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
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