‘Street Psychology for Police,’ ‘Self-Selection Policing,’ and, ‘Tacit Knowledge.’ Just some of the phrases Dr. Jason Roach, the Director of the Crime and Policing research Group at the University of Huddersfield, used at a recent presentation at the Houses of Parliament as part of an Evidence Based Policing event to describe what I would call, the art of Police ‘StreetCraft.’
What caught my interest in Jason’s presentation was how forces are losing the ‘tacit knowledge’ experienced police officers possess when they move into specialist units or retire. Jason challenged the audience with this – what are forces or the College of Policing doing to develop the evidence base around what works here?
Could any future research involve answering the following questions:
What knowledge, understanding and skills make an outstanding ‘thief taker?’
What makes a police officer skilled in the ‘Art of Policing?’
How would a police officer go about practising and developing their craft?
During his presentation Jason described some research into how police officers determine if someone out on the streets is lying about their identity. You can find a link to his research paper on this here. The research described how when people lie about something as basic as their name, date of birth and home address it causes something Jason described as, ‘cognitive overload.’ How most people can’t remember a whole lie to the extent that they can make up a completely new identity and how parts of the lie will contain some truths, either a previous address, the date of birth of a friend or sibling, or other such truism. Jason then went onto describe how by using the signs of the zodiac you could determine if someone really was lying about their identity.
I sat there fairly astounded. Wouldn’t a police officer skilled in ‘StreetCraft’ know this already? They’d probably go one step further to check if someone is lying, they’d ask what colour the front door is, the names of the neighbours and then if they still doubt if someone is telling the truth about their identity, they might make up a fictitious name and fact about the lie, for example, “Epsom Street? You’ll know Big Jim McAllister who lives a few doors from you?’ As soon as the individual questioned says he does, then he’s finally confirmed his lies. It’s time for them to be welcomed into the back of the van.
I did like one of Jason’s quotes, ‘Those who do big bad things also do little bad things,’ and they do them on the streets we police. How can we use what might be the lost art of StreetCraft to capture and detain those people?
This blog site will be dedicated to the art of StreetCraft. Over the next few months I’ll populate it with case studies of where police officers have demonstrated outstanding StreetCraft skills so you and others can learn from it.
And if you are well versed in this art, if you can describe to others how to practice your craft, then I invite you to contribute. I’m happy to anonymise your contribution, include your name, add a short bio or mention your business. My newsletter goes out to over 1700 individuals interested in policing – isn’t it time we shared our collective ‘Tacit Knowledge’ for their and everyone else’s benefit?