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“We have to look after them”: FCN begins policing’s first national forensic workforce strategy

illustration of people holding hands

Plans are underway to create the first national forensic workforce strategy for policing in England and Wales.

Led by a community of forensic leads, practitioners and academics, the FCN workforce strategy aims to ensure policing has access to the right people and skills now and in future, ultimately for the benefit of the public and victims of crime.

Designed primarily by practitioners working in-force, it will provide guidance for forces to support people in all forensic roles, including CSIs, digital forensic units, fingerprint experts and others.

Around 4,000 people are thought to be employed in forensic roles in policing in England and Wales.

The strategy is expected to complement each force or region’s own workforce strategy, rather than replacing them. Police forces won’t be obliged to follow any recommendations, and it will have no bearing on staff terms and conditions or employment contracts.

Initially the strategy is being developed in three key areas: recruitment and retention, education and training, and wellbeing. Forensic practitioners and leaders are invited to join any of these workstreams.

The first workstream to be established is wellbeing, led by Hampshire Constabulary’s Head of Scientific Services, Tim Rowlandson, with practitioners attending from every region including Lancashire and West Midlands, as well as the College of Policing.

The group is seeking to understand specific challenges faced by forensic practitioners and ensure they have access to the support needed for their long-term wellbeing. Read our interview with crime scene coordinator Jo Ward on her experience of PTSD, or watch Anglia Ruskin University’s Rebecca Jones research on CSI trauma at September’s FCN Research Festival.

Commenting on the new wellbeing workstream, Hampshire’s Tim Rowlandson said:

“Our workforce – our people – are our biggest asset. Every day, up and down the country, they put themselves in harm’s way to provide answers to victims of crime and uncover vital evidence to lock-up dangerous offenders. Every day, our staff are exposed to some of the most extreme scenes of violence, death and depravation.

“We have to look after them. We have to make sure that everyone working in this field has access to a consistent level of support and wellbeing interventions to monitor and safeguard their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

“I am passionate about doing all I can to support our teams to remain fit to serve throughout their career in policing, and am keen to work with colleagues around the country to identify the areas where we can make the biggest difference.”

Two other workstreams on recruitment & retention and education & training will be established in the coming months, and interested parties are invited to join now.

In education and training, plans are underway to develop standards for learning and provide routes for people throughout their careers. The group is also exploring digital forensic apprenticeships as a way to encourage new entrants into the profession.

The recruitment and retention workstream will help policing to attract, develop and retain and resilient workforce which is representative of the community. It will also analyse specialist skillsets, develop early career mentoring and create career pathways for forensic staff.

Activity began in July with the first quarterly National Workforce Development & Wellbeing Forum attended by representatives from across the community.

FCN’s workforce strategy leads are Paula Mulroy and Jo Morrissey. Paula was formerly a scenes of crime officer, and most recently College of Policing’s Head of Learning Design and Head of Crime Scene Training. Jo joined the network in September 2021 from Anglia Ruskin University where she was Director of Learning, Teaching and Assessment in the science faculty. With 23 years of forensic practitioner experience, Jo worked as forensic manager in a USA police department and was a senior forensic practitioner with the Metropolitan Police Service for 17 years.

Paula Mulroy
Paula Mulroy, FCN workforce strategy lead

FCN’s Paula Mulroy added:

“Forensic practitioners are long overdue a national strategy to support them, and as employers police forces deserve some national guidelines so they can better provide for their staff too.

“I know first-hand that forensic specialists do incredibly skilful and demanding work. With practitioners steering this strategy’s development, I’m confident we can show forensics as an attractive career, with plenty of development and wellbeing support.”

To join a workstream either as a lead or an attendee, please contact FCN’s workforce strategy lead Paula Mulroy by the end of October 2021. Academics and forensic practitioners in the private-sector are welcome to enquiry too, but the strategy development will be police-led.