Preserving the scene of crime

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first_img Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos. Alost shred of evidence can spell disaster for a police investigation.  We report on the force using e-learning tohelp beat crime.  By Sue WeekesCrimedetection is a team effort – not how it is portrayed on the TV, with a singledetective solving the case in the time it takes for the kettle to boil,”says Stuart Brown, force forensic trainer at Leicestershire Constabulary.”Everybody in our organisation has to know what part they play for therest of the team to be successful.” Asin any organisation, the ability to be a fully functional team player relies onhaving had the right training for the job. And in the area of forensicinvestigation, training must leave no stone unturned – literally. Which is whyall Leicestershire Constabulary police officers go through an in-depthprogramme of training on forensic awareness when they join the force. Thisinvolves going out to real-life crime scenes to see a forensic investigation asit happens, as well as classroom components.Thecomplexities and intricacies of forensic science, however, mean that amechanism must also be in place to ensure knowledge levels are topped up at alltimes. “Wewere aware that the potential for increasing our crime detections existedthough improved crime scene preservation in the light of advances in forensicscience,” says Brown, a former assistant senior scene of crime officer. “Thepublic deserve to have a police force that is fully functional in a wide rangeof duties and which remains highly visible. Our aim was to produce a usefulpoint of information and learning while causing minimal disruption to policeduties. We decided to develop a training application that would support policeofficers and key personnel to provide the information they need 24 hours aday.” Brownbelieved that the best vehicle for delivering ‘any time, anywhere’ training wasvia the force intranet, and 18 months ago Leicestershire Constabulary set upan  internal website. Following itssuccess, and funding from the Home Office, it turned to training providerKnowledgePool to help develop it into a full-blown training application. Thetraining tool was aimed not just at police officers who are first at the sceneof a crime, but also for those taking the initial details at the call centres – which include a large numberof civilian support staff. They are the first point of contact for anyonereporting a crime.Identifyingand preserving any evidence at the earliest possible stage is key to any policeinvestigation and this often begins with that first telephone report of thecrime. Losing a vital piece of evidence because it has been contaminated –albeit innocently – by a member of the public at the crime scene, can make thedifference between catching a criminal or not. “Bothgroups are key to ensuring evidence isn’t lost to weather or interference frompeople touching or trampling over the scene. They can preserve the crime scenefor scene examiners by giving the correct advice or taking the correct stepswhen they visit,” explains Brown. “This gives the scene of crimeofficers  – the collectors of forensicevidence who you normally see at the sharp end in the media – a chance offinding evidence in a more recoverable state when they visit, and consequently,more detections.” Thetraining application needed to run on Leicestershire Constabulary’s existingintranet hardware and had to be a low bandwidth solution that could be accessedfrom any location. It asked KnowledgePool for two versions: one that wasinstalled to run over the intranet that could be accessed on any terminal atany police station within Leicestershire, and a standalone CD-Rom version thatcould be taken anywhere and loaded on to a laptop.Theapplication takes a highly visual approach and has the look and feel of awebsite rather than a traditional, linear e-learning course. It is based on aseries of simu- lations of real-life crime scenes broken up into threedigestible modules, which encourage learners to search for relevant informationin pictures, and presents them with fact files on that subject. Athree-question test at the end of each simulation assesses the learner’sunderstanding of that area before they move on to the next module. “Theclient had existing courseware and we followed that style. They had a good ideaof what they wanted and were keen to embrace the technology, so they were veryeasy to work with,” says Saul Treherne, a bespoke e-learning consultant atKnowledgePool.Thethree modules are based on simulations of a burglary scene, a stolen car, and aprisoner brought into custody, who the police are trying to forensically linkto a crime. A learner can click on some blood on a curtain, for instance, and abox will appear with a whole page of information on blood and DNA.Brownand colleagues in the Scientific Support Department wrote all the material.”We had a mass of information that already existed, so we had to gothrough and prune it down because the training is intended to be veryvisual,” he says. “Thenwe’d send it to the scriptwriters at KnowledgePool who would prune it somemore. We’d then amend it when it came back to us, and sometimes pages werebeing passed to and fro eight or nine times before the information conveyed theright message exactly as we wanted it. It was a steep learning curve for us –and probably for them as well.” Feedbackhas been extremely positive so far, says Brown, with users enjoying theprogramme’s  accessibility. “Ifthey have a quiet night shift at the station, for instance  – not that you get many of those – they canlog on and do some training.” Thestructure also enables users to quickly check certain forensic factsimmediately before attending a crime scene.LeicestershireConstabulary is less concerned about financial return on investment and moreinterested in the effectiveness of the training to help solve crimes. “Ouraim is for the training to deliver preserved and uncontaminated crime scenes.Police officers and support staff are noticeably becoming more forensicallyaware and crime detections through forensic science are increasing,” saysBrown.Healso acknowledges that the tool gives them a training solution with a cheapercost per head than the classroom. “Wehave 2,000 police personnel within Leicestershire Constabulary and thisapplication gives us the flexibility to deliver our training consistently atany time, anywhere, within the force.”Asa result of the e-learning programme, KnowledgePool has a reseller agreementwith Leicestershire Police and other forces have shown considerable interest init. Leicestershire Constabulary, meanwhile, will continue to develop itsapplications. “Weare a progressive force. Our plans are to simply look at what we have and seeif it can be improved,” says Brown. “Ourtraining programme will be measured by improved performance and knowledge. Wewill certainly consider e-learning again to complement other means if we feltit suitably met the training needs of a busy police officer.”InsummaryDissecting the reasons for programmeLeicestershireConstabulary’s aim To provide a supporting training application forforensic science that is available to police officers and civilian supportstaff 24-hours a day.Why?It is vital for every scrap of crime scene evidence to be detected andpreserved at the earliest possible stage. The police officers and station staffwho have first contact with the members of the public reporting the crime –whether it is on the phone or at the crime scene –  are key personnel in the detection and preservation of suchevidence. Ise-learning delivering? Feedback has been positive from the learners andother police constabularies have expressed an interest in the training. Policeofficers and support staff are noticeably becoming more forensically aware andcrime detections through forensic science are on the increase.Toptips to win success LeicestershireConstabulary’s top tips for e-learning are:–Be clear about  what you want for yourlearners – you know them best, and you are paying–Be clear about what the e-learning writers want from you, such as format andword count–Remember that learners like realistic themes and photographs Preserving the scene of crimeOn 1 Apr 2003 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. last_img

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