Research Activities

SIPR Small Grants - 2015 Awards

Creating a Proficiency Scale for Scene Examination in Scotland

The project aims to build on existing work and partnership with SPA Forensic Services completed under externally funded projects on Accelerating Professional Judgement and Decision Making (PJDM) Expertise in Scene Examination. The objective of the proposed project is to create a proficiency scale for Scene Examination in Scotland. Proficiency scaling is the attempt to forge a domain and organisation appropriate scale for distinguishing levels of proficiency (Hoffman et al., 2014). This approach has been widely used, for example in Navy and Air Force Weather Forecasting, with consequent significant contributions to performance and evaluation in the various domains/professions. Existing data will be considered alongside additional information collected in this new project to create a proficiency scale for Scene Examination in Scotland. This will increase our understanding of the different levels of reasoning and knowledge that underpin effective decision making in Scene Examination, and aid in the design of systems and structures to effectively evaluate and develop high proficiency.

KE workshops to establish the current state of RNA profiling research

In line with SPA Forensic Services' strategic research priorities (Priority 2a, 'Cell type identification using RNA), we are proposing a series of knowledge exchange workshops, bringing together national and international experts to establish the current state of RNA profiling research, the barriers to widespread implementation of RNA profiling in Scottish forensic casework, and the work that needs to be done to overcome these barriers. The project will take the form of three workshops, the first two of which will be scientific in nature, to familiarise SPA scientists with the basic principles and practical techniques of RNA profiling, and the most up-to-date research in the field. The final workshop will then bridge the gap between the scientific aspects of RNA profiling and its potential use in court, by considering the evaluation and interpretation of this promising new evidence type. We will bring together academic researchers, practitioners, evidence evaluation specialists and accreditation bodies, essentially forming a 'Scottish Working Group on RNA Profiling'. This will promote knowledge exchange among the different agencies with regard to the potential of RNA profiling and its limitations, with the ultimate aim of identifying research and development priorities for the implementation of RNA profiling in SPA Forensic Services' laboratories.

Partners in scrutiny: investigating local policing arrangements in Scotland

The proposed research has been developed through ongoing work and collaboration with the SPA. It will investigate scrutiny arrangements for local policing in Scotland against the current background of wider interest in local policing matters (e.g. the Local Policing Summit) and community empowerment more generally.

The research will:

  • Map emergent local policing scrutiny arrangements across Scotland;
  • Examine in more detail examples of how Local Scrutiny Committees (and, potentially, other local approaches uncovered by the research) are constituted, organised and work, internally and with partners; and
  • Investigate how effectively these emergent arrangements are working to support the SPA in its scrutiny responsibilities.

Collaboration will be further embedded in the project through active use of an advisory board of key stakeholders at both the outset of the project (to refine the research questions to ensure relevance) and towards its conclusion (to ensure that practitioner feedback informs the writing, dissemination and potential legacy of the project). Additional collaborators that will be sought include Police Scotland, The Scottish Government, HMICS and CoSLA.

Investigating code 52 special bail visits for domestic abuse perpetrators: impact of the service

In 2013-2014 special bail (including a code 52 visit) was granted to 6005 of those who went to court as domestic abuse perpetrators. This meant that two police officers conducted three random code 52 visits in four weeks to check that the perpetrators were meeting their bail conditions. The frequency/ timing of these bail visits have never been researched and there is no evidence that indicates the optimum number, the type or the impact of the visit on recidivism.

However there is no standard recording method for the number of bail visits (breaches are recorded as criminal offences). Bail visits ARE recorded but mostly on electronic spreadsheets held by Local Area Commanders (Chief Inspectors) as opposed to a single database. This research would be pump priming for a larger project investigating the impact of bail visits on all sexual crime offenders and would help create a consistent service for the victims and help protect them from any subsequent abuse.

After collating/analysing the compiled database, a checklist for the police would be developed to assess potential recidivism. This would be based on the impact of the visits on repetition of offences as assessed from the statistical evidence extracted from the database.

Enhancing Police Scotland's Response to Disability Hate Crime: the Dundee Safe Places Initiative

Tackling hate crime is a key priority for Police Scotland in 2015/16. Disability hate crimes have increased significantly in recent years. National and local initiatives by Police Scotland and partner agencies have raised awareness, yet levels of reporting remain low. The research will enhance the development of the 'Dundee Safe Places Initiative'; a network of 'safe places' and 'safe people' in the City Centre is being developed for people with learning disabilities and autism (most at risk of disability hate crime) to provide support and encourage reporting. The research will inform the development of the Initiative through the construction of a detailed, accessible digital map of learning disability hate crime, and spaces of safety and fear in the city. Further, it will assess the awareness, use and success of the Initiative amongst learning disabled people, community police officers, local businesses and organisations in the City Centre. Finally, it will actively disseminate the key project outcomes within Police Scotland and partner agencies to enhance best practice on multi-agency responses to disability and other hate crimes. The project is a collaboration between two academics, Police Scotland Tayside Division (Dundee) and Advocating Together, a learning disability charity based in Dundee.

Involving communities in designing local solutions to local problems: A trial of a deliberative approach to police-community engagement

This is a proposal to conduct an experimental, practical collaborative research project to trial an innovative approach to police-community engagement and evaluate its effectiveness as a tool for facilitating collaborative problem-solving between police, partners and the local community and the co-design of practical responses to those problems.

This project will trial an approach applied in other UK public services but never in policing in Scotland - using a 'mini public' at a local neighbourhood level in one urban and one rural community. The research design involves a mixed methods approach that will allow capture of a rich diversity of data, with a pragmatic appreciation of the limited time on a project of this scale.

Measuring risk and efficiency in Police Scotland custody settings

The proposed project seeks to establish baseline criteria that could be used to appraise the custody dimension of Police Scotland's activities. It comes at a time when Police Scotland are considering an internal reorganisation merging the hitherto separate management divisions for Custody and Criminal Justice. This process is due to conclude in June 2016 and the proposed study aims to provide an evidence base to inform this process by:

  • Independently evaluating and appraising what 'efficiency' (and the related matter of 'effectiveness') means in two contrasting Police Scotland custody environments (one urban and one rural).
  • Identifying ways of measuring efficiency (and potential metrics) to inform custody oversight within Police Scotland, with the potential for use by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) when inspecting custody provision.
  • Examining the issues and tensions arising from balancing efficiency against risk across different custody contexts, and for different stakeholders.

The absence of research evidence for such an important aspect of Police Scotland activity is striking hence the project aims to begin to address that with the clear intention of using this pilot study to establish the basis for a larger, externally funded, project as well as collaborative research studentships.