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Programme Director for the Transforming Forensics Programme, Jo Ashworth shares her thoughts on the challenges ahead for 2018.

A new year inevitably presents new challenges, but also new opportunities. That is exactly where we find ourselves on the Transforming Forensics Programme.

For many, police forensics conjures up images of men and women in white suits dusting for prints and swabbing for DNA. Although this remains the bread and butter of the role, the unprecedented pace and change of technology, and ever shifting policing landscape has changed this area of law enforcement almost unrecognisably in the last decade.

Simply keeping up with new techniques, new technology and new types of crime is a tough enough task. Despite the excellent and creative work of forensic leaders throughout the police service, staying one step ahead of that change is only aspirational at the moment. And in there lie the ambitions of the Transforming Forensics Programme.

Having worked in the forensic arena for 30 years I have seen the first-rate work done to support investigations at every level. But, quality, performance and productivity vary and too often innovations developed in one force are not exploited across the piece. The system itself is fragmented with limited oversight and this presents a real risk to forensic services.

We must be bold and imaginative in how we meet these challenges. In the last nine months we have been working with experts in the service to set about that task, because transformational change requires the investment of all those involved and a willingness to want to change. Only then can we realise our collective vision.

In April last year the Transforming Forensics Programme set about outlining how we could meet this challenge. Through all the meetings, phone calls, briefings and presentations the team and I have delivered to date it’s clear that the willingness exists at every level. The feedback, ideas and honest conversations have helped us develop an idea into a vision, one of self-reform that builds on the capabilities that already exist but which will deliver these in a consistent, sustainable way.

There is an operational and political will to reform policing and we must make the most of this once in a generation opportunity. We can set a blueprint that allows the unknown changes of tomorrow to be tackled effectively in a framework we develop.

We are now on the next phase of our journey and this month alone will see key decisions made on our direction of travel. Chief Constables and Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) will further hear our outline plans for reform at their general meetings. We will share a detailed Business Case with police leaders, and underlying this all, the Police Reform and Transformation Board (PRTB) will make a decision on funding for the programme for the next two years.

Even reaching this far on our journey would not have been possible without the co-operation of experts in this field to develop an idea into reality. If shared by all, the coming year will be full of challenges, but challenges that we can overcome together and realise the opportunities that exist to help improve policing for our communities in years and decades to come.

Jo Ashworth, Programme Director for Transforming Forensics Programme