The police are being militarised – should we be worried?

Martin Innes writes for The Conversation

Faced by a wave of public concern, the Metropolitan Police has “paused” its planned trial of what it refers to as “spit guards”, but which journalists have dubbed “spit hoods”. These wire mesh devices are placed over the head of a detainee as part of physical restraint procedures to stop them spitting at officers and are already used by several UK police forces.

Some police officers support such equipment on the grounds that being spat at is deeply unpleasant, and in a small number of cases, can put them at risk of contracting diseases. But others worry about what this portends for the conduct of policing in the UK and its traditional ideals.

This is, after all, the latest in a series of recent measures altering how the police practise their legal powers to apply coercive force. For example, in response to an increased terror threat, a process is underway to “uplift” the number of armed police officers in London and across the country – with 1,500 new firearms officers promised for England and Wales – as well as a review of their tactics.

A procurement exercise is currently underway for the next generation of “conductive electric devices”, or “tasers”. And within policing circles a debate is ongoing about which officers should carry these “less than lethal weapons”, as currently not all do.

Appropriate force? Police during the 2010 student protests. Shutterstock

Alongside altering their equipment, police forces have been changing their officers’ look – foregoing the shirt and tunic of previous generations, for more functional dark shirts, cargo trousers, heavy boots and routinely issued stab vests. For officers in more specialist roles such as firearms and public order teams, these fashion trends are even more accentuated. Officers themselves describe it as dressing like a “ninja turtle”. The Metropolitan Police’s new anti-terror unit has a distinctly military look – with the hardware to match.

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Paid Research Placement available to Cardiff University Students, Summer 2016

The Impact of Crime Victimisation on Risk Perception

The Universities’ Police Science Institute (UPSI) is now part of the multidisciplinary Crime and Security Institute (CSI).  The Institute invites CUROP applicants to participate in an innovative programme of work: ‘Rethinking Crime Prevention’.  This work is being conducted as part of the College of Policing’s ‘What Works Centre for Crime Reduction’, a consortium led by the University College London.   The programme takes as its focus the impact of crime victimisation on risk perceptions and preventative behaviour and it utilises data collected by the Institute from a recent public engagement exercise.   This exercise used film narratives to explore the salience of crime prevention messages and the resultant evidence base is now being used to inform a crime prevention field trial in conjunction with the Metropolitan Police Service.

The main focus of this CUROP placement will be to support fieldwork and data collection during the field trial in June-July 2016.   This will cover both quantitative and qualitative methods and, whilst based at our offices in Cardiff, will necessitate some travel to London at key points of the research.

Applications are welcomed from the following academic backgrounds: Criminology, Social Science, Psychology and Political Science. We are looking for a candidate who:

  • Can demonstrable an interest in and/or substantive knowledge about crime prevention, communication methods or the victim experience.
  • Is computer literate, previous experience using Excel and SPSS is desirable.
  • Has good written and oral communication skills.
  • Has a proven ability to work as part of a team.
  • Is able to travel to London as required (travel and subsistence expenses will be met).
  • Has previous training and use of social research methods (desirable).
  • Has not previously participated in a CUROP placement.

The project will run for 8 weeks, with a proposed start week commencing 30th May 2016.  Project findings will be presented in a short report at the end of the placement that links to a number of academic literatures including behavioural economics, social science and psychology.

Students will be paid £200 p.w. (= £1600 total).

Application process and shortlisting

1.  Please write 300 words on why you would be a suitable candidate for this CUROP placement and why it would benefit you.

2. Attach a CV (maximum two pages) which includes: a breakdown of your individual marks on your modules to date; your contact details, and any relevant work or voluntary experience.

3. Submit both documents to by 6th May 2016.

4. Candidates will be notified by 13th May as to whether they have been shortlisted for interview.  Interviews will take place in the week commencing 16th May 2016.


After Paris: Why we need police to tackle the terrorists

The spies can't defeat extremist violence on their own

By Martin Innes for Prospect Magazine

David Cameron’s immediate response to the Paris terrorist attacks was to announce a significant rise in staffing and funding for the intelligence services, thus improving its capacity and capability to identify and understand the spectrum of terrorist risks.

But, crucial as it is, intelligence is not evidence. Intelligence cannot be used in courts to form the basis of a criminal case—and prosecution is the most effective way of preventing the development of long-term terrorist threats. A jailed terrorist is an inactive one. Funding the police, then, is not just a law and order issue. Police work is now central to Britain’s anti-terror effort.

The scale and intensity of the terrorist threat is increasing. Seven plots have been thwarted in Britain in the past 12 months, and over 3,000 individuals require active monitoring (up from 1,600 in 2006). British police are arresting at least one person per day under counter-terrorism legislation. There has also been huge growth in the volume of electronic communications that have to be monitored for intelligence purposes. So it is perhaps not surprising that, in the case of every recent major European terrorist attack, the assailants were already known to the intelligence agencies.

This has led to the increasing use of disruption as a tactic for neutralising terrorist threats. In policing and security agency parlance, disruption refers to operations designed to inhibit terrorist plots, often without seeking a legal prosecution, by for example, blocking terrorists’ access to resources, or simply by letting targets know that they are being watched. A counter-terrorism officer, whom I interviewed on the subject of the 2005 London bombings, described the potential utility of disruption to me, saying:

“There was a three-month window of opportunity before Sidique Khan and his comrades committed the attack… The reason the Service [MI5] said they weren’t pursuing them was because they weren’t high enough on the Intel radar. However, why didn’t we just send a couple of uniformed officers to knock on the door and say ‘Hi Mohammad, I’m from the counter-terrorism unit, we really need to have a chat.’ Very, very powerful, that.”

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Colin Roberts wins best paper at AGI Awards for Geospatial Excellence 2015

Colin Roberts wins The AGI Award for the Best Paper within the Event Programme for his presentation: Future Cities: Security, London - Will Smarter Cities Be Safer Cities?

The AGI awards recognise excellence and foster a spirit of innovation within the industry. The AGI Awards for Geospatial Excellence help to generate open and engaging competition which is relevant to all practitioners using location-based technologies and data.Providing a better insight into progress across the industry, and to support development of our professionals throughout their careers, each one of this year’s awards should inspire us to think about how we best approach and engage with the many challenges where we have the potential to impact, influence and help develop integrated and embedded solutions.  The winner from each category was announced and presented with their Award at the Annual Awards Ceremony on the 25th November 2015 at the Chesford Grange Hotel, Kenilworth.

For further information on the awards and winners click here

ESRC Article on Paris Attacks cites UPSI Research: Terror & the Impact of Social Media

Terror and the impact of social media

Friday's terror attacks in Paris received huge attention over social media. There has been an unprecedented expression of solidarity and sorrow over Twitter, Facebook and other platforms.

Research shows that social media are changing the way we relate to terror – both the attacks themselves and their aftermath. Attacks are having more widespread and longer-lasting impacts.

The ubiquity of smartphones means that terror attacks can almost be followed in real-time. One of the people trapped in the Bataclan concert venue during the Paris attacks described what was happening and pleaded for rescue. A video was posted online showing the moment the concert was interrupted by shooting.

Social media is changing the speed of how the public learns about terrorist attacks, and the way they react. The first information to the public about incidents is now likely to come through social media channels such as Twitter rather than through traditional news outlets.

The research project 'After Woolwich', led by Professor Martin Innes at Cardiff University, analysed social reactions to the 2013 murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich using social media data collected from Twitter, blogs and other sources. The data has enabled researchers to track how public perceptions evolved as key events occurred, from the crime scene through to the conclusion of the court case, to understand how public opinion is shaped and evolves throughout the events.

Findings confirmed that social media are becoming a key information source and increasingly important in influencing the public's understanding of terror attacks and what happens in the aftermath. There were in excess of 800 tweets a minute about the Lee Rigby murder at its peak.

This use of social media has implications for the first response by police to such attacks, with witnesses tweeting directly from the scene. The research suggests that there is a need to improve strategic communications capacity and capability in the initial response phase to inform the public about what is actually happening, in order to counteract rumours and conspiracy theories.

Not only first response strategies are needed. The rapid and wide reach of social media also means that the impacts of terrorist attacks on people and communities are becoming more widespread and longer-lasting – creating a need for management strategies encompassing different agencies that address the longer-term community impacts.

Click here for further reading


Dr Colin Roberts' paper 'Will Smarter Cities Be safer Cities?' nominated for AGI Award

Congratulations to UPSI’s Dr Colin Roberts, whose presentation “Will Smarter Cities Be safer Cities?” was voted favourite at the recent Geo Big 5 event: Future Cities. The paper has been nominated for The AGI Award for the Best Paper within the Event Programme and the overall winner of the award will be announced and presented at the Annual Awards Ceremony on the 25th November 2015.

The AGI Awards Ceremony is a prestigious event, which recognises the very best achievements in the field of Geographic information in the UK throughout the year.  The awards recognise excellence and foster a spirit of innovation within the industry.

His talk was based on the research to date on emerging vulnerabilities posed by the development of Smart Cities, carried out on behalf of the College of Policing 'What Works Centre for Crime Reduction’, which is jointly funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. The research seeks to synthesize the knowledge from a highly technical discourse provided by leading commercial, governmental, scientific and security professionals working on Smart Cities, and what this may mean for policing, crime and society in an accessible way. The presentation discussed the emerging risk profile; the cost, risk and benefits debate; trust and the Faustian pact between providers and users; governance and regulation; and the challenge of enabling society not disabling it.

For further information about the AGI Awards click here

Martin Innes quoted in The Economist: Britain’s separate police forces should make much better use of technology

BRITISH bobbies are looking rather blue these days. Their budget may be cut by as much as 25-40%. Crime has fallen, but officers’ workload has not. According to the Metropolitan Police some four-fifths of calls that they take are not to do with crime but require close attention even so. And those offences that have increased in frequency, such as domestic violence, need particularly careful handling. But whereas forces around the world make better use of technology, Britain’s lag behind.

America does better, says Martin Innes at Cardiff University, probably because it has to: the country has many small police forces that have needed to learn to share information.

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Job: Centre Manager, Crime and Security University Research Institute, Cardiff School of Social Sciences

The Crime and Security University Research Institute is seeking to recruit a Centre Manager. The Research Institute spans across three Colleges within Cardiff University, College of Biological and Life Sciences (BLS), College of Physical Sciences and Engineering (PSE), College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences (AHSS) and is headed by three Directors, one from each of the three colleges.

Over the past decade several of Cardiff University's research units have achieved international renown for their work across different areas relating to crime and security studies. With an interdisciplinary focus, the new Security and Crime Research Institute brings together this significant expertise from across the University's three colleges, drawing upon collective experience of crime, security and justice, as well as exploring new areas of expertise to complement the existing portfolio. Building upon existing external partnerships, including those with research collaborators such as IBM, South Wales Police, the College of Policing and Productive Margins, the research institute is committed to upholding a record of achieving real-world impact from our research findings.

The Centre Manager will be required to lead and manage the operational and administrative aspects of the Research Institute.

This position is fixed term for 5 years and is available immediately.

Salary: £39,685 - £45,954 per annum (Grade 7)

This is a full time position although consideration will be given to applicants wishing to work part-time with a minimum of 28 hours per week

Date advert posted: 24 September 2015

Closing date: Monday, 12 October 2015


Nesta Working Paper: ‘Soft Facts’ and Spontaneous Community Mobilisation: The Role of Rumour After Major Crime Events

Innovation charity Nesta has grant funded a number of research projects that explore two dimensions of how big and open data can be used for the common good. Firstly, how it can be used by charities to develop better products and services and secondly, how it can help those interested in civil society better understand social action and civil society activity. The Universities’ Police Science Institute (UPSI) is one of five organisations to receive funding under the scheme to explore how data–driven methods, such as open data analysis and social media analysis, can help us understand informal social action, often referred to as ‘below the radar activity’ in new ways.

The project brings together researchers from both UPSI and Cardiff’s School of Computer Sciences to examine how social media increasingly shapes and frames processes of community mobilisation following major crime events. In so doing, it illuminates social reactions that are frequently ‘seen but unnoticed’ in the aftermath of high profile crimes. Pivoting around several case studies of community mobilization in difficult and emotionally tense situations, the analysis distils some generalisable lessons about how social media are transforming the ways contemporary social life is organised.

The early results of the study have been published as a working paper Soft Facts’ and Spontaneous Community Mobilisation: The Role of Rumour After Major Crime Events written by Colin Roberts, Martin Innes, Alun Preece and Irena Spasic.

Click here to read the full paper

The Changing Face of Policing in Austerity and How ASB Victims are Increasingly Being Dealt With by PCSO’s

Researchers from the Universities’ Police Science Institute at Cardiff University have published findings from a study commissioned by Welsh Government to assess the impact of deploying an additional 500 Community Support Officers (CSOs) across Welsh Police forces. The study examines how police forces are using these CSOs to respond to the challenges of austerity and reductions in police funding, focusing upon their impacts in terms of making communities safer.

The key finding from the research is that CSOs are playing an increasingly important role in how police forces are responding to and managing anti-social behaviour problems. Over the past three years the amount of ASB being dealt with by CSOs as opposed to police officers has risen substantially across the majority of areas examined.

The research also identifies a different trajectory in the public face of policing in Wales compared with England. Whilst the number of police officers has fallen across both countries, the additional CSOs in Wales have mitigated the reduction and its potential impact on community engagement through maintaining a neighbourhood policing presence. This is in contrast to England where police visibility has declined.

Evidence compiled by the research team identifies that the four forces in Wales are using CSOs to deliver different services to local communities. These differences can be summarised as:

•  Community Support: CSOs focus on developing familiarity with the communities they serve, providing a visible and accessible service to reassure the public.

•  Police Support: CSOs are providing a vital support function to their police officer colleagues, performing community-based tasks associated with many aspects of the policing remit.

Talking about the findings, UPSI Director Prof. Martin Innes says: "This is the most comprehensive study yet conducted of the work of Police Community Safety Officers and how policing is responding to austerity. Our evidence shows that the public face of policing has been changing and that when members of the public are victims of ASB they will increasingly be dealing with PCSOs rather than police officers."

Click Here to Download the Full Report


Nesta Report 'Data for Good' feat chapter by UPSI and Cardiff University Researchers on Community Mobilisation After Lee Rigby Murder

New ways of capturing, sharing and analysing data have the potential to transform how community and voluntary sector organisations work and how social action happens. However, while analysing and using data is core to how some of the world’s fastest growing businesses understand their customers and develop new products and services, civil society organisations are still some way off from making the most of this potential.

Over the last 12 months Nesta has grant funded a number of research projects that explore two dimensions of how big and open data can be used for the common good. Firstly, how it can be used by charities to develop better products and services and secondly, how it can help those interested in civil society better understand social action and civil society activity.

Five organisations, including UPSI were grant funded to explore how data–driven methods, such as open data analysis and social media analysis, can help us understand informal social action, often referred to as ‘below the radar activity’ in new ways.

The report Data For Good includes a chapter highlighting UPSI's work, funded by Nesta, entitled Soft facts and spontaneous community mobilisation: the role of rumour after major crime events written by Colin Roberts, Martin Innes, Alun Preece and Irena Spasic.

More information on Nesta's work can be found at

New Report: Strategic Police - Community Engagement: A Report to the Scottish Police Authority

Strategic Police-Community Engagement: A Report to the Scottish Police Authority

by Martin Innes

The report was commissioned by the Scottish Police Authority to examine the issue of strategic police community engagement in England and Wales. It addresses a notable gap in the research evidence base in that, whilst there has been considerable attention paid to operational and tactical forms of engagement often in relation to community policing programmes, more strategic uses have been neglected. The analysis conducted is used to inform a position about how and why the development of a methodology for strategic engagement by police organisations is likely to be significant in the future.  For the purposes of this report ‘strategic community engagement’ is defined as formal interaction and communication with members of the public that is undertaken to inform policy development and strategic decision making. In this sense, it is distinct from more operational forms of engagement that directly shape service delivery at a local level.



Dyfed-Powys centre to help tackle 'neglected' rural policing

UPSI and Dyfed-Powys Police are helping set up a centre of excellence to improve rural policing with the Police Commissioner saying it will lead to people feeling safer.

Christopher Salmon said rural policing developments have been "neglected" compared with urban policing.

The College of Policing, responsible for the training and development of police officers, has given £44,000 towards setting up the project.

It will work with academics to develop and share best practice with police.

Dyfed-Powys Police and the commissioner will collaborate with the Cardiff-based Universities' Police Science Institute (UPSI) and others specialists at Aberystwyth University and University of Wales Trinity Saint David to start a "high-level network to develop new expertise in keeping rural communities safe from crime".

...little attention has been directed to the particular policing needs of people living and working in rural areas”

Christopher Salmon Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Commisioner

Mr Salmon said: "The work we do with UPSI and others will lead to people in some of our most isolated areas feeling safer.

"What works in policing in rural areas and communities is an issue that has been neglected by researchers, policy makers and practitioners.