Wednesday, 21 May 2014
Re posted from http://policeconomics.wordpress.com/2014/05/16/smoking-gun-or-a-pulled-punch/
The recent HMIC crime data integrity report ‘Crime Recording – A Matter of Fact’ has left me both surprised and disappointed in equal measure. This was clearly an irresistible opportunity for HMIC to finally hold ACPO to account for their mismanagement (fiddling) of the crime figures and yet, for whatever reason, they have chosen not to do so.
As the first non-Police Chief HMI, and with no ACPO baggage in tow, Tom Winsor was ideally placed to take a view on the ’cause’ rather than the ‘effect’ of these dishonest practices and yet he has shied away from doing so. I can only speculate what his reasons might be;
The current schism between ACPO/Home Office/HMIC is plain for everyone to see and he may be ‘just following orders’ which seems a shame as (unpopular as he may be regarding police reform) I actually thought that he had the necessary character to take them on. Perhaps I was wrong?
If he had indeed put the ‘smoking gun’ in the hand of ACPO he would have also inadvertently blamed the Police & Crime Commissioners too. They have now been in office since November 2012 and that is too long to excuse themselves by saying that this was simply a problem they have inherited. Some of them (with a few notable exceptions) are now part of the problem rather than part of the solution, however, as key players involved in the police reform programme, they might be fireproof in the eyes of the Home Office. Given where some of them an there acolytes might end up, being fireproof might be a very useful quality indeed!
Those with a more generous interpretation might advance the argument that the evidence to place the smoking gun in the hand of ACPO has not actually been found. I would raise 2 counter-arguments to this:
(1) those in HMIC looking for an e-mail that gives a direct order from an ACPO officer to their force to fiddle the figures are searching in vain. The instructions to cheat are far more subtle and nuanced than this. They take place on a one-to-one basis with DCI’s etc in corridors, or with Chief Superintendents (embryonic ACPO officers) during staff appraisals and are couched in terms of ‘expectations’ not orders.
(2) for many years ACPO officers have baulked against NCRS and HOCR suggesting that officers should ‘use their professional judgement’ rather than applying a strict standard. On this occasion I think HMIC should apply that exact same advice to their findings regarding crime data quality. HMIC should consider the ‘sum of the parts’ rather than looking for a big set of obvious fingerprints on the murder weapon. Nobody has ever actually seen a Black Hole – but we are certain they exist because of the behaviour of the things that surround it.
HMIC have examined statistically significant samples of data and have produced results at a force-level, however, the very obviously missing piece of the jigsaw is ‘what has caused this to happen ?‘
Does HMIC honestly believe that reporting officers across England & Wales all came to the same conclusion, i.e. that they should fiddle the crime figures to artificially enhance the performance of their force in the eyes of the Home Office and public. Alternatively, is it much more likely that ACPO officers who until very recently benefited from performance related pay, influenced their senior command teams to cheat on their behalf, thinly disguised as giving officers ‘responsibility to use personal judgement’ ??
In summary; a huge opportunity has been missed – the like of which may not be seen again for many years. The focus groups (where attendees were selected by their own forces) are unlikely to provide any real insight, and internal force whistleblowing systems are about as reliable as an ACPO promise. Until there is a demonstrably independent conduit of information from officers direct to HMIC they will remain in the dark – and a little bit of me now begins to wonder if they actually prefer it that way.
Thin Blue Line Comment:-
Totally agree with your observations. I too was left disappointed by the contents of the report.
It leaves me sceptical about the true level of desire to find a remedy and solution to the problem.
ACPO : Other than the rare individuals prepared to concede that the numbers have been well and truly fudged, the consensus seems to be to keep heads down and the furore will eventually die down. With fiefdoms, pensions and careers at stake, it’s unlikely that they will come forward as a group and cough to fiddling, cheating, lying, obfuscating and denying.
POLITICIANS : Other than Bernard Jenkins and a few others, the majority do not want to lose the PR opportunity that the decreasing crime mantra offers. Labour will conveniently forget they were the orchestrators of the mass corruption of statistics with the introduction of performance targets in the public sector. They will capitalise on the inevitable increase in crime, blaming the incumbents for their inability to control the problem. The Coalition will say they’ve unearthed the problem in their tenure and are taking steps to put it right. However, I can’t see them retreating on the decision to include policing in the Comprehensive Spending Review, it’s too much of an opportunity to show how efficiently they are dealing with the deficit inherited from Labour. I also suspect that HMIC and ACPO are being “directed” to deliver the results that suit the political end games rather than the public good.
HMIC : Like you, I’d hoped the alleged independence of Tom Winsor might bring the truth to the surface. Without knowing the bottom line facts of crime levels, how can police commissioners and Chief officers possibly gauge with any accuracy the level of police resource required to meet the need? Again, political influence combined with a lack of obvious alternatives to ACPO may be a factor.
PCC’s : They may well have the power to hire and fire, but when push comes to shove, they will protect their own interests first. How many would be truly committed to exposing the truth about crime on their patch and risk being the shot messenger?
The fact remains that we know crime has been fiddled mercilessly and ruthlessly with a perniciously corruptive strategy.
Imagine you are the CEO of a national company with 43 branches Realistically, you would think that the 43 branches would perform differently. Some would be extremely successful, performing well. Also rans might just be ticking along, but there would also be a bunch of branches that under perform.
Prior to the last Labour Government, this was the case with the 43 police forces. Some were effective at controlling crime levels and increasing detections. Others ticked along while a number had clearly lost control of crime on their patch. Tony Blair and his Home Office ministers introduced performance targeting, which rewarded Chief Officers and their higher level command teams with bonus payments to reflect reduced crime and increased detections. Chief Officers, many with £150k plus packages were paid as much as 15% on top to report reduced crime. Hey presto! Within a few short years ALL 43 FORCES suddenly reported massive reductions in crime and increases in detections. Was this all achieved through more effective policing methods or by embracing the culture of “Gaming”? Knowing the facts I know what I believe.
It is not difficult to track the promotional movements of the ACPO ranks, spreading their corruptive disease with every transfer to a new force.
Bernard Jenkin stood up in the House of Commons on 10th April and criticised the ACPO leadership when launching the PASC crime stats report on fiddled figures – Watch the recording of the Parliament meeting on crime statistics by clicking the link below. In this meeting Bernard Jenkin, Chairman of the Parliamentary Administration Select Committee, discusses the findings on police crime statistics and the report “Caught Red Handed”.
The HMIC inspections were an ideal opportunity to expose the rot and thus far they have failed dismally. A root and branch investigation is what is required, with complete amnesty offered to officers prepared to expose the wrong doings and wrong doers.
Of all the criticisms facing UK Policing plc, the fudging of crime statistics is the most damaging to the service and public confidence. If we cannot restore trust in the police in this most important of areas, the service will be blighted with a reputation for dishonesty and corruption.
“All that’s necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing.”
Edmund Burke (British Statesman and Philosopher 1729-1797
It seems that too many individuals and organisations are quite content to do nothing.
Retired West Midlands DC
Thin Blue Line UK
Posted by Crime Analyst at 23:57
Bernard Jenkin criticised the ACPO leadership when launching the PASC crime stats report on fiddled figures - Watch the recording of the Parliament meeting on crime statistics below. In this meeting Bernard Jenkin, Chairman of the Parliamentary Administration Select Committee, discusses the findings on police crime statistics and the report "Caught Red Handed".
Police Recorded Crime StatisticsMr Speaker: We now come to the Select Committee statement. The Chairman of the Public Administration Select Committee will speak on his subject for up to 10 minutes, during which no interventions may be taken. At the conclusion of his statement, I—or the occupant of the Chair, whoever it is—will call Members to put questions on the subject of the statement and call Mr Jenkin to respond to these in turn. Members can expect to be called only once. Interventions should be questions, and they should be brief. Members on the Front Bench may of course take part in the questioning. I call the Chair of the Public Administration Select Committee, Mr Bernard Jenkin.
Mr Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con): I am grateful to the Backbench Business Committee for this opportunity to launch the Public Administration Select Committee’s report entitled “Caught red-handed: Why we can’t count on Police Recorded Crime statistics”. The Daily Telegraph has already described our report as “devastating”. That is because this is not just about inaccurate numbers; it is about the long crisis of values and ethics at the heart of our police force.
Crime statistics are central to our understanding of the nature and prevalence of crime in England and Wales. They provide crucial information for the police, without which they would have no way of knowing how to deploy their manpower and resources. We found strong evidence that the police under-record crime, particularly sexual crimes such as rape, in many police areas. Lax supervision of recorded crime data means that the police are failing in their core role of protecting the public and preventing crime. The main reason for this mis-recording is the continued prevalence of numerical targets. They create perverse incentives to mis-record crime, so a police officer is presented with a conflict: does he or she record “attempted burglary”, as was originally reported, or subsequently downgrade it to “criminal damage” in order to achieve the burglary target? That creates conflict between the achievement of targets and core policing values. We deprecate the use of targets in the strongest possible terms. But most police forces are still in denial about the damage that targets cause both to data integrity and to standards of behaviour.
The Home Office must accept responsibility for the quality of police recorded crime statistics and do more to discourage the use of targets. As a result of PASC’s inquiry, the UK Statistics Authority has already stripped police recorded crime data of the quality kitemark, “National Statistics”. The Home Office, the Office for National Statistics and the UK Statistics Authority have all been far too passive in addressing this problem, even though they have all known about it for years. Leadership by targets is a flawed leadership model, and that is what really must be addressed, because poor data integrity reflects the poor quality of leadership within the police. What does the institutional dishonesty about police recorded crime say about their compliance with the core values of policing, which are meant to include accountability, honesty and integrity?
That comes on top of all the other controversies that have raised questions about the values and ethics of the police and their leadership: Hillsborough; Stephen Lawrence; the attempt to hide the cause of Ian Tomlinson’s death in the G20 protests; Plebgate; Operation Elveden, about the police accepting payments from journalists to leak unauthorised information; just last month, four police officers under investigation for allegedly getting a burglar to confess to 500 crimes he apparently did not commit; and many other instances.
I yield to no one in my admiration and respect for so many police officers. They put their lives at risk in the line of duty while they serve our communities. We see them around this Palace, ready to throw themselves between us and the terrorists if the need arises. Yet these same officers are deeply cynical about the quality of their leadership and its honesty and integrity.
That is why we recommend that the Committee on Standards in Public Life conduct a wide-ranging inquiry into the police’s compliance with the new code of ethics and, in particular, into the role of leadership in promoting and sustaining those values.
The most depressing part of our inquiry is the way in which the Metropolitan police have treated my constituent, PC James Patrick, who was our key witness. He says he has been forced to resign from the Metropolitan police. Acting as a whistleblower, he tried to highlight serious concerns about police recorded crime and the target culture. We record the fact that we are indebted to PC Patrick for his courage in speaking out, in fulfilment of his duty to the highest standards of public service despite intense pressure to the contrary.
I am pleased that the Minister for Crime Prevention has now written to me—he is on the Front Bench at the moment—to say that the Home Office is looking at a range of what he calls radical proposals to strengthen the protection of whistleblowers within the police. But this has all come too late for PC Patrick. By a quirk of the rules, police offices are denied what is called “interim relief” in constructive dismissal cases, so he will cease to be paid from 6 June while he awaits his tribunal, which will not be until August or September.
We are calling for Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary to investigate the Metropolitan police service in respect of the treatment of PC Patrick. We do not believe that the Metropolitan police service has treated him fairly or with respect and care.
Jack Dromey (Birmingham, Erdington) (Lab): I have a brief question, but first may I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin) and PASC for a forensic report which charts a long-standing and deep-seated problem? Sir Andrew Dilnot said in evidence to the Committee that the more accurate crime statistics become, the more likely they are to show that crime is rising. Now that we have the Committee’s verdict that we can no longer rely on crime statistics, does the hon. Gentleman agree that it would be most unwise, until such time as the system has been changed in the way the Committee recommended, for Ministers to rely on the crime statistics to assert that crime is falling?
Mr Jenkin: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his compliments, but I am not sure that that is quite what Sir Andrew said. What the Office for National
Statistics has said is that crime may not be falling quite as fast as police recorded crime suggests, but the crime survey for England and Wales, which is a survey not a recording system, does corroborate the fact that crime is falling. That is the figure the Labour party relied on when in government and it is the figure the Government of any party are entitled to rely upon.
On the substantive point that we need to improve the auditing of police recorded crime statistics in order to make them a more reliable source of data, the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right.
The Minister for Crime Prevention (Norman Baker): May I, on behalf of the Home Office, thank my hon. Friend and his Committee for the serious work they have done? We will, of course, give a proper response in due course to his recommendations. Would he accept that some, but not all, of the issues he has raised are, fortunately, slightly historical in nature? We have taken action to discourage central targets. We have also taken action to ensure that the independent Office for National Statistics is responsible for crime statistics, and we asked Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary last June to carry out an audit of the quality of crime recording. So we are taking action at the Home Office.
Mr Jenkin: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that. Yes, this is historical, but I am afraid that makes all the more damning the fact that police recorded crime is still being misrecorded in this country. Yes, the Home Office has handed this over to the ONS and the UK Statistics Authority, and the Home Office has ceased to set its own targets, but the Committee does recommend that the Home Office, which collects the data and gives them to the ONS, has an obligation to ensure that those data are recorded correctly. We lament the fact that HMIC has not been doing regular audits. Where a regular audit was done in the Kent police there was an immediate increase in police recorded crime.
We probably need to look forward to increases in certain categories of crime, as that would confirm that such crimes are now being recorded correctly. That should be regarded as a good thing, so long as we can corroborate that with the crime survey in England and Wales still showing a fall in crime.
The Home Office has overall accountability to this House for the quality of police recorded crime statistics. So the Home Office, along with the Crime Statistics Advisory Committee, the UK Statistics Authority and the ONS, has a responsibility to ensure that the police recording of crime is improved, and overall the Home Office is accountable to this House for ensuring that the police recording of crime is of better quality than it is now.
Mr Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab): I commend the hon. Gentleman and the Committee on their work. I have long since stopped trusting police statistics; propaganda banners in the centre of Hammersmith tell me that my constituents are safer because there are 42 extra police, but when I go to the Mayor of London’s website I am told that there are 158 fewer police and police community support officers than there were at the time of the last general election. What his Committee said about how this situation “erodes public trust in the police and…the…confidence of frontline police officers” is absolutely right. However, we do need accurate statistics, as well as to address the ethics points he talked about, so what can be done to ensure that we have accurate statistics in the future?
Mr Jenkin: There are three steps to take to ensure more accurate crime statistics. One is regular audit. The second is to abandon targets. Many police and crime commissioners have abandoned targets altogether, because they recognise that they have a distorting effect on behaviour and attitudes. The third is that the police themselves need to emphasise the core policing values of accountability, honesty and integrity so that police officers at desks recording crimes recognise that, above everything else, recording the crimes effectively is a microcosm of the honesty, integrity and accountability that they must carry throughout their entire policing profession. It is these values that have been subverted by the target culture. That is the responsibility of both parties over a long period—it is not a partisan point. Our key witness told me that the Metropolitan police is still full of target junkies. It will take a long time to change the culture of leadership throughout our police forces in England and Wales—this also applies to Scotland, although we have not inquired into Scotland—but it has to be done.
Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con): It is never easy to be a whistleblower, but I cannot imagine a much tougher environment to be a whistleblower in than the police service. What practical measures of protection does the Committee recommend to safeguard the interests of people such as my hon. Friend’s brave constituent PC Patrick in the future?
Mr Jenkin: We recommend immunity from disciplinary proceedings while a whistleblowing process is under way. That is standard practice in the financial services industry, nuclear industry, aviation sector, transport sector and many other industries, and it should be so in the police as well. I am pleased to say that, in a letter sent to me by my hon. Friend the Minister, a number of possible options have been included. They are:
“Anonymity for the whistleblower from the point at which the allegation is made…”sealed” investigations so that, for a set period, no-one under investigation knows that it is happening …immunity from disciplinary/misconduct proceedings… financial incentives for whistleblowers, for example a share of recovered criminal assets from the case…protection against vexatious or malicious allegations.”All those options would have made life very different for my constituent.
Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab): As a member of the Select Committee, I was pleased to have taken part in the work on this first-class report. I congratulate the Chairman on his strong leadership in bringing forward the report and on his statement today. The issue of no-crime rates for rapes and sexual offences is a most serious matter. Although I fully support the recommendation for research, is the matter not so serious that the Government should act now to seek to ensure that all rapists are brought to justice and that women and indeed some men can feel safe from such attacks in future?
Mr Jenkin: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his work on the PASC and for his question. I refer to chart 3 on page 17 of the report, which shows a remarkable divergence in the average no-crime rate reported for rape incidents. It is important to understand that no constabulary sets a target for rape. That lesson has been learnt, but the culture of downgrading rapes to lesser offences is embedded in the culture of the police. Generations of police officers have learnt that it is a good thing to downgrade the importance of crimes to make the figures look better. The result is a 20% variation across forces in how often they downgrade a rape to a lesser offence. That shows that there must be a very wide divergence of practice across police forces, and it demonstrates why an investigation into this question is necessary, particularly for such a serious offence. I expect the same applies to many other offences, such as domestic violence and violence against women and some of the less fashionable offences that we have difficulty talking about.
Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): I declare an interest as a special constable with the British Transport police. In my brief career with the police, I have never come across any instance where a police officer has knowingly downgraded a crime. Nevertheless, I strongly commend the Chairman for his hard-hitting report, which pulls no punches and which is clearly an example of how Select Committees in this place should report and not be frightened of dealing with these difficult issues in a forthright way. So serious are the conclusions in the report that, if I were the Home Secretary, the matter would be right at the top of my in-tray. What indications has the Chairman been given by the Home Office about when the Home Secretary will come to the House to respond to the conclusions in his report? The conclusions are so serious that I believe they should be discussed at Cabinet level, and this House should be informed promptly of what the Government will do to ensure the integrity of the recording of crimes by our police forces, which is a hugely important issue for all our constituents.
Mr Jenkin: I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. Sadly, I must tell him that there is not a single police officer on the streets or around the Palace who has expressed the least surprise about what we were told in evidence by PC Patrick and many other witnesses. They all knew that this was going on, and everybody has known that this has been going on in many police forces, possibly most police forces, for very many years. The fact that my hon. Friend has not been exposed to it is intriguing; I will say no more than that. Let me reassure him that I am immensely reassured that my hon. Friend the Minister is in the House today and has indeed participated in these proceedings. I have already had a meeting with the Home Secretary at which we have had a preliminary discussion about the report. My hon. Friend is tempting me to apply for a fuller debate on the report so that Ministers can give a fuller response. Perhaps that can happen after the Government have responded in full to our report.
Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): Is not the most egregious example of the waste and futility of target setting what happened in the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime? In seeking to set three targets for reducing crime, reducing costs and improving morale, it decided to have targets of 20%, 20% and 20% in what was an obvious way of headline chasing. Is the Chairman shocked by what we heard in evidence to his Committee and to the Home Affairs Committee? Although the Met has men and women of integrity in it who are entirely free of any corruption and are entirely honourable, the surprise is that, going back to the murder of Daniel Morgan 27 years ago, there are elements in the Met that are institutionally corrupt.
Mr Jenkin: Our recommendation is that MOPAC should abandon targets. If it has slogans, they should be aspirations, not targets. The hon. Gentleman, who is on the Committee and for whose work I am grateful, is right that there are aspects of this that raise very serious questions about the ethics and values of the leadership of the police, particularly the Metropolitan police.
Mr Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) (Con): I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the work that he has done on this matter. May I draw Members’ attention to paragraph 39 which says that“misrecording of sexual offences is deplorable, but especially so if this has been brought about by means of improperly persuading or pressurising victims into withdrawing or downgrading their report.”
That particularly affects children.
Mr Jenkin: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments.
Lindsay Roy (Glenrothes) (Lab): As a member of the PASC, may I, too, congratulate the Chair of the Select Committee on his effective leadership and tenacity in this inquiry? Will he explain to the House why the flaws in the recording system were not picked up through external inspection?
Mr Jenkin: In our evidence, we heard that there was not enough internal or external inspection. When Kent police were specially audited a year or two ago, it turned out that there was substantial manipulation of crime statistics. Whether it was advertent or inadvertent, it was happening. The result has been a much cleaner bill of health for Kent. Regular audit and inspection is one of the things that must happen, and HMIC must make that a priority every year.
Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): In Lincolnshire during this Parliament, we have had an absurd spat between the chief constable and the police and crime commissioner, which resulted in the chief constable being suspended for a time—not for anything operational, just some rubbish about political correctness. Meanwhile, while all this money and time wasting is going on I, speaking personally as an ordinary member of the public, have been a victim of crime twice in Lincolnshire and I have to say that the response of the police was completely underwhelming, with no follow-up and nobody caught. People are increasingly fed up with members of police forces, particularly at the top, who pay themselves quite well and seem to be enmeshed in empire building, political correctness and form filling. What we and the public want to get back to—this is why this report is so good—and what I want my hon. Friend to comment on, is old-fashioned community policing, with the police in our communities, the old bobby on the beat, walking around, knowing everyone, talking to people and not just sitting in their headquarters having these absurd spats—
Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. I am sure that there must have been a question somewhere in that great rant, and I am sure that Mr Jenkin will be able to pick out an answer.
Mr Jenkin: I am interested to note that Lincolnshire is one of the outliers in the table of the average no-crime rate for reported rape incidents that shows the downgrading of rape. As I look at the table, I cannot remember instantly whether that means it is very good or very bad—[Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) says that I should turn it upside down. The hankering after practical policing based on common sense outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) suggests that the police would be well advised to lead according to common-sense values and the values in the ethics code. If they do the right thing on the day according to those values, their leadership should back them.
Mr Deputy Speaker: Last but certainly not least, I call Tim Loughton.
Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con): I, too, commend my hon. Friend and the PASC for this forthright and uncomfortable report. Is he aware that the figures are being distorted further by the police’s increasingly arbitrary use of police information notices? When an individual perceives that harassment has taken place, often devoid of a common-sense test of whether a complaint has substance or is vexatious, according to Sussex police, at least, there is no need for them to follow their own guidance as it is only guidance. Even more worryingly, complaints about comments made in this House by hon. Members can be registered as a hate incident by police despite our parliamentary privilege.
Mr Jenkin: The case that ended up in court as a result of the incident concerning my hon. Friend—
Tim Loughton: Not in court.
Mr Jenkin: It did not finish up in court—that was the point, wasn’t it? It was privileged. I thought the incident was bizarre and showed an extraordinary lack of understanding of where the police sit in the constitutional framework of this country. It seemed to me to lack common sense and I agree with my hon. Friend.
I should say for the record that Cleveland, Surrey and Lincolnshire had a far higher no-crime rate than the national average when it comes to reported rapes. My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough should be asking his police why they record rape and then downgrade it so much more often than the vast majority of constabularies.
Posted by Crime Analyst at 04:12
POLICE RECORDED CRIME - THIN BLUE LINE SUBMISSION TO THE PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION SELECT COMMITTEE ENQUIRY INTO CRIME STATISTICS
Submission to the Public Administration Select Committee Enquiry into Police Recorded Crime by: Steve Bennett on behalf of the Thin Blue LineFocusing on exposing the manipulation of recorded crime and police detections.
"All that's necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing."
Edmund Burke (British Statesman and Philosopher 1729-1797
Working on the assumption that the majority of submissions will focus on the technical accuracy or flaws of police recorded crime, this submission will look more at the consequences of “Gaming”, “Cooking the crime books” or “Good Housekeeping” than the minutiae of the data. The views expressed here are not merely those of the author, but also of many officers who have contributed to his site and others like it over recent years, severely critical of procedures and crime recording processes that compromise their professional integrity and cheat the public out of the public service they truly deserve.
· From many years of actual police experience followed by extensive research and evidence gathering for the website and numerous in depth analytical reports, the author concludes that police recorded crime has deteriorated into a fallacious and perniciously constructed public deception.
· Knowing or at least suspecting that the books of crime had been cooked over the years, the Coalition Government chose to use the fallacious crime statistics as a key motivator for including policing in the comprehensive spending review that led to the massive cuts in police resources and frontline officer numbers.
· The police are meant to protect life and property, prevent and detect crime. That is their function, to protect us from the criminal fraternity. This is what the majority of committed police officers want and joined the job to do. Reducing head counts based on fiddled crime statistics ignores this issue completely and endangers the lives and threatens the safety of us all.
· Politicians believe what is in their interests to believe and disregard the rest. Many Chief Officers, either by constructing the corrupt and fraudulent recording systems, or at the very least by condoning or adopting a conveniently myopic attitude to their use, display a lack of genuine interest or concern for the public whose votes and taxes keep them in office. They are only interested in spinning the numbers out to represent what they want the public to believe.
· Prior to New Labour introducing financial incentives for Chiefs, the 43 forces, as we might expect, performed differently. Chief Officers were paid 15% bonuses to reflect crime reductions and within a few short years, ALL 43 forces reported consistent drops in crime, using various practises detailed on the Thin Blue Line blog. Pernicious, deceitful manipulation of recorded crime over a 20 year period, where many Chief Officers knowingly accepted performance bonuses related to fudged numbers is corrupt.
· The lack of any support system for officers daring to whistle-blow on the subject serves to perpetuate the problem. In fact, Officers that have done so have been castigated, with careers blocked or even ended as a result.
· The honour and distinction of achieving a high rank in public service has been replaced with greed, with a convenient blindness to the immorality of their actions.
· The police will never regain our trust until they get decent leadership and smash the so-called ‘canteen culture’ that pervades the service. The decent officers, the majority, deserve much better than they have got, and so does the British public.
· Res ipsa loquitor - Let the facts speak for themselves
1.1 No to both parts. The crime game has become a devious means of pretending to win the war against crime, which happens to be fatally flawed by the fact that it allows the victims of crime to be cheated of justice.
1.2 Well known tactics are employed such as ‘cuffing’ (simply not recording or recording in alternative non-crime recorded registers) and ‘skewing’ or concentrating resources on areas subject to performance indicators, investing less in the investigation of the more difficult and resource intensive areas of police activity. (cannabis warnings, public fear, alarm or distress detections threatening texts etc are good examples). A common example employed by senior officers involves the re-deployment of officers to more affluent neighbourhoods where crime is easier to investigate and detect. For years, the game has been played by police up and down the country without any public spectators.
1.3 The object is to cheat the system for recording crime so that for all official purposes – and especially for the purpose of public statements – the force can boast that fewer offences are being committed on its patch. The main tactic in this part of the game is known to police officers all over the country as “cuffing” – because the crimes disappear up the cuff off the policeman’s sleeve.
1.4 Police officers, working under intense pressure to deliver the figures which their senior officers demand, cuff with diligence and imagination. They set up “alternative recording systems”. On the surface, they appeared quite innocent, simply records of minor damage, vehicle interference and domestic violence.
1.5 A householder contacts police to report that someone has tried to break into his home, there are jemmy marks around his back door. According to the Home Office counting rules, that is an attempted burglary, a crime which needs to be recorded. But according to the rules of the crime game, that was merely minor damage costing less than £20 to repair, not a crime at all for the purpose of official statistics. The householder goes home faithfully believing that the forces of law and order were now on his side. The police cuff him and forget him.
1.6 Similarly, the motorist who finds that someone has tried to break into his car is smuggled out of the records as a case of “vehicle interference” – not a notifiable offence. It is the same with those who tell police that they have suffered theft of a mobile phone, handbag, wallets or giro cheque. Unless there is clear evidence of a thief at work, the crime is recorded as lost property. The wife battered by her husband might think she is the victim of a crime, but, unless she insists on a prosecution she, too, ends up in the alternative records.
1.7 The author is the creator of a product provides replacement vehicles to many hundreds of victims of car theft. Daily experience has shown that crime numbers are rarely provided. Incident numbers are issued that are supposed to convert to crime numbers when the offence of Theft is complete – i.e. not recovered. Subsequent enquiries reveal that the vast majority do NOT covert to crime numbers and therefore reflect a greater than actual reduction on vehicle theft.
1.8 Many forces from our investigation adopt a crime-recording policy, designed to have the effect of artificially reducing recorded crime to a more politically acceptable level.
1.9 In private, police officers from many different forces will talk about cuffing as a routine fact of working life. In public, only a few have the courage, for fear of the damage that whistle blowing may have on their career. Spanish practices pervade which are uncomfortable for everyone. For example, if a thief goes down a street at night, stealing from every car he sees, officers record the first theft and lose the others on the back of the sheet.
1.10 From the introduction of performance indicators to measure the success of police, cuffing took off. The number of crimes that have been recorded nationally has fallen steadily since 1993. The true picture – uncorrupted by cuffing – is simply not known. What is clear is that much, if not all, of the applause has been undeserved. And tens of thousands of crime victims have been cheated of police attention.
2. What are the factors which can influence police mis-recording of crime?
2.1 Performance targeting. Despite the efforts of the Home Secretary to remove all targets, it is a fact that ALL forces continue to measure their performance by the numbers of crimes recorded. Linking this to financial incentives for chief and senior command officers for reducing crime perverts the process and encourages malpractice. Chief Officers can con the politicians and their respective Police & Crime Commissioners all they like that crime continues to fall no matter how few officers are available to deal with it. ACPO and the Chief Officers have shown themselves to be totally self-serving and shamelessly uncaring about the front line consequences of their strategies. But why should they care? They get paid handsomely for showing how wonderfully effective they are, what incentive is there for them to play the honesty card?
2.2 Cuts to the police service were authorised largely as a result of the many years of declining recorded crime. The statistics are crooked and distorted beyond belief. Many thousands of officer numbers slashed. Fewer officers remain to protect life and property, to prevent and detect crime. Yet the Chief Officers that are responsible for fudging the statistics remain in post, happily drawing their salary without conscience that they are the authors of the misfortunes dumped on the rank and file.
2.3 Whilst this is allowed to continue, the tax payer is being cheated out of the service he and she deserves and the front line officers are expected to toe the line, play the game and submit to behaviour that compromises their professional integrity.
2.4 Chief Officers must be held to account. 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 exorbitant 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 advanced their careers and political ambitions on the back of this disgraceful deception. It is the public who are being conned, the rank and file who have lost faith in their superiors.
2.5 Imagine you are the CEO of a national company with 43 branches. Realistically, you would expect a variance in performance from that the 43 branches. Prior to the last Labour Government, this was the case with the 43 police forces. Some were effective at controlling crime levels, others ticked along while a number had clearly lost control of crime on their patch. New labour introduced performance targeting, which rewarded Chief Officers and their higher level command teams with bonus payments to reflect reduced crime.
2.6 Chief Officers, many with £150k plus packages were paid as much as 15% on top to report reduced crime. Within a few short years ALL 43 FORCES reported massive reductions in crime. Was this all achieved through more effective policing methods or by embracing the culture of "Gaming" as described above?
2.7 Frontline officers are told how to police. A root and branch exposure of this crime of the century, perpetrated by the most senior police officers is required. Chief Officers will of course refute any such allegations, protecting their career and pension. However there is plenty of front line officer evidence available that confirms that the statistics are not to be trusted, though expecting officers to name and shame their seniors to expose the problem may prove to be more difficult.
2.8 Is it realistic to believe that a disparate 44 force police service could so unanimously (98% of the service in 2013) and consistently reduce crime year after year, without there being some form of gaming activity?
3. Are the right checks in place to ensure that the systems for recording crime function effectively and accurately?
3.1 Simply, no. In 2008, Michael Chatterton was commissioned by the Joint Central Committee of the Police Federation of England & Wales to report on the resilience of the CID. The report “losing the detectives” involved interviewing many operational detectives and police staff.
3.2 He discovered an excessively rigid and bureaucratic approach to targets and performance management resulting in a pernicious and perverse effect on police operations. He heard of the diverting of police priorities from serious crime to chasing minor offences; giving the public a false sense of security that crime is being reduced with increasing effectiveness by the police and undermining the discretion necessary for the impartial discharge of the office of constable.
3.3 To quote Chatterton “There is no change in Government and senior police management policy which is at once more urgent and important than this”.
3.4 Direct quotes from frontline officers provide the response to the question posed above:- “I quite often get jobs put on my desk describing what has happened and asking ‘should this really be recorded?’ I have to tell them there is a victim who has complained of a crime, it needs to be recorded. The fact that the victims don’t want to tell you what’s happened, you know, this doesn’t really matter, it’s a reported crime [sarcastically]. But there’s a couple of kids that have had a sort of a pushing game in the playground, you know, and it’s now an assault. The police service is criminalising people. A so-called crime’s been reported so you have to crime it in accordance with the National Crime Recording Standards. You can’t get rid of it. There’s an offender so the way you resolve it is by cautioning him because the senior management don’t want an undetected violent crime”.
3.5 “Say I have my bosses saying ‘look we have got too many robberies what can you do about it?’ So you start looking at these reports of robbery and suddenly they become a theft with an assault, not a robbery. There is pressure to reclassify crimes to fit statistics”.
3.6 “The point is the further you go down to the floor level where the officers aren’t quite as polished maybe or don’t have the fine judgement for when it’s going beyond integrity for recording purposes and that’s where I think the danger is because all this pressure is going all the way down you know”.
3.7 “The numbers game is by far the most depressing part of this job. I feel physically sick when reading snivelling emails from once respected DCIs on the beg encouraging unethical practices. It so totally dominates to the utter detriment of policing. All those involved at a senior level are corrupt self serving sxxxxxxx”
3.8 “Our force published a 21% Drop in Public Order offences , didn't disclose that all minor offences were recorded as Drunk and disorderly offences and not even counted as crimes ! Last year we were told to crime all drunk offences as public order ! Why do we do that ?”
3.9 There are literally hundreds of similar example comments from frontline officers across the country. It may be tempting to consider that this is one big conspiracy theory however they can’t ALL be exaggerating the practice of manipulating crime statistics.
3.10 Whilst the ghost of performance targeting is allowed to remain in the service, any revisions to the system will be worthless. Remove the incentives to fudge the figures and the integrity of the majority will prevail in recording crime as it occurs, without fear of the consequences of crime rising.
2. Has enough been done to ensure the integrity of crime data? What more should be done?
4.1 Again, no. In July 2000, HM Inspector of Constabulary reported that in eleven forces which his staff had checked, just about a quarter (24%) of all reported crimes had been mis-recorded, either through genuine confusion or deliberate concealment. At the end of that year, the politicians celebrated a fall in the crime recorded by police nationally of 122,344 offences. But if HMI’s snapshot were reproduced across the country, then in that same year, police forces concealed or mis-recorded 1,635,424 offences – more than 13 times as big as the claimed fall. In other words, for years, the police statistics have been not just slightly misleading but wholly worthless as a statement of what is really happening.
4.2 The trouble with crime is that it’s illegal. Which means it’s secret. Which means that all the king’s forces and all the king’s men and women at every level of every criminal justice agency in the country don’t really know what’s happening.
4.3 In recent years, just about all of them have thrown their hats and helmets in the air to celebrate a steady fall in crime. The Home Office said it was all down to its crime prevention work. The police said it was their new intelligence-led approach. The academics said it was rising consumption, falling inequality, more alarms, fewer adolescent males or a fall in unemployment.
4.4 But what if it never happened? What if all that research (and all of the political point-scoring which it inspired) is misleading? What if the truth is that crime didn’t fall at all – that it was only the statistics that fell?
4.5 Police figures are deeply flawed and unreliable in any event, because they deal only with the crime which they record. The weakness is twofold. First, many millions of crimes each year are never reported to them at all: victims of assaults and sex attacks (particularly children) are often too fearful; the stores who are the victims of shoplifting often discover the offence only in their stock-taking and then prefer not to advertise their vulnerability; and a mass of victims of minor crime simply do not bother to contact a system which offers them only a faint prospect of justice.
4.6 But, much more important, even if crime is reported, it is frequently not recorded because the police have a long and skilful history of fiddling the figures.
4.7 Crime screening is yet another area of concern. Whilst not suggested that all screened crimes disappear from the records, a HMIC Inspection to see what actually happens to them is needed. Police are failing to investigate about 850,000 crimes a year properly, because officers believe they are unlikely to be solved.
4.8 Up to 90% of some types of offences are being “screened out” as unsuitable for detailed investigation in a move to save resources. More than half the police forces in England and Wales who responded to freedom of information requests said they operated a screening policy.
4.9 The Metropolitan police abandoned investigations into more than 362,300 crimes in 2011-12, representing 44% of all offences. Bedfordshire police screened out 39% of crimes, Warwickshire 37% of offences and Northamptonshire 33% of crimes.
4.10 The question is asked and must be answered. “just how many of these non-investigated matters are cuffed from the records?”
4.11 As per the last question, until the incentive and desire to manipulate is removed, any preventative measures and changes to the system will be overcome by those with sufficient motive. Remove the possibility of any financial, political or career incentive. The rot must be eliminated before the healing can begin.
4.12 Prior to performance targeting, recorded crime manipulation was far less prevalent. The recording process relied upon the efficiency of officers recording matters accurately, without any incentive or pressure to do otherwise.
4.13 The HMIC thematic Inspections due in 2014 with crime recording as its focus must ne ruthless in uncovering the truth and courageous enough to reveal it.
3. To what extent can policy-makers have confidence in the statistics which result from the recording of crime by police forces?
5.1. I struggle to see how policy makers can have any confidence in statistics that are manipulated. Garbage In = Garbage Out. In business, if a company bases its resources and activity upon fallacious figures it wouldn’t be trading for very long. Determining policy based on falsified figures results in poor managerial decisions and misdirected use of valuable resources.
4. Should recorded crime statistics be classified as National Statistics?
6.1 On the basis of all that has been said before, crime statistics in their present form lack the necessary data integrity, accuracy and probity to be worthy of being classified as National Statistics.
“It is vital to measure crime accurately if we are to be able to tackle it effectively”
David Blunkett (July 2001).
Posted by Crime Analyst at 02:44
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