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Lack of training on data kiosks adds to workload in sexual offences cases

Police and Crime Committee visits BCUs to assess pressures on ‘over extended’ teams

Not enough Met officers at BCU level are trained to use digital data extraction kiosks designed to speed up the process of downloading evidence from mobile phones relevant to investigations according to the Police and Crime Committee for the London Assembly.

The issue was raised with Sophie Linden, Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) as part of wider concerns about delays in dealing with rape and sexual offences investigations in the Met.

Committee chair Unmesh Desai and other assembly members visited two BCUs recently to see the pressures investigation teams were under. At one BCU they found that only one officer was trained to use the kiosks which allow investigators who are not experts in forensic data extraction to quickly download material relevant to their inquiries. This had led to delays in evidence gathering.

They also found that there had been a delay in the roll out of second generation kiosks to police stations and until this happened no new officers were being trained how to operate them.

“We heard that they were only just being tested and are awaiting confirmation as to when they will be fully operational,” Mr Unmesh stated in a letter to Ms Linden.

The Met has said that the increase in sexual offences and the demand on officers has been compounded by an exponential growth in digital evidence for each individual case.

The backlog for data extraction within the Met’s Forensic lab meant that there can be delays of around six to nine months and those involved in investigations have to be given replacement phones.

The committee has asked for an update on the roll out of new kiosks by December.

Mr Unmesh also told the deputy mayor that that the pressure on officers at BCU level was acute.

Sexual Offence Investigative Technique (SOIT) officers are dealing with high caseloads, meaning they are undertaking significant amounts of overtime.

Senior officers including Detective Superintendents and Inspectors have high supervisory ratios, resulting in them delivering a managerial function and being unable to involve themselves in supporting investigations.

While Assistant Commissioner Mark Simmons has said that officers are dealing with, on average, a similar number of rape offences compared to previous arrangements, Mr Unmesh said “the BCU model may be compounding the issue.”

He added: “Officers that would have dealt with rape offences under the previous model now also deal with all sexual offences. And we heard that because of the overwhelming number of domestic abuse cases within BCUs, officers working on sexual offence and rape investigations often must stop their work to support domestic abuse cases, for example in interviewing suspects in custody.

“We understand that one of the purposes of the BCU model was to provide a level of flexibility across the various safeguarding elements, but reciprocal support across the different investigative teams appears to be extremely difficult.”

He said the increase in demand, coupled with the Met’s arrangements for investigations, appears to be exacerbating a deterioration in communication between the police and survivors, and specialist services and the police.

“Both SOIT officers and Rape Crisis Centres spoke to us about the difficulties in getting updates on investigations from Met officers. We heard that after a crime report and initial contact by the police, survivors sometimes hear nothing for months and there can often be a six-month delay in receiving updates.”

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