Tuesday, 26 July 2011

On Police Chiefs: "Power does not corrupt men; fools, however, if they get into a position of power, corrupt power.".

"40% detections, brilliant lad! Now off you go . . . "
"Power does not corrupt men; fools, however, if they get into a position of power, corrupt power."

- George Bernard Shaw

As yet another set of Home Office Crime Statistics are released, with more than a passing resemblance to a story from the brothers Grimm, those creative Home Office statisticians have appended another masterpiece of deceptional fiction in the form of the report entitled Crimes detected in England and Wales 2010/11.

Peter Fahy, Chief of GMP has denied police corruption is widespread – he is unconvinced corruption is a ‘major problem’. His comments might turn out a little premature now that the Prime Minister has ordered a review of all forces’ media relationships and in particular with News International.

It would be naive to believe that the extent of the problem is restricted solely to the Met. Chief Constables and senior officers up and down the country must be fearing who the spotlight will fall on next, many seriously considering if they should jump first and save their gold plated pensions before being pushed.

The morale of decent officers had been damaged by claims which have emerged during the scandal. However, it is not the decent, honest officers that need worry about the fall out from this saga, it is those who have acted inappropriately, even criminally.

So Mr Fahy is not convinced that corruption is a major problem?

What is the pernicious, deceitful manipulation of recorded crime and detections over a 20 year period, where Chief Officers knowingly accepted 10-15% performance bonuses related to fudged numbers if it isn’t corruption?

Similar views have been expressed many times by experienced and respected serving, former or retired police officers. Have a wander over to Bankside Babble, the author of which is a respected voice on the subject. Others worth a visit are our friends over at the Surrey Constabulary blog, Inspector Gadget, 200 weeks, All Copped Out, PC Bloggs, and others too numerous to mention, all of whom have scant regard for the integrity of the statistics they are forced to fudge.  

I’m not talking of mass individual corruption here, but institutional corruption, in the formation and/or condoning of strategies that force lower ranks to compromise their integrity with fallacious crime reporting and detections? Worse, when the faeces strikes the oscillating mechanism, who will end up being held accountable? Certainly not the teflon coated ACPO ranks I’ll wager.

Police corruption comes in many guises, from accepting bribes to fabricating evidence in order to secure the conviction of a suspected criminal. Such a wide variety makes it difficult to formulate a definition which encapsulates all forms of the behaviour. Earlier studies tended to concentrate on the more obvious forms of illegal behaviour, which are adequately legislated for in criminal law:

“Police scandals are of three predominant varieties: corruption, such as accepting bribes; procedural abuse that perverts the course of justice; and the excessive use of force against suspects.” (Waddington 1999:121)

However such a definition does not extend to behaviours designed to give the impression of improved performance by perverse means. Such practices are referred to within the service as ‘fiddling the figures’, ‘massaging the books’ or more recently ‘good housekeeping’ (Chatterton 2008:46). In academic circles the phenomenon is referred to as ‘gaming’ and has recently been much associated with Performance Management Loveday (1994 & 1999),De Bruijn (2001 & 2007), Bevan & Hood (2006).

The evidence to suggest the involvement of senior officers in ‘gaming’ behaviour is not surprisingly limited. Kappeler et al (1994) noted that senior officers entered into an ‘unholy alliance’ with junior officers, tolerating illicit activities as long as they were effective while Diez (1995) suggested senior officers manipulated performance information to give a favourable impression of the organisation.

Chief Officers and SMT’s clearly take the view that probity comes at the cost of reduced performance. So, Chief Constables and some SMT’s have been fiddling the stats for donkeys years. However, most are cute enough to force the muck downhill, either saying they only encouraged ethical practices or they were simply ignorant of what’s been going on. In fact, all the evidence we have accumulated indicates the problem is more of an institutional nature than individual. Fudging crime statistics and detections for career and financial gain cannot be right. Peter Fahy says that corruption within the service is not endemic. Should the full story about crime be finally revealed, there will be many that will take the opposing view, particularly regarding the ACPO ranks who are ultimately responsible for the processes.

The facts remain:-

• Forces are fiddling TIC’s something rotten (still). Offenders serving custodial sentences admit 40+% of the burglary and vehicle offences detected this way. There is no come back as the system allows (with the authorisation of a Guvnor) the admissions without court attendance or any punitive measures. I thought this practice died years ago, but all they’ve done is adjusted the framework. In return for inducements, or a nice ride out from clink, scrotes will admit 1000 ‘s of offences, many of which they didn’t commit. Have a looks at oneof our colleagues posts at http://blog.old-and-bold.com/wordpress/?p=5470  to witness one of many examples we have on file illustrating the extent of the problem.

• False reporting strategies (well intended initially for false mobile phone theft reports) have been extended to all volume acquisitive crime in lots of forces, suppressing the crime levels dramatically.

• Abuse of cautions (20% of detections) Fixed penalties (7%), TIC’s (6%) and cannabis warnings (7%) is rife. The burden of proof principle seems to have been ignored in ’000′s of such instances, whereby cases that would never go the distance at court due to weak evidence, are all too often disposed of by these methods as an attractive alternative for the offender to avoid the court process. In such cases, abuse of discretionary powers results in poor policing practice.

• Cannabis warnings account for 7% of national detections. Whilst no fan of “whacky backy” ‘000’s of police man hours are consumed at the direction of SMT’s just to perpetuate the myth of 28% national detection averages. The same applies to the minor public order and threats offences, (playground & mobile phone threats etc). Literally ‘000’s of them driving up detection rates fallaciously and diverting officer attention away from the more serious, harder to resolve crimes.

SMT’s up and down the country screen out ‘000’s of harder to detect crimes, in favour of the middle class “Quick Win” offences, what we used to call domestics that have been allowed to be upgraded to technical criminal matters. Teams of officers redeployed to tick boxes rather than acquire the investigative expertise to resolve crimes that matter most to the public.

• Forces discovered during HMIC Inspections to be keeping unofficial crime registers to keep the numbers down. (We knew them as occurrence books MK47). HMIC discovered forces using these for crimes that never hit the books.

• Forces abusing the incident reporting process, issuing incident numbers that never elevate to crime numbers.

• Re classifying burglaries as damage to dwellings/commercial properties (thousands of them!!)

• Re classifying vehicle offences downward so they appear in larger lesser offence groups.

• Re classifying robberies. No offender caught = no mens rea = lesser “other theft”

• Serious offences cautioned or PND issued

• HMIC have been particularly reluctant to open up on the subject, despite a number of force inspections revealing clear evidence of gaming activity, no senior officer has been brought to account. In 2007 HMIC carried out an audit of detections for the years 2005/6 and 2006/7 (Home Office Nov.2006 & 2007). The results of this audit were not made public, although Police Authorities were provided with a copy of the results on their own force only. This was a deviation from the policy of publication pursued by HMIC since 1991. However HMIC did subsequently publish a summary of the results on their web site in response to a request made under the provisions of the Freedom Of Information Act. The audit showed 33 out of 44 forces were graded ‘poor’ on non-sanctioned detections, made up in the main of informal warnings. This audit uncovered cases where offences had been recorded as detected without the suspects' and the victims' knowledge. We wre granted access to copy correspondence between ACPO and the IOC obtained lawfully by FOI requests. The extracts below are a contemporaneous record of what was contained in the correspondence. This Association of Police Officers wrote to the Information Commissioner to inform him of the breaches of the Data Protection Act stating:

“The nub of the issue faced by the service is that a proportion of the offences detected by non-sanction means fail the ‘administrative test’ in that they do not comply with HOCR.
The most frequent errors are:

• The sufficiency of evidence (this is a judgement issue with the HMIC and forces coming to a different view) to justify/support a non-sanctioned detection.

• A failure to record whether the victim has been informed that the offence has been detected through non-sanctioned means, and

• A failure to record that the suspect has been informed.”
(ACPO letter to the Information Commissioner 13.2.2007 unpublished)

The Information Commissioner articulates the crux of the matter in his response:

“From my perspective I am most concerned that individuals were not being informed that they were considered to be the perpetrator of an offence even though this did not involve a legal process, especially if such information could be used in future Enhanced Disclosure relating to them. This clearly breaches the requirement of the first data protection principle that the processing of personal data must be done fairly. I am also worried by the sufficiency of evidence used. If a police force is going to label an individual as the de facto perpetrator then they must have a good objective reason for doing so. Not having this could lead to a record being viewed as inadequate or inaccurate (breaches of the third and fourth principles respectively).”
(Information Commissioner 26.3.2007: Unpublished)

However, he declined to take any proactive action to alert the public:

“I would prefer to work with chief officers to ensure compliance. I would like to know more detail about how this has come about and what action is being taken to ensure future compliance” (Information Commissioner 26.3.2007: Unpublished)

Further correspondence from ACPO dated 10.4.2007 provided further assurances:

“Please rest assured that the issues that have come to light as a result of the recent Association of Chief Police Officers’ and HMIC audits have been taken extremely seriously by the police service. To this end a series of meetings have taken place in fast time with all relevant parties, including the Home Office, to consider how best to address the concerns that you raised to which we are alive”
(ACPO letter to the Information Commissioner 10.4.2007: Unpublished)

This correspondence demonstrates that ACPO, together with HMIC, their principal regulator, and the Home Office, to whom they are politically accountable, as well as the Information Commissioner, decided to deal with a major failing without making the public aware of the nature or scale of the issue. However ACPO were particularly vague on the nature and scale of the problem:

“ACPO has reviewed a snapshot of disclosures for the period 2003 – 2005 (for a range of ‘high risk’ offences). Whilst the process has (but for a handful of cases) worked effectively.” (ACPO letter to the Information Commissioner 13.2.2007 unpublished)


• Bear in mind that over the 15-20 or so years that the numbers have been fiddled so astronomically, there were Chiefs and SMT’s receiving between 10-15% of their £100k basic as bonus for successful performance management. So, in short, manipulate the numbers disgracefully and perniciously beyond recognition, satisfy the police authority targets were met, get paid thousands as a bonus for hitting targets! As previous articles on this site reflects, if this isn’t corruption in public office, we would have to ask "what is???".

• Much of this information was passed onto the National Statistician (Jil Matthieson) after she was commissioned by Theresa May to review crime statistics and detections. Whilst pleased to get a mention in the acknowledgements of her report (under the company name), she too has thus far failed to take the bull by the horns. When push came to shove, all she proposed was that the presentation of the data should be independently processed through her office. It remains to be seen whether she will have the courage for the job.

• In view of the fact that a considerable number of high powered police chiefs may turn out to be implicated in doubtful practices, it may well be that other means to bring the information to the surface may need to be considered.

All in all, a real can of worms. My greatest concern for the service (a view shared with Federation Chairman Paul McKeever) is that this fallacious picture of success on reducing crime and increasing detections, played its part in the inclusion of policing in the comprehensive spending review. Which minister in his/her right mind would have authorised cuts with rising crime and downward spiralling detections? The allocation of funding is partly arrived at through assessment of performance criteria. So, the conclusion we must draw from this, is that the deceptive practices have come back to bite the backsides of the Chief Officers that introduced or at the very least condoned them. “Authors of their own misfortune” springs to mind.

The fact remains that there is plenty of evidence to indicate that the crime statistics and detections scandal pales the MP expenses saga into relative insignificance. I would not wish to see any unnecessary obstructions placed in the path of honourable, honest policing. However, unless and until this mess is exposed fully, public confidence cannot be expected. I have little or no confidence that MP’s of any colour would have the courage or motivation required to take this forward.

Finally, I would commend anyone interested in the truth about police detections to read  a report commissioned by the Joint Central Committee (JCC) of the Police Federation of England and Wales. The JCC, having become increasingly concerned by a barrage of reports it was receiving from the Detectives' Forum and Joint Branch Boards around the country that the resilience of General Office CID was being severely diminished and that there was a debilitating shortage of trained and experienced detectives. The reported
consequence was that some serious crime was not being properly investigated and

The JCC therefore commissioned Dr Michael Chatterton to conduct an independent study into General Office CID to examine the issues of resilience, workload and training and to identify the consequences.

Mike Chattertons commissioned report is attached, which is well worth a read. I refer to it frequently in my reports and on the site as it contains substantial evidential content from rank and file officers and SMT’s alike, none of which contradicts the views mentioned here.
Chatterton opens the report by identifying the detrimental effects of the sanctions detection regime and the excessively rigid and bureaucratic approach to targets and performance management. A combination of these is having a pernicious and perverse effect on police operations.

• diverting police priorities from serious crime to chasing minor offences;
• criminalising members of the public who are not criminals in the accepted sense;
• giving the public a false sense of security that serious crime is being detected with increasing effectiveness by the police;
• undermining the discretion necessary for the impartial discharge of the office of constable.

To quote Mike Chatterton … “There is no change in Government and senior police management policy which is at once more urgent and important than this”.

"Those in possession of absolute power can not only prophesy and make their prophecies come true, but they can also lie and make their lies come true".
Eric Hoffer (1902-1983) American philosopher and author


Noble Cause Corruption said...

Nice post. It reminds me of a story about a group of officers in a northern force facing what the unProfessional Standards Department described as the biggest TIC corruption enquiry ever in that particular force. However, it became a minor misconduct matter when myself and a couple of detective friends printed off a list of several hundred TIC crimes which had been approved for detection by the two senior officer investigators.

How we chuckled at their discomfort knowing that should they provide the evidence to convict these officers of something, they would effectively be convicting themselves of the same offences.

Threats came and went over disclosure of the material to them but as we did not believe that the evidence we had amounted to a criminal offence, we were not obliged to. Subsequently, it became privileged material.

Noble Cause Corruption is alive and well.

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