There was disbelief from many to learn that West Midlands police was on the look out for volunteers to join their digital forensics team. A key benefit was the prospect of being ‘part of the policing family’; however volunteers were warned that they might ‘routinely come across distressing imagery including indecent images, fatal road traffic accidents, live CCTV footage recovery of incidents’. ‘I actually cannot believe what I have read here,’ tweeted forensics expert Sam Raincock (as reported in The Guardian). ‘West Midlands police wanting digital forensic volunteers and for them to sit and view indecent images of children! It is an absolute disgrace and a disaster waiting to happen!’ Stuart Richards, who teaches cyber-forensics at the University of Gloucestershire, told the BBC that someone would need counselling before carrying out such a role and ideally psychological evaluation every three months. ‘You’ve got to be a very strong individual to be able to deal with it,’ he said. The Guardian also revealed that one of the largest digital forensics labs had been dispatching its broken phones to the nearby Fone Fun Shop for repairs. Sytech holds major contracts with more than a dozen police forces and has lost its accreditation over concerns about its handling of evidence. ‘What made me report them to the forensic services regulator was because I couldn’t get it out of my head [that] any doubt in a case can get a case overturned or thrown out or even an appeal on a previous conviction,’ a former Sytech analyst told the paper. The case raised broader questions about the outsourcing of forensic work to private labs, noted the paper.
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