|Steve Williams - Police Federation Chairman|
Steve Williams, the head of the Police Federation will suggest a "fear factor" is preventing officers from blowing the whistle on how crime statistics are being manipulated.
The intervention by Steve Williams, chairman of the organisation which represents 130,000 frontline officers in England and Wales, is highly significant because it appears to confirm widespread public scepticism of how crime is recorded.
Official figures show crime is at an historic low, despite cuts to police budgets and staffing levels.
Mr Williams will say that police transparency on crime levels and other areas has been badly hit by the Leveson inquiry on Press standards, which examined alleged collusion between police officers and journalists.
Officers now fear that speaking out about scandals, mistakes and other serious issues - including pressure from senior officers to massage crime figures - will lead to disciplinary measures or the sack, he will suggest.
Ahead of his speech later this week at the Federation's annual conference in Bournemouth, Mr Williams said: "The latest crime figures showed a 5 per cent fall in crime but in reality, based on the anecdotes I'm getting, I am not sure that is the case.
"Pressure is being brought to bear on frontline officers on the way they are recording crime, and I am very concerned about the current situation. "Cops are very reluctant to speak to the media and say how it really is. It is all on the back of Leveson and some chief officers have imposed almost a gagging order on their staff. According to what we hear in the Federation it is happening en masse around the country".
"I do not think the true story is getting out because of the 'fear factor' of going public would have on police officers' careers."
"Officers feel that speaking to journalists will lead to them being labelled troublemakers and that it could lead to them losing their jobs, facing disciplinaries or affecting their promotion prospects. It means officers are not telling things how they really are and spin about things such as falling crime figures is not being challenged."
Mr Williams said there was considerable anecdotal evidence from police officers that the true level of crime is not being recorded.
"Closing police stations and reducing the number of cops means it is not so easy for victims to report crime to us," he said. "And most significantly bobbies find themselves under huge pressure about how to record crime. Crimes are downgraded in seriousness or the numbers are hidden. For example, if 10 caravans are broken into overnight with 10 different victims it will sometimes be recorded as just one crime. And a stolen mobile phone will be recorded as lost property, and so will not appear in crime data at all. If there is a crime where there is little or no evidence, and little chance of police detecting it, then that will be screened out at a very early stage so it does not appear in the stats."
He added: "With property crimes such as burglary and mugging, victims would historically report them because they needed a crime number for their insurance. People are now not too bothered about insuring their property and so it does not get reported."
"Officers need to know what they can and cannot get involved in, and when there is a public interest in them coming out about what they are asked to do," said Mr Williams.
In latest figures published last month the total number of crimes recorded by the police fell 8 per cent to 3.7 million last year. And the estimated level of crime in England and Wales fell by 5 per cent to 8.9 million offences against adults, according to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, which asks the public about their experiences of crime regardless of whether they reported incidents to the police. Separate figures showed the number of suspects arrested by police fell more than twice as fast as the decline in crime rates.
The Opposition said the 9 per cent fall in arrests raised concerns that criminals were “getting away with it”.
The Office for National Statistics has suggested that pressure to meet targets may be leading officers to downgrade crimes.
THIN BLUE LINE COMMENT
Regular visitors to these pages know that we have not only been protesting about the scandal of how police have been cooking the books of crime for many years, but we have also provided detailed reports of precisely how this is being done. Well done Mr Williams for raising your head above the parapet on this issue. We would go further though to say 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.
Most recently, in the same week the recent crime statistics were released, Chief Superintendent Irene Curtis, President of the Superintendents Association, showed integrity and courage lacking in her colleagues when she admitted that the service was ridden with the Gaming or Statistical fiddling culture. See the links below that refer.
Confidence in the police has fallen to an all time low, along with officer morale. It is the senior officers who must shoulder the responsibility for this, stand up and be counted, restore honesty and probity to the numbers. Start again if you must, but this CANNOT be allowed to continue.
Question for Theresa May "When will you display the same concern and awareness that this subject needs a root and branch exposure of what is going on? When will you restore probity to the numbers so rank and file officers no longer fear the damage to their integrity as officers?"
STOP using crime statistics as your political football.
ADMIT the statistics are fiddled mercilessly and in their present form are worthless, other than to help ACPO Officers ascend the greasy pole.
START again with a clean sheet if necessary. Only this will enable officers to focus on protecting life and property, preventing and detecting crime, which is what the tax payers are entitled to expect and what the majority of committed loyal officers joined up for.
Retired West Midlands Police Officer
Thin Blue Line