The Scottish Institute for Policing Research (SIPR) is a collaborative organisation which brings together 15 Scottish Universities, as well as Police Scotland and The Scottish Police Authority, whose aim is to ‘support internationally excellent, multi-disciplinary policing research to enable evidence-informed policy & practice.’
Edinburgh Napier’s Contribution to the SIPR Annual report demonstrates the outstanding and sheer volume of work and dedication that has gone into this area of research from academics within the university, with our very own Professor Liz Aston leading the research institute.
Some of the work in this year’s report includes examples of the kind of collaboration carried out, including knowledge and exchange events, which has contributed to organisational learning, such as hosting Norwegian Police.
Our ENU head of Social Sciences, Dr Andrew Wooff, now an incoming Associate Director of SIPR is co-lead of the Education and Leadership network. Indeed, he also co-wrote a report with Drs Shane Horgan and Andy Tatnell; ‘Pluralised responses to policing the pandemic: analysing the emergence of informal order maintenance strategies, the changing of ‘policing web’, and the impacts of COVID19 in rural communities.’
Dr Jennifer Murray collaborated on an engaging report on the ‘Estimation of risk for missing individuals: Development of an empirical risk assessment and decision support tool for missing person investigations’ and as well as this, our Edinburgh Napier Carnegie grant PhD scholar, Abigail Cunningham delivered research on ‘Encountering policing – a dialogic exploration of Scottish Pakistanis’ experience of ‘policing.’
Edinburgh Napier also leads The Scottish Centre for Policing and Public health, with Prof Nadine Dougall and Drs Inga Heyman, Andrew Tatnell and Andrew Wooff contributing ‘How cross-service collaboration can improve community safety and wellbeing – a systematic review and case study of a community hub intervention’, again showing the range of multi-disciplinary research submitted to the report.
Furthermore, Dr Shane Horgan collaborated on a report titled: ‘Influence Policing’ which looked at contemporary issues with targeted communication campaigns.
There was much more submitted by our Edinburgh Napier SIPR academics, and you can read the full annual report here: SIPR-Annual-report-2023.pdf
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.”
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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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.
This blog is reproduced with permission and was originally published by the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR) www.sccjr.ac.uk
Dramatic changes to people’s lives globally, resulting from COVID-19, are having an impact on crime and the criminal justice system (CJS). As the police are the gatekeepers to the CJS it is important to consider the implications for policing. These sweeping societal changes shed light on a number of key aspects of policing, and provide an opportunity for police to enhance public confidence and legitimacy – or indeed to erode it.
Maintaining and protecting the ‘thin blue line’
Given that one of the central functions of the police is to maintain public order, a key issue is how to resource the ‘thin blue line’. Sickness absence during a pandemic presents a challenge, particularly given a backdrop of austerity where officer numbers have been dramatically reduced (especially in England). One of the key concerns for police unions has been protecting the safety of the workforce e.g. through appropriate PPE. Union action is important, particularly given police don’t have a right to strike, and securing workers’ rights is not just the right thing to do for the police workforce, it’s also important in order to protect the public.
New emergency public health legislation
A fundamental issue with introducing new legislation in a rushed manner is the potential for governments to take advantage of the situation. It’s important to ensure that these powers are for as short a time span as possible, so restrictive emergency powers can’t be used once the crisis has passed. However, it’s important to note that new police practices have been introduced in order to enforce public health measures brought in by government. A public health approach is not unfamiliar territory for policing, and indeed in Scotland enhancing the safety and wellbeing of communities is enshrined in legislation as a core purpose of policing
A tricky aspect for police practice has been the difference between government guidance around social distancing, and the legislation and what can be enforced. Also, public understanding of government guidance may be confused, particularly given variations at a local, national and UK level, so this is a challenge for police in Scotland. Clarity in communication is central to compliance, and to reducing calls to the police seeking clarification.
Police powers and human rights
A fundamental concern with police powers is always the balance with human rights and, as with stop and search, between securing public safety and individual rights and freedoms. This comes into renewed focus when new legislation opens up the likelihood of a wider spectrum of society to being policed in this way. People tend to be more bothered when it’s something they might experience, rather than the policing of ‘the other’. Given the implications of lockdown will vary depending on people’s situations, and will be layered with inequality, this will impact on the likelihood of being policed. Various debates have emerged regarding differential enforcement, the use of ‘spit hoods’, and Fixed Penalty Notices.
That said compliance has generally been high. It’s important to acknowledge that the intended approach taken by the police has been to engage, and only enforce as a last resort. This is a good thing given that engagement approaches are connected with public confidence.
Public confidence and governance
Why is public confidence in policing important? The CJS relies on people coming forward as a victim or witness, and we know that people are unlikely to share information if they do not have confidence in the police. We also know from the extensive procedural justice literature that how people feel they have been treated in an encounter with the police has an impact on cooperation and compliance. Increasingly, the ways in which people are making contact with the police are becoming technologically-mediated (e.g. via online reporting or social media) but we don’t know what impact this has on legitimacy.
Given the concerns raised above, the governance of these new police powers is important. Mechanisms could include internal governance, making police data publically available, external oversight bodies, civil society organisations, and judicial remedies. In Scotland a new Independent Advisory Group has been set up to review the police use of temporary powers.
Changing crime patterns will have an impact on policing demand and require strong communication from police to increase public awareness (e.g. cyber security) and encourage victims to come forward (eg. domestic abuse). Whilst it is unclear how things will unfold over the coming months it is likely that policing will need to respond to variations in social distancing guidance and compliance. Trust in government decisions, as well as in the police, will be important in encouraging compliance. Indeed it may be that action will be taken to hold governments to account for failures to deal appropriately with the pandemic. There is also potential for social unrest and protests associated with an economic downturn. Policing organisations will need to take very seriously their commitment to the well-being of their workers, who are policing in a stressful context. It’s also important for police organisations to engage and listen to frontline views.
In these extraordinary times governments and police in some jurisdictions will take the opportunity to introduce coercive powers and surveillance measures. Indeed it would be a shame to let a good crisis go to waste -but this should involve taking brave and progressive action. For example, with a pandemic layered on top of a drug related death epidemic, it would be worth introducing safe prescribing and diversion for drug possession. There is also an opportunity for the police to take action which enhances public confidence.
Dr. Liz Aston is Director of Scottish Institute for Policing Research (SIPR) and Associate Professor of Criminology, Edinburgh Napier University, firstname.lastname@example.org, @AstonLiz