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Enhancing the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Firearm Evidence Recovery Processes

Yare, Lauren, BOLTON-KING, Rachel and Woodhead, Matthew (2020) Enhancing the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Firearm Evidence Recovery Processes. Research report for external body. Staffordshire University, Stoke-on-Trent.

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Abstract or description

Over the last 10 years there has been an increasing need to bring policing and forensic provision closer together with increasing value on forensic-led intelligence to enhance the detection, reduction and prevention of violent crime in communities. Whilst the UK has comparatively low gun crime compared to other countries, and Staffordshire has an even smaller number of reported firearm discharges, Staffordshire contains key commuter routes between three of the higher gun crime forces in England; West Midlands, Greater Manchester
and Merseyside. In addition, firearm discharges and reported incidents account for only a small proportion of firearm-related offences that may be occurring within the region and as a result, there is the potential for missed opportunities to gather information, intelligence and forensic evidence to initiate, investigate and prosecute criminal activity both regionally and nationally.
The National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS) have a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in operation with all UK police forces, including Staffordshire Police. This service level agreement has been established to provide police forces and therefore local communities with
intelligence and evidence to connect firearm incidents and identify emerging threats in a timely
manner. By the nature of the volume of offences and the potential impact on Force resources
and their communities, it is likely that regions with higher gun crime may receive greater
support and training than those with lower gun crime, such as Staffordshire. In 2019, a review
was initiated by NABIS with individual Forces investigating whether there were any firearm related items in police property stores that should have been submitted to NABIS; two such items were found for Staffordshire Police.
This research therefore aimed to support both Staffordshire Police and NABIS by exploring
whether there were opportunities to further improve the efficiency, quality and timeliness of
firearm-related evidence recovery and submission to NABIS in continued support of the
existing MoU. The ultimate objective was to propose key recommendations and/or a model
of best practice for implementation by Staffordshire Police and/or NABIS.
Data was collected from staff employed by both Staffordshire Police and NABIS through an
electronic questionnaire and/or audio recorded and subsequently transcribed interview.
Questionnaires were collected from 18 police officers, PCSOs (police community support
officers) and armed response officers to understand their level of experience in handling,
recovering and/or submitting firearm-related items. Interviews were conducted with 12
employees who have direct experience of working in the recovery and submission workflow.
The Force’s forensic science provider (FSP) was approached, but unfortunately no response
was received during the timeframe.
Although this study was only able to collect a relatively small dataset, an important overarching
theme emerged; a limitation and inconsistency in participants’ knowledge and understanding
of firearm-related evidence, and their associated recovery and submission procedures. For
example, in participants’ awareness and understanding of the types of firearm evidence that
may exist, and the term ‘firearm evidence’ typically caused participants to focus on firearms in
their responses rather than the wider definition provided by the researchers. There was also
some misunderstanding of the term ‘ballistic material’, ‘blank firer’ and ‘imitation firearm’, which
highlights relatively basic gaps in knowledge and the potential for misunderstanding when
applying or interpreting terminology used by non-experts.
Whilst participants were typically happy with the existing workflow overall, they did identify
several barriers and challenges they believe are inhibiting efficiency and effectiveness:
• Awareness of the diversity of firearm-related evidence across all illicit firearm activities,
for example the clandestine manufacturing of firearms and ammunition.
• Confidence in the handling and recovery procedures for all forms of firearm evidence.
• Correct operation of Niche in fulfilment of the participants’ duties.
• Awareness of all actors in the workflow, and these actors’ roles and responsibilities.
• Authorised firearm officers (AFOs) being the only personnel authorised to transport
and make firearms safe.
• Confusion in completing the paperwork associated with firearm evidence.
• Understanding of terminology and criteria specified in the MoU Appendices for the
accurate registration and submission of evidence.
• Application of the registration and submission criteria and procedures to ensure items
are sent appropriately to the FSP and/or NABIS.
• Awareness of the NABIS property store review and the recommendations produced
by Staffordshire Police in 2019.
• Awareness of firearm-related intelligence and the value this has on investigations and
crime reduction.
The main purpose of this report is therefore to provide senior leaders and relevant
stakeholders an insight into the current state of play and increase the evidence base on which
to inform future changes to policy, process and/or practice. The researchers recognise that
Staffordshire Police has been and continues to go through significant change, and they fully
appreciate it can take considerable time for any recommendations to be considered and
implemented. However, several recommendations have been proposed for consideration
(further detailed in section 4.2), which if implemented could begin to address the potential
barriers and knowledge gaps that have emerged from this research:
1. Seek funding to develop a range of co-created, interdisciplinary and accessible training
materials for all stakeholders to improve the awareness and confidence of all actors in
each stage of the workflow.
2. Reduce the duration and frequency of time delays within the workflow by providing:
refresher training on Niche; reconsidering roles and responsibilities of AFOs and
forensic investigators; appointing a lead SPoC and a small number of deputies;
creating visual representations summarising the NABIS registration and submission
criteria; and increasing the frequency of courier pickups from Staffordshire Police, for
3. Provide feedback between sequential actors within the workflow, notably reporting
outcomes of forensic analysis to forensic submission units and potentially crime scene
units to support internal evaluation and future improvement.
4. Continue to explore the viability and sustainability of establishing a one-stop-shop
model to streamline the firearm-related evidence workflow between law enforcement,
FSPs and/or NABIS, but also healthcare professionals such as forensic medical
officers, surgeons and pathologists.
It is also important to appreciate that these findings are not isolated within Staffordshire Police.
Similar views are being aired throughout policing and forensic organisations both nationally
and internationally. In particular, it has been recognised that forensic-led intelligence has been
and still is underutilised in law enforcement. Thus, there is an increasing need to focus on
gathering accurate and consistent data, and enhancing the use of crime gun intelligence for
example, both within and between regional, national and international law enforcement

Item Type: Monograph or Report (Research report for external body)
Uncontrolled Keywords: firearm evidence; forensic science; policing; forensic ballistics; intelligence; firearms; ammunition
Faculty: School of Law, Policing and Forensics > Criminal Justice and Forensic Science
Depositing User: Rachel BOLTON-KING
Date Deposited: 05 Jan 2021 15:12
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2023 14:00
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