Digital support officers make a positive impact
Suffolk Constabulary’s digital support officers are making a positive impact in supporting serious and complex crime investigations across the county.
The 16 civilian staff members and a digital support coordinator introduced last year have advanced digital skills to enhance the quality of complex investigations, targeting serious criminals affecting our community. They add a cutting edge to the traditional policing skills of detectives and work across the county.
The officers are embedded with frontline detectives in both CID and the Safeguarding Investigation Units and form a vital cog of the team to assist in the collation and interpretation of digital material.
Over a six-month period (Jan – Jun 2020) their presence and work has generated an extra 692 investigation days for police detectives with over 3300 digital enquiries made by the DSOs on behalf of the detectives.
These enquiries include analysis of mobile phone downloads, CCTV trawls, the physical downloads of mobile devices, presentation of digital evidence for court proceedings and guidance and advice on digital evidence given to colleagues.
Detective Chief Superintendent Eamonn Bridger said: "The digital support officers show how open the Constabulary is to innovation and the approach we have adopted to tackling digital evidence is now as good as anywhere in the country. Nowadays, digital devices carry so much data and compelling evidence that can help secure convictions so it is vital that we are able to use the specialist skills of the DSO’s to achieve justice for victims.
"Our detectives have excellent investigative skills but the DSOs bring specific, dedicated digital and technical skills and experience that complement and support the more traditional investigative approaches. Many of the team come from varied IT and software backgrounds and when that experience is combined with the role specific training we provide it ensures we remain ahead of the curve in terms of the changing technological landscape.
"The digital world is ever evolving and so the DSOs will continue to receive training and development to ensure their skills and knowledge remains as current as possible.”
"Their presence is another demonstration of the pioneering nature of the constabulary which will provide confidence to the public in Suffolk that we are tackling crime in the right way.”
The posts were funded through a significant investment from the policing precept rise in 2019/20 by the Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner.
Police and Crime Commissioner for Suffolk Tim Passmore said: "This partnership between detectives and technical experts is proving to be a perfect union as these results show.
"Over 96% of all crime has a digital footprint, which is why this investment is so vital and why the digital expertise provided by these civilian staff is so crucial in the fight against crime in the county.
"Raising the precept is never an easy decision, but one I made because I knew how important additional investment is to help Suffolk Constabulary keep up with the changing pattern of crime to keep us all safe.”
Case study 1:
An incident of grievous bodily harm took place at Stowmarket where two police officers suffered serious injuries. Four DSOs worked together to gather CCTV, airwave radio transmissions, body worn video and dashcam footage along with extraction of data from mobile phones. All media was processed within 20 hours after the event and this allowed detectives to focus on case building and other relevant enquiries. The DSOs work contributed to the suspect being charged and remanded for S18 GBH.
Case study 2:
Ipswich CID worked on a stalking and harassment investigation. The suspect was alleged to follow the victim in a shop in Ipswich for over an hour whilst she was with her children. A DSO conducting a CCTV trawl of the area. The footage was downloaded and collated into a detailed ‘storyboard’ which identified the suspect following the victim during the alleged offence times. At trial, the ’storyboard’ was presented and the suspect was subsequently found guilty, and given a 12-week jail sentence and a restraining order.