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'Policing Foreign Nationals in the West Midlands' Impact Workshop with West Midlands Police and Immigration Enforcement (6 July 2018)

Policing Foreign Nationals in the West Midlands

On Friday 6th July 2018 Dr Ana Aliverti and Dr Alice Gerlach met with members of the West Midlands Police (WMP), Home Office’s Immigration Compliance and Enforcement team (ICE) and other stakeholders. The purpose of the workshop was to discuss the findings of an evaluation of the regional joint enforcement operation between the West Midlands Police and the ICE team, ‘Operation Nexus.’ Operation Nexus is an enforcement initiative which was first rolled out in London in 2012 by the Metropolitan Police and has now been expanded nationwide. Nexus aims to bring together operational and intelligence capabilities and resources in the police and immigration services to deal effectively with offending by foreigners, reduce costs involved in pursuing them through the criminal justice system, and enhance public security.

The research project received funding from the University of Warwick’s Impact Fund and aims to influence the processes and practices of Operation Nexus and shape the public debate on this aspect of policing at the regional level. More specifically, the evaluation aimed to answer the following:

1) How does interagency cooperation between the WMP and ICE work in practice? 2) How are the identity and nationality of individuals arrested determined?

3) What are the considerations taken into account by police officers when making a decision on cases involving FN suspects?

4) Are the vulnerabilities of FN individuals brought into custody appropriately identified and handled?

Dr Ana Aliverti used a mixed method design which combined the analysis of custody data (on individuals arrested by the WMP between 1 January and 31 December 2017), ethnographic observations of custody processes, and semi-structured interviews. Observations were conducted by a researcher between 1 September and 15 December 2017 in the two custody superblocks (Perry Barr and Oldbury). An additional period of observation was conducted in January and February 2016 at Steel House (Birmingham Central) and Smethick. Observations entailed the shadowing of embedded immigration officers and the observation of the custody booking, police and immigration interviews, and decision-making processes. Detailed notes were taken and transcribed for analysis. Quantitative methods were also employed by Dr Alice Gerlach, using custody record data to build a demographic profile and analysis of the population of foreign nationals held in custody during 2017.

The workshop held at the West Midlands Police’s headquarters brought together members of WMP, ICE and other stakeholders including national bodies (ACRO, Home Office), and members of other police forces who are also interested in utilising academic research to help shape their Nexus policy. Discussions followed the key findings of the project. Recommendations were provided to the group by the researchers and strategies were discussed which would allow WMP and ICE to learn from the evaluation and make changes to their policies and practices as a result. The workshop was well attended and the results presented by the researchers proved insightful to the WMP and ICE, who hope to work towards fulfilling the recommendations provided in the future.