ensure they are accessible for all, evidence-led and proportionate. 

  • Proportionality. The new diversionary caution may be used for any offence, with exceptions for indictable-only offences and with regulations providing rules about their use for repeat offenders. The new community caution will not be used in indicatable-only, certain either-way and certain summary offences, to be determined by regulations. There will also be regulations about their use for repeat offenders. It will therefore be important to analyse these regulations to determine whether offenders receive a disposal, and conditions, which are proportionate to the offence they committed.
  • Up-tariffing by design. The new two-tier system, in streamlining out-of-court disposals, will remove police options in how they may close cases. Officers will no longer be able to choose an informal disposal, such as a community resolution, to dispose of very low-level crime. How this change will be communicated to the public, including employers who may potentially hire the offender, and how this will be mitigated by the government’s criminal record reform, included within the same Bill, remains to be seen.

It will be crucial that, as the Bill progresses through its relevant stages, the Ministry of Justice, NPCC and police forces work together to bring about and manage this seismic change to the landscape of out-of-court disposals, mindful of unintended consequences and communicating changes transparently to the public.

Cerys Gibson recently completed her PhD at the University of Nottingham. Her project was funded by the ESRC. Email: cerys.gibson1@nottingham.ac.uk; Twitter: @GibsonCerys; Website: https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/Law/people/cerys.gibson1

‘Decolonizing’ Criminology?: Possibilities for anti-racist approaches to transform police education and professional development

Dr Lisa Long

Racialised bodies are overpoliced, under protected and in the extreme killed through racist policing (Long, 2018). Whilst there are calls to abolish the police to eradicate racist policing any revolutionary response to social justice problems, such as defunding and abolition, would require a global paradigm shift. In the meantime, immediate strategies are necessary in order to mitigate the excesses of racialised policing and save lives.

From 2020, applicants to the Police Service of England and Wales will need to either have or work towards a degree level qualification upon entry.  Higher Education has a central role in this ‘re-professionalisation’ (Holdaway, 2017) of the police service. Education develops “critical, enquiring and challenging minds” which can enrich policing and challenge ‘policing by stereotype’ (Lee and Punch 2004:248). However, critical thinking is inhibited if the course focuses on functional policing (Lee and Punch 2004:247); further, functional policing courses reproduce negative features of police occupational culture, such as ‘isolation’ and a ‘them and us’ mentality (Heslop, 2011). The latter approach is evident in the newly emergent suite of ‘Police Studies’ degrees emerging in UK Higher Education. Facilitating functional policing courses under the auspices of Higher Education is the antithesis of ‘decolonizing’. 

Decolonizing:“a way of thinking about the world that takes colonialism, empire and racism as its empirical and discursive objects of study; it resituates these phenomena as key shaping forces of the contemporary world. The aim of decolonizing is to develop ‘alternative ways of thinking about the world and alternative forms of political praxis’” (Bhambra et al., 2018:2).

Criminology is another option for future criminal justice practitioners; Criminology itself is an inherently colonized and racist discipline, focused on control of undesirable populations (Agozino, 2010). Therefore, the options for police officer education are limited to two, often uncritical and deeply colonized subject areas.  This post explores the possibilities that an anti-racist education – which draws on decolonizing principles – poses for transforming students into racially literate, reflexive practitioners.

Decolonizing knowledge

In the 2017-18 graduate cohort there was a 13% gap between the likelihood of White students and Black, Asian or ‘Minority Ethnic’ students being awarded a first class or upper second class (2:1), despite equal entry grades (Universities UK, 2019). The lack of a racially diverse and inclusive environment for learning is one factor in understanding this attainment (or award) gap.  The student-led Why is My Curriculum White agenda (#whitecurriculum) highlights the colonial continuities within the curriculum. Course content is not diverse or inclusive and the established canon, irrespective of discipline, is predominantly centred on the work of (often dead) White men. Academic systems of knowledge are colonized, built upon ‘epistemologies of ignorance’ (Sullivan and Tuana, 2007).  In contrast, a decolonized curriculum, ‘acknowledges the inherent power relations in the production and dissemination of knowledge, and seeks to destabilise these, [propagating] new forms of knowledge which represent marginalised groups” (Begum and Saini, 2019:198).

In a ‘research led’ teaching agenda, students are taught through the findings of research within the discipline. Therefore, the way research is conducted and the forms of knowledge that are produced through research can either disrupt or reify the centrality of White, Eurocentrism within the curriculum. For example, professional policing practice is informed by the ‘what works’ agenda (College of Policing 2020).  The N8 partnership, established between eight research intensive Northern universities and 11 police forces and Police and Crime Commissioners across the north of England, to facilitate research collaborations and “achieve international excellence in policing research”, contributes to ‘what works’.  However, the membership of the partnership (defines, through inclusion/exclusion, which forms of knowledge constitute ‘research excellence’. Further, the quality of research within H.E. institutions are assessed through the Research Excellence Framework (REF) and, the outcomes inform the allocation of public funding for research.  However, the assessment is undertaken by panelists from predominantly UK based, Russell Group universities who, by virtue of the institutions they represent, are disproportionately older, white and male (Sayer, 2014).  These forms of knowledge serve to reproduce the White, colonized, curriculum. 

In order to facilitate an anti-racist education, which challenges dominant narratives about racialised groups, knowledge must be built upon formerly ‘de-legitimized’ knowledges, such as that produced in the Global South and non-English speaking nations, indigenous forms of knowledge and experiential knowledge produced in non-elite settings such as post-92 universities, community settings and grass-roots organisations. This makes it possible to imagine a critically informed, evidence-based education that will equip students to engage in frontline work that maintains a critical stance towards institutionally racialised practices.

Developing racially literate practitioners through ‘dialogue’

Institutional denial of racism contributes to the failure of the police to eradicate racist policing outcomes (Long, 2018). Developing racially literate students, with an understanding of the experiences of Black and People of Colour, and discrimination and exclusion of racialised populations, will empower them to challenge dominant narratives, including racism denial. This necessitates having ‘difficult conversations’ (Watt, 2017), in the classroom, about race in order to raise critical consciousness.

Conversations about race are often met with racism denial and trivialisation; further, racialised students cannot openly share their thoughts or experiences in this context (Watt, 2017). These situations require sensitive handling. However, through a ‘problem -posing’ (Freire, 1970) education, students are facilitated to challenge dominant narratives and the power structures upon which they exist and perpetuate oppression.  Further, a ‘problem posing’ education involves the constant unveiling of reality, and through co-investigation of that reality, critical dialogue between the teacher and the learner.  Dialogue, for Freire (1970), is a critical conversation that requires both intellectual and emotional engagement and forms the basis for praxis.

Connelly and Joseph Salisbury (2019) argue that the use of emotion in the classroom can challenge racism denial and play a part in politicising students towards social justice activism. Through analysis of student responses to ‘difficult conversations’ about the Grenfell tragedy, they show that ‘the operationalisation of emotionality’ alongside a critical, theoretically informed analysis in the classroom can be socially transformative. Utilising critical dialogue in the classroom is one way to develop critical consciousness about racism and can transform learners into reflexive practitioners- ‘critical intervention’ in societal oppression can occur when learning evolves into praxis (Freire, 1970).

Summary

This post has explored the potential for decolonizing principles to inform anti-racist education. It presents some of the ideas explored in a paper currently under review.  However, as a Criminologist, it is a challenge to reconcile working in an authoritarian discipline with the principles of decolonizing. It is acknowledged here that the police cannot be decolonized (and possibly nor the university). However, drawing on decolonizing principles to diversify research knowledge and curriculum content, and engaging in critical pedagogy, can empower students to challenge their own perceptions and behaviours, and the role of agents of social control in perpetuating racism. This could be of benefit to the diverse communities that they go on to serve.

Dr Lisa Long is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Leeds Beckett University. Email: lisa.long@leedsbeckett.ac.uk. Twitter: @therealljlong