Researchers call for compulsory training for all Police Scotland officers

Police officers across Scotland should carry naloxone, an emergency treatment for drug overdoses, a new report has recommended.

An Edinburgh Napier University-led study backed the use of the nasal spray, which counters the effects of overdose from opioids such as heroin, following an independent evaluation of a pilot carried out between March and October last year.

The researchers also called for naloxone training to be made compulsory for all Police Scotland officers and staff.

Supporters believe naloxone is an important tool in tackling Scotland’s drug-related deaths crisis, by providing immediate first aid while waiting for the ambulance service to arrive and take over emergency medical treatment.

In response to the increasing drugs death toll, and the recommendation of the country’s Drug Deaths Taskforce, Police Scotland began a pilot project to test the carriage and administration of the treatment by officers.

Last year’s trial was initially launched in Falkirk, Dundee and Glasgow East before being extended to include Caithness and Glasgow custody and Stirling community police officers.

Naloxone packs were used 51 times in the course of the pilot, and by the end 808 officers had been trained in their use, representing 87 per cent of the workforce in the pilot areas.

A team led by Dr Peter Hillen and advised by Dr Andrew McAuley of Glasgow Caledonian University assessed the attitudes and experiences of police officers, the effectiveness of their naloxone training and responses from people who use drugs and support services.

A total of 346 police officers completed questionnaires, with 41 taking part in interviews or focus groups, and further interviews were carried out with people who use drugs, family members, support workers and key stakeholders.

A majority of officers who participated in an interview or focus group were supportive of the pilot and its roll out across Scotland. Thirteen interviewees had personally administered naloxone, some on several occasions, and officers reported very positive experiences of naloxone being used effectively to save people’s lives.

While some officers considered carrying naloxone would lead to greater reliance on police by ambulance services, police overwhelmingly said that preserving life was the top priority.

Community stakeholders who were interviewed were supportive of the pilot as part of a range of initiatives to tackle the drug deaths crisis.

The study recommended that police carrying naloxone should be rolled out Scotland-wide, and that it should also be placed within police cars and custody suites to widen access.

As well as compulsory naloxone training for all police staff, the report urged consideration be given to measures to further address stigmatising attitudes towards people who use drugs.

It also recommended that officers be given ‘unambiguous information’ about their legal position if they administer the emergency treatment.

Professor Nadine Dougall, pictured, one of the team’s co-investigators, said: “Our evaluation has shown that there is significant potential benefit in training and equipping police officers with naloxone nasal spray as part of emergency first aid until ambulance support arrives.

“Many police officers told us they are often the first to attend people who have overdosed, and they greatly valued the potential to save lives in this way. People with personal experience of overdose also agreed naloxone should be carried by police officers but were keen to stress that naloxone was only a part of a solution to address drug-related deaths.”

Newly Recruited Research Fellow – Estelle Clayton – Completes the INTERACT Team

The team of INTERACT is now complete. And the researchers are very excited to start working on the project that will lay down the foundation for policy and best practice in ‘technologically-mediated’ policing, creating a safer and fairer future for all of us.

INTERACT – Investigating New Types of Engagement, Response And Contact Technology – is a large Economic and Social Research Council funded collaborative project nested at Edinburgh Napier University. Using mixed methods research, this holistic study aims to explore the perspectives of police senior leadership and staff, police officers, and members of the public to gain an in-depth understanding of stakeholders’ experiences and views on using technology when interacting with one another. The data will allow the group to make valuable recommendations for policy to impact future best practices.

The research began last year when Dr Liz Aston, Associate Professor of Criminology at Edinburgh Napier University and Director of the Scottish Institute for Policing Research (SIPR) was appointed as Principal Investigator of the project. ENU partnered with the University of Dundee from Scotland as well as Keele University and University College London from England.

The first six months were spent establishing partnerships with police forces, where the research could be conducted, and recruiting the ideal candidates for the team from all four institutions. Recent PhD candidate, Estelle Clayton, from the University of Dundee completed the group in December.

Born in Manchester, Estelle moved to Scotland in 2008 to study Philosophy as an undergraduate degree at the University of St Andrews. She continued her studies at the University of Edinburgh with a Master of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice. Estelle then proceeded to do a PhD, her research entitled, Stop and Search Scotland: An Analysis of Police Practice and Culture in a Time of Change.

Estelle is immensely interested in how policing works – what officers do, how they perceive their role and how that influences their behaviour. She is curious about the ways such insights can be used for policymaking to improve the experiences of the Police and the public when interacting with each other. Naturally, she is very excited to be part of the INTERACT team and to have the opportunity to work with Dr Liz Aston among other experts from the field.

Now that the team is complete, and the research is entering its second phase, Estelle will spend the next six months interviewing members of the senior leadership of Police Scotland to understand how decisions about the use of technology are made, and what aims and objectives they have. She will equally interview staff members who use technology daily, investigating how they deal with it and what they would improve on it. The same research will be simultaneously undertaken in England by the Research Fellow from Keele University, Dr Will Andrews.

Following this period, as the research enters its third phase, Estelle will join police officers in the field to observe real-time interactions with the public mediated by technology. She will conduct follow-up interviews and focus groups with officers and civilians, as well as two communities of interest, to explore their views and experiences as well.

The study, which is scheduled to finish in September 2024, will have the research team working on the publication in its last phase. The group will present recommendations based on the findings to support policymakers in establishing guidelines around the use of technology to benefit all stakeholders involved in Police-public interactions.

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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 New Types of Engagement, Response  And Contact Technology  in Policing 

Caption: The public is increasingly likely to encounter police in ways that are ‘technologically-mediated’.

 A major new research project will examine how police-public engagement is being changed by the use of new technologies. 

Over recent years, the ways in which members of the public can contact the police have undergone significant changes. As a result, the public is increasingly likely to encounter police in ways that are ‘technologically-mediated’  by new communication technologies; such as online reporting of crimes and answering of queries, body worn video cameras, mobile data terminals, and the use of social media accounts.  

Now, Dr Liz Aston, Associate Professor of Criminology at Edinburgh Napier University and Director of the Scottish Institute for Policing Research (SIPR), is to be the Principal Investigator leading an £862,000 Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)-funded programme to explore experiences and understanding of such technologicallymediated ‘ contact.  

Over the next three years, INTERACT – Investigating New Types of Engagement, Response And Contact Technology – will consider the perspectives of both police and publicThe study will consider ways in which the police can and should design their systems to better reflect people’s needs and expectations.  

 We aim to shape policy and practice, with a view to improving service provision,” says Dr Aston. She will be working with Dr Helen Wells from Keele University, Dr Megan O’Neill of Dundee University, and Prof Ben Bradford at University College London (UCL); as well as new Researchers, funded by the ESRC, who will be based at Edinburgh Napier, Keele and UCL We will be working closely with three police forces, and with various communities in each, as well as with national policing organisations.” 

 INTERACT represents a significant opportunity to impact the landscape of policing policy and practice nationally and internationally 

Our findings should directly and positively influence what the police do, and what the public are able to do to access police services,” adds Dr Aston. 

In the UK, the National Police Chiefs’ Council believes the public expects policing to join other services ‘online’, but while attention is being paid to what technology can do, for the police in particular, the public side of this encounter has barely been considered.  

 “Online reporting may appeal to some people, or be particularly useful for some crime types,” the team explains, but we do not know enough about how people experience these types of interactions to be confident that they will be of benefit to everyone, in all circumstances.  

 We also do not know if and how these developments might affect the way people feel about the police and what they do. We know that when people interact with officers they come to conclusions about the trustworthiness and legitimacy of police. But this knowledge is based on research which assumes that most or all contact between the public and police happens face-to-face, as it has done for decades. Given that this situation is changing, it is important that we reconsider our theories of public trust and police legitimacy, and if they are both fit for purpose in the current environment and are future-proof against new developments. 

 Research will also consider what it means for the police to be ‘visible’ and ‘accessible’ in a digital age and assess how the public feel about the different ways the police can be seen and contacted.  

 Using a variety of methods our research will develop understandings of police legitimacy in changing times and allow us to recommend ways for the police to stay legitimate in the eyes of the public in the 21st century. 

 For further information please contact: 

l.aston@napier.ac.uk 

Dr Liz Aston
Dr Liz Aston, Associate Professor, Criminology

Scottish Government appoints Dr Liz Aston to chair new IAG on policing

The Justice Secretary, Hamza Yousef, has invited Dr Liz Aston, Associate Professor of Criminology at Edinburgh Napier, to chair a new Independent Advisory Group on New and Emerging Technologies in Policing.

The IAG is being established to report on whether current legal or ethical frameworks need to be updated in order to ensure Police Scotland’s use of emerging technologies in relation to operational policing is compatible with human rights legislation and best practice.

Dr Aston has an outstanding record of collaborative research on policing both in Scotland and in Europe, including involvement in major international projects on community policing and stop and search.

Since 2018 she has been Director of the Scottish Institute for Policing Research, a strategic collaboration between the Police Service of Scotland and 14 of Scotland’s universities. It offers a range of opportunities for relevant, applicable research to help the police meet the challenges of the 21st century, several of which are outlined in its latest annual report.

Dr Aston’s latest appointment follows her recent role as chair of the Police Scotland External Reference Group on Cyber Kiosks (digital triage devices), which ended in December 2019. She also participated in Unity – an Horizon 2020 EC-funded project on community policing. It explored the use of technology to enhance communication with the public, with Dr Aston acting as co-lead for the Ethical, Legal and Social Implications work package.

In 2019, Dr Aston delivered the keynote address at the Centre for Policing and Security’s 30th Anniversary Conference on Technology and Legitimacy in Policing, speaking on Street Policing in Smart Societies.

Last year she also directed the Scottish International Policing Conference on Digital Policing and Technology.

Her latest appointment will see the delivery, by early 2022, of a report to the Justice Secretary including specific recommendations or concrete products (such as a code of practice) to address any identified issues with new and emerging technologies.