Between 2018 and 2020, Brookman and Jones disseminated publications and presented findings from their Homicide Investigation and Forensic Science (HIFS) project to over 300 practitioners and policy-makers involved in homicide investigation, forensic science and digital evidence. These included presentations to the national Homicide Working Group, the National Crime Agency's Major Crime Investigative Support Team and forensic science providers.
The presentations and publications enhanced practitioners' and policy-makers' understanding of the effective use of forensic sciences and technologies (FSTs), especially CCTV evidence, and of the inter- and intra-agency challenges it poses. This has informed strategy development and has led to adoption of more effective collaborative working practices, as detailed below.
Brookman and Jones are collaborating closely with the Home Office Data and Identity Directorate to develop metrics that will measure quantitatively the impact of forensic science across the criminal justice system. For the first time, it will allow the evidence-based development of operational police policy, direct budget and resourcing decisions, and create a way to measure how those decisions impact the criminal justice system.
During the initial development of the project, Brookman and Jones acted as a 'critical friend' and provided insights to help refine and focus the methodology and the data capture tool. They were then commissioned to undertake a proof of principle study in order to (1) test the methodology and assess its viability and efficacy, and (2) share data from the HIFS project to show how a range of forensic science disciplines, digital technologies and non-forensic approaches contributed towards the investigation and prosecution of 44 British homicide cases.
These findings were used by the Home Office to refine further the methodological approach and data capture tool. Brookman and Jones' analysis of how forensic science contributes to homicide is detailed in their 2021 report to the Home Office, which will be of value to policy-makers, operational policing and the forensic community.
"In January 2020, the Home Office initiated a project to develop an approach to measuring the impact of forensic science on the criminal justice system. Professor Brookman and Dr Jones provided valuable insight in this initial phase, and brought their extensive research background to help refine, challenge and focus many of its aspects.
Following this, I commissioned them to undertake an extended proof of principle study, applying our approach to their own unique and extensive data set derived from the HIFS project. The study forms an important part of the assessment of the viability and efficacy of our proposed approach to measuring impact. The project’s ultimate aim is to have an ongoing assessment of forensic impact. This in turn would provide an evidence base to inform government and senior policing’s policy and investment decisions with regard to forensic science".
Marie Barrett, Project Lead, Data and Identity Directorate, Home Office
Brookman and Jones' research has helped to improve collaborative working. For example, one police service has changed processes to ensure that forensic experts are involved in prosecution case conferences. This has led to more effective dialogue and early engagement between police, forensic scientists, digital experts and the Crown Prosecution Service, and has created benefits by preventing unnecessary requests (and costs) for further forensic examinations.
At one metropolitan police service, research findings helped to change working practices, enabling more effective dialogue and early engagement between detectives in the Murder Investigation Teams and digital experts.
"The research has helped the Forensic Video Laboratory to raise the priority given to CCTV and video evidence. To do this we have been reaching out to Murder Investigation Teams to bring about more collaboration with them at their point of need... The traditional service we offer is currently at a point when the investigation is at a late stage, usually once a charge has been made. However the research emphasised the importance of CCTV to the early stages of an investigation… As such we are looking to provide specialist points of contact at this early stage".
Digital Forensic Technical Manager
Findings from the HIFS project, illustrating the effectiveness of digital forensic evidence, have been used to inform police business cases for investment in specialist roles, such as digital media investigators, and within digital forensics more broadly, increasing both capacity and capability of teams. For example, in West Midlands Police, the findings raised awareness and understanding of the impact of CCTV in homicide investigations and helped secure funding for additional tools and training.
"Your work has objectively evidenced the impact of CCTV in investigations, which has historically been undervalued and, in turn, under-resourced and underfunded nationally. I presented your research paper to my Senior Leadership Team and as a result, additional funds were made available to our Digital Forensics Unit. The impact of those funds, which is in the region of tens of thousands of pounds, is immense. We will have additional tools to be more effective but also training for all staff in emerging threats in CCTV such as encryption, hacking and cloud. The effectiveness of Digital Forensic evidence, especially CCTV, is hugely under appreciated and the work you do to evidence this fact is literally gold dust".
Alex Heare, Digital Forensic Technical Manager, West Midlands Police
Brookman and Jones are invited members of various specialist advisory/research working groups within the Home Office and the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC), through which they have shared new insights into the role of FSTs in homicide investigation, particularly digital evidence and CCTV. For example, their research contributed directly to the development of the NPCC's definition of digital forensic science and the Digital Forensic Science Strategy (July 2020).
Since 2019, Brookman and Jones have contributed to the NPCC CCTV Specialist Capabilities Programme. As part of their work, they were asked to complete bespoke analysis of HIFS data, examining the value of CCTV to homicide investigations as well as some of the inherent challenges. Their evidence, the only available in the UK, is being used to inform the NPCC’s response to threats to the use of CCTV across England and Wales.
"The UK police currently do not have any recent data to support benefits analysis work which is needed to create a business case to ask for future investment in new CCTV technology. As the UK currently has ageing CCTV technology between the police and local authorities this is becoming more and more urgent. The work that Brookman and Jones have recently completed… has provided impartial evidence that supports CCTV as not only a significant factor in police investigations but compares its use to other forensic sciences and technologies… This gives us the platform to request further funding to support the value model needed and invest in more specific academic research on CCTV use and value in policing and community safety".
Sharon Colley, (formerly) National Capabilities Manager – CCTV, National Police Chiefs’ Council