At last there seems to be some traction building behind the need to investigate the way police record crime.
Mr Winsor addressing the Home Affairs select committee said: "The figures are critical to a whole range of decisions which elected officials, chief constables and others must make. Information is the oxygen of accountability and the information must be sound.”
Mr Winsor added: “There have been anxieties expressed in relation to the quality of crime data statistics. We will be doing an all-force inspection of the integrity of crime recording by the police and we will report on it when we have done it.”
He said the review would look at “circumstances where crimes are incorrectly recorded or not recorded as crimes but are recorded as incidents”. (THIN BLUE LINE have been exposing this for a number of years).
He added: “It is alleged that from time to time police officers who are eager to improve their clear-up rates will all go to a prison and get some people who are already in prison to confess to crimes they did not commit, the ‘taken into considerations’.
Regular visitors to these pages know that we have not only been protesting about the scandal of police cooking the books of crime for many years, but we have also provided detailed reports of precisely how this is being done.
There is more than anecdotal evidence, there is officer evidence and detailed hard evidence to prove how the statistics are regulalrly fudged and manipulated. Chief Officers must be held to account for this. Whether they have constructed the systems that fiddle the numbers, condoned the actions or merely turned a blind eye to the practices, it is ONLY THEY who have benefitted from this distortion and manipulation. It is ONLY THEY who received exhorbitant bonus payments down the years (payments that make the MP Expenses Scandal appear small stuff by comparison), to reflect crime reductions and detection increases. It is ONLY THEY who have advanced their careers and political ambitions on the back of this disgraceful deception. It is the general public who are being conned, the rank and file who have lost faith in their superiors.
Home Secretary, Theresa May should display the same concern and awareness that this subject needs by instigating a root and branch exposure of what is going on. Probity must be restored to the numbers so rank and file officers no longer fear the damage to their integrity as officers and the true picture of crime in the UK can be exposed.
As recently as Monday of this week, the Police Federation Chairman stepped out of the shadows to add his voice to the debate:-
Latest statistics reveal an eight per cent drop in police recorded crime in England and Wales for the year to September 2012, but for the first time the Office for National Statistics has raised doubts about the accuracy of police figures.
In this report the ONS also concedes that a growing number of crimes reported to the police are not being captured in crime recording systems. There are a range of possible drivers for this including:
• performance pressures associated with targets (e.g. to reduce crime or increase detection rates) acting as perverse incentives for some crimes to be downgraded from notifiable into non-notifiable categories or as ASB or as crime-related incidents (which are not captured in data returned to the Home Office);
• though forces have continued with their own internal audits, the cessation of independent audits from 2006/07 onwards may have reduced the focus on addressing non-compliance;
• the move to Neighbourhood Policing in recent years may also have led to more low level crimes being dealt with informally and outside the formal crime recording system; and,
• in the context of pressure on police budgets and a general policy shift to promote greater officer discretion, a return to a more evidential recording model.
- So, in addition to the detailed reports we have amassed, containing evidence from front line officers, Home Office and force statistics down the years on this subject,
- The Office for National Statistics concedes that accuracy of the numbers is potentially affected by perverse incentives to downgrade, mis-report or ignore crimes.
- A high ranking Officer, Chief Superintendent Irene Curtis concedes that the service has fallen victim to the "Gaming Culture."
- The Chairman of the Police Federation confirms that rank and file officers are ordered to manipulate the numbers.
- Tom Winsor, the HMIC announces there will be a review to examine the probity of the numbers in all 43 forces.
- Behind the scenes, a number of debates in the House of Commons and the House of Lords are accelerating pressure in the right direction.
It is unfortunate that Mr Winsor has, by his police pay review recommendations in Winsor I and II become unpopular with the rank and file. It is these very front line officers whose support he will require when investigating the corrupt and digraceful practices that have become the norm within the higher ranks of the service. We can only hope that he will apply a ruthless honest approach to the numbers and be prepared to expose the truth, whatever that may reveal. Only when the books have been completely opened and cleansed will the glimmer of faith and confidence appear. We hope Mr Winsor will see beyond the initial co-operative promises of Chief Officers, and dig as deep as is necessary to expose the deceitful pernicious practices.
This scandal will raise further concerns over the leadership and integrity of many of the past and present Chief Officers. We should expect that a considerable degree of document shredding and concealment and we hope Mr Winsor is prepared for the extent to which some will go to protect their positions. Mr Winsor will have to display a ruthless determination to uncover the truth if the public and rank and file officers are to be convinced of his independence and intentions to root out any improper practices. His speech to the Police Federation this week announced:-
"I also wanted to mention our work on crime data integrity, which I know has been a topic much debated during this Federation conference. Accurate figures are critical to the decisions that need to be made - information is the oxygen of intelligence. Because of what has been said here at the conference, because of media stories on this subject and the damaging effect on public confidence, because of concerns raised with HMIC by the public and the service, HMIC will conduct an all-force inspection of crime data integrity over the coming months".
Mr Winsor, whatever may have been said about your proposals for police pay and conditions, we wish you well in your endeavours in this critically important area.
Retired Police Officer
Thin Blue Line UK