Second meeting of the Independent Advisory Group on Emerging Technologies in Policing

I was honoured to be asked by the Cabinet Secretary for Justice to chair a new advisory group which will provide Scottish Ministers with recommendations that will ensure that policing partners are able to embrace appropriate new technologies, while also ensuring they are introduced in the correct manner.

The first meeting of the group in December was focussed on establishing ourselves and agreeing our purpose and remit, clearly delineating what we would and wouldn’t do. The membership of the group is diverse and draws together representatives from the policing and technology sectors, academic experts and specialists in human rights and data protection. We therefore needed to spend time getting to know each other and establishing what each of us can bring to the virtual table.

When we met recently for the second time, we were delighted to be joined by the team at Police Scotland who are planning to introduce body worn video for some officers later this year. They are focusing on armed officers initially, in preparation for COP-26 (the UN Climate Change Conference) in Glasgow. Their presentation generated lots of useful discussion and debate and we agreed as a group to use body worn video as a live case study, which we hope will be of use to both Police Scotland and the group itself as we undertake our work.

We also discussed and agreed how we would organise ourselves and set a timetable for our work. Our workload will be split into manageable chunks by creating four works streams, each of which will be responsible for producing a report for the whole group to consider.

  • Legal Framework & Ethical Standards
  • Evidence and Scientific Standards
  • Consultation and Community Engagement
  • Oversight, Scrutiny and Review

Some of our considerations cut right across all these four areas, for example, human rights and data protection. Each work stream will engage with a wider list of experts and practitioners in order to progress their work. We will also launch a call for evidence, which will seek written views on what changes need to be made to ensure that the process that police go through when introducing new technologies is fit for purpose.

We agreed dates for three more meetings this year with the aim of completing our work in early 2022. When we next meet in May, each work stream will report back to the group on the progress they have made and set out clearly the work they will be undertaking to produce a full report to the group by August.

Since we last met the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing published a report on Police Scotland’s use of drones and body worn video and I am pleased to see that much of the work we plan to do through the IAG will assist policing partners in working constructively with key partners towards addressing many of the recommendations made.

I am confident that by drawing on diverse expertise from civil society, academia, statutory bodies, policing and the technology sector, the IAG will bring real improvements to legal and ethical frameworks, strengthen consultation and oversight processes and help develop evidenced, innovative and human rights based policing solutions.

It is clear to me that there is a real passion and desire amongst the group to support policing partners to enhance policy and practice in this complex area. The detailed work starts now and I for one am really excited about the challenge that lies ahead.

Dr Liz Aston

Investigating the use of temporary accommodation to house asylum seekers and refugees during the Covid-19 outbreak

A project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) rapid response to COVID-19, is to investigate the use of temporary accommodation to house asylum seekers during the Covid-19 outbreak. The Principal Investigator is Dr Taulant Guma, Lecturer in Human Geography at the School of Applied Sciences.

The re-housing of asylum seekers and refugees into hotels in Glasgow has been a growing social issue throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. There has been mounting concern over the welfare of displaced individuals in the city and numerous reports of crowded living conditions and lack of available healthcare, which is leaving asylum seekers vulnerable to the Coronavirus outbreak and other social issues.

Recent moves by private sector firms to relocate asylum seekers into ‘safe environments’ have been widely criticized, particularly for the difficulties in maintaining physical distancing in new crowded, shared spaces thus increasing the risks of exposure to Covid-19.

Organisations and stakeholders representing asylum seekers have reported the fear and distress that this move has caused for asylum seekers.

Well-publicized incidents of violence and suicide by asylum seekers and refugees in Glasgow hotels last year have illustrated the added pressures facing private firms who are responsible for their re-housing to implement more protocols to ensure duty of care.

In addition, this re-housing has also made it difficult for charities to provide support to affected individuals, who are moved often at short notice.

Statistical analysis has shown that BAME groups have been most affected by the Covid-19 outbreak in recent months. The role of housing vis-à-vis Covid-related risks is an area that has been identified as requiring attention in the UKRI’s call for research on BAME groups. Asylum seekers living in the UK in particular are one of the most marginalised groups in society, with most living in poverty, experiencing poor health with the pandemic placing them in one of the most at-risk groups.

The Edinburgh Napier study will adopt a digital ethnographic approach that is co-designed and co-produced with MORE (Migrants Organising for Rights and Empowerment), a grassroots migrant organisation run by people with experiences of asylum seeking, and the deliverables will be co-created with the partner organisation and migrant participants.

The year-long project will be headed by Dr Taulant Guma and his team includes Dr Gavin Maclean, and Dr Kiril Sharapov from the School of Applied Sciences; Dr Kirsten MacLeod from the School of Arts & Creative Industries; and Yvonne Blake and Robert Makutsa from MORE

The team will produce a social impact documentary, which will give a voice to asylum seekers’ experiences of housing during the Covid-19 pandemic in Glasgow.

“The film will have impact on several levels – through its process of production it will provide a space for dialogue and reflection allowing participants and community researchers to articulate and share the problems, issues and concerns they experience in what is an often lonely and hostile environment,” says Dr Guma.

“Our project will focus on this current and unfolding issue related to the provision of temporary accommodation for asylum seekers during the Covid-19 pandemic. It will examine what the situation is currently on the ground, how the crisis has accentuated the risk for those seeking asylum and develop responses with migrant communities to create a genuinely ‘safer environment’ for asylum seekers.”

The team’s key objectives are:

  • To identify factors and mechanisms which have placed asylum seekers living in temporary accommodation at greater risk of Covid-19 during this crisis.
  • To document the housing conditions and understand the impact of relocation from the perspectives and experiences of asylum seekers themselves.
  • To work with grassroots community groups to influence government policies and practices on asylum accommodation in order to address the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on those seeking asylum.
  • To influence media and public debate and raise awareness about the issues and challenges faced by asylum seekers and refugees living in the UK.

For further information on this project contact T.Guma@napier.ac.uk

Local Partnership Resilience in the Covid-19 Pandemic

Deprivation, addictions and (re)offending are complex social problems. As such, it is recognised that it lies beyond the power of any single organisation to deal with them effectively, and partnership between different agencies ­- including the NHS, local authorities and charities – is key to addressing and resolving them.

But such integrated response has been impacted by the restrictions of lockdown and Covid.

Now a project, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) rapid response to COVID-19, will investigate local partnership resilience. The Principal Investigator is Dr Jamie Buchan, Lecturer in Criminology at the School of Applied Sciences.

Jamie Buchan, Principal Investigator
The Principal Investigator is Dr Jamie Buchan from Edinburgh Napier University

In Scotland, local government has historically been more autonomous, relative to central government, than in England and Wales. The 2007-8 financial crisis and post-2010 austerity policies have seriously reduced budgets available for services in local areas. Scotland’s response has been to promote better partnership working between agencies in local areas, and reorient services towards prevention rather than response to adverse outcomes, to maintain the levels of service where possible while saving money.

Partnership and the ‘prevention principle’ were enshrined in the Christie Commission’s Report on the Future Delivery of Public Services, which makes Scotland a particularly fruitful area for the social study of local partnership arrangements.

The research team, which includes Andrew Wooff and Katrina Morrison, both colleagues from SAS, with support from a new Research Assistant, Carmen Nogales, will look at the operation of formal partnership arrangements in Scotland at the level of local authorities. These include Community Planning Partnerships, Community Justice/Reducing Reoffending Partnerships and Health and Social Care Partnerships.

Covid-19 and the associated lockdown have put huge strains on public services at this level, intensifying some social problems (e.g. isolation and domestic abuse) and putting extra strains on local authority funding in other ways. For instance, with very few people hiring venues, revenues fallen.

Not only that, but the actual ‘partnership work’ that goes on in such arrangements depends on clear lines of communication. The research team will look at evidence where local partnerships have risen to the challenges to overcome bureaucratic hurdles and develop innovative approaches to longstanding social problems. For example, street homelessness was dramatically reduced in the summer of 2020 as a result of local authorities and other organisations working together.

The team will also explore whether partnership work in other areas has been compromised or hindered by the pandemic, for example where regular in-person meetings have had to be replaced by virtual meetings.

“We are keen to identify policy lessons for local partnerships in the wider UK and beyond, and our intended outputs are very much geared towards this,” says Dr Buchan.

“The project will begin with an online survey of all Scottish local authorities, to gauge views generally and identify particular areas of concern and interest. This will be used to shape the second stage of the project, which will comprise in-depth interviews with personnel in a few Scottish local authorities. In this way we aim to be both ‘wide and deep’ in our approach.

“The aim is to understand how Covid-19 has impacted on local partnership arrangements, but also to identify examples of good and innovative adaptations to maintain partnership working and community resilience through the pandemic.”

The team’s research questions are:

    • 1. How has Covid-19 affected Scottish local partnership arrangements, in the short and medium term?
    • 2. How has Covid-19 affected efforts to implement the recommendations of the Christie Commission (particularly the prevention principle) in Scottish local government?
    • 3. How have Scottish local partnerships changed their practices to meet the challenge of the pandemic, and how can any progress be built upon?
    • 4. What are the implications of these for existing social inequalities?
    • 5. What are the potential lessons for other countries, particularly in terms of local partnership responses to crises?

For further information on the research programme contact j.buchan@napier.ac.uk