Leicestershire Constabulary has implemented a bespoke e-learning programme for scene-of-crime procedures to raise awareness of the importance of DNA and forensic evidence and to help new police officers follow basic procedures correctly.
The course is available via the constabulary's intranet, which is accessible via any of the terminals in police buildings on a 24x7 basis. Stuart Brown, Leicestershire Constabulary's chief DNA and forensic training officer, says a key consideration in developing the system was that it should reflect officers' shift patterns.
Being able to access the programme via the intranet also means that officers about to attend a crime scene can quickly check up on the kind of evidence they should be looking for.
The programme, which went live in September, is based on simulations of real-life crime scenes. It has three core modules, which deal with the gathering of forensic evidence from the scene of a burglary, from a stolen car, and from a prisoner in custody. It covers a number of key topics, including advice on how and when to liaise with scenes of crime officers, how to identify areas of forensic importance, and how to preserve as much forensic evidence as possible.
The constabulary's call handling staff will also take the course to help them field questions from the general public and provide advice to callers on protecting evidence, such as covering bloodstains to keep them dry. "We are looking for a stop-gap measure until the support staff can reach the scene," Brown explains.
The course provides feedback after each module and presents additional information in the form of fact files. At the end of each simulation exercise is a three-question test to determine the learner's level of understanding before they move on to the next module.
Brown says the whole course takes about 30-35 minutes, although he hopes officers will continue to use the course as a revision tool and a visual aid. "Our aim is to make useful and practical information available to our officers with minimum abstraction from their duties," he says.
The programme, which was developed by training provider KnowledgePool and has been funded by the Home Office, grew out of an original idea for an online training tool that Brown and a colleague had been working on.
Brown says the reaction of officers using the product so far has been very positive. "Many officers have found it an excellent product and we are very positive about it," says Brown, although he insists that e-learning will complement, not replace, the police force's classroom-based learning programme.
Leicestershire Constabulary now hopes that other police forces will be interested in the product.