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

Saturday, 16 July 2011


As readers of these pages will know, the main topics of my articles centre around policing and the criminal justice system.

However, applying the principle of "cause and effect", it is clear that the problems that exist within our society today do not rest entirely with the police or the judiciary. When looking for causes, the problems and challenges our communities face are both "bottom up" and top down".

The root cause of many of our problems actually starts with the corrupt practices prevalent within hieracrch of the sectors that influence our lives most, politics, banking education, health, media and yes the criminal justice arena.  

"Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition" Thomas Jefferson.

Venality Definition: "Prostitution of talents or offices or services for reward. The condition of being susceptible to bribery or corruption. The use of a position of trust for dishonest gain".

In an excellent recent article, Max Hastings tells it as it is. To read the article at source click here, or read on below.

Our great institutions are becoming tainted by venality and incompetence.
Where are leaders of integrity when we need them?

The resignation of Rebekah Brooks as chief executive of Rupert Murdoch’s News International represents a new eruption in the phone-hacking scandal that has damaged the media, police and the Cameron government.

Not impressed with "Curruption UK"
Yet this is only the latest in a long series of blows that have struck almost every major national institution in Britain in recent years: the bank bosses were exposed in 2008 as greedy incompetents, and both Houses of Parliament were rocked last year by revelations of systemic expenses fraud.

The British have always liked to see people at the head of their society to whom they could look upwards with a little respect, and I do not mean footballers or TV celebrities.

Yet today we find ourselves searching almost despairingly for leaders in politics, in the Church, in the professions, in corporate business and in public service who seem deserving of trust.

The historian G.M. Young asserted complacently in the 1930s that ‘the four most efficient institutions in England are the police, railways, trade unions and joint stock banks — all founded 100 years ago by the same Conservative government’. Not only would Young find it hard to applaud any of those bodies today, but he would struggle to find any national institution that looks untarnished.

When the dust settles from the phone-hacking row, the most serious reputational damage will almost certainly prove to have been sustained by the police. The public is justly cynical about Britain’s media underworld. People may be disgusted by the revelations of the past fortnight, but I doubt they are shocked.

The police, however, are a different kettle of fish. We need to believe that Britain’s law enforcers are honest and efficient. Yet this saga deals a body-blow to any such presumptions.

Whatever the findings of the judicial inquiry into phone-hacking and bribery, we can already see that some of Britain’s most senior officers had close and almost certainly improper relations with News International.

Some of us, including successive Home Secretaries, have believed for decades that the police culture is rotten.

An intelligence official told me recently how shocked he was by systemic and malicious police leaks about an important case in which the Secret Intelligence Service was involved.

The police record as catchers of criminals is patchy, to say the least. Yet their bosses close ranks to deny any shortcomings — except, of course, in their financial resourcing — and fight reform tooth and nail.

Some years ago, speaking at a conference of the Association of Chief Police Officers, I suggested that the breakdown of the traditional alliance between the police and the middle class was a tragedy.

When I sat down, a succession of angry chief constables rose to rubbish my remarks. A senior BBC executive with whom I had shared the platform observed afterwards he could not decide whether I had been brave or foolish. But almost everything I said would be taken for granted by any ordinary citizen.

The police will never regain our trust until they get decent leadership and smash the so-called ‘canteen culture’ that pervades the force. Now, surely, the game is up. The decent officers, of whom there are many, deserve much better than they have got, and so does the British public.

Radical change must be forced on the police, for their sakes as well as ours. Because I am a historian, I hesitate before damning the current membership of the House of Commons because it is easy to catalogue shockers from the past.

Consider, for instance, a survey of MPs between 1790 and 1820: among 658 Members, 50 acknowledged having fathered illegitimate children; 220 were financially ruined and 35 died in exile abroad in consequence; five were expelled for fraud; and at least 19 committed suicide, while six went mad.

By that standard, today’s MPs are no worse than many of their predecessors.

But many people are deeply dismayed by the manner in which all the political parties and indeed this Government are dominated by people who have never done anything. That is to say, they have never held proper jobs, or served in the Armed Forces, or learned how businesses are run.

Few have ever been tested in the fires of conflict or even commerce. Their whole adult and even adolescent lives have been devoted to politics, unlike the Denis Healeys and Michael Heseltines, the Ernie Bevins and Willie Whitelaws of former generations.

They have exhaustively studied polls and focus groups, TV interviewing techniques and speech-writing, but they know next to nothing about what most of us would call real life. Moreover, ministers no longer have top-flight officials to cover for them: there has been a grave decline in the Civil Service.

Much as we love to mock Sir Humphrey Appleby, the devious under-secretary in Yes, Minister, he was jolly clever. So too were some of his real-life counterparts, men such as Sir Frank Cooper and Sir Michael Quinlan at the Ministry of Defence in the Eighties.

Do the police need a top down clean up?

Old Whitehall mandarins might frustrate ministers by running rings around them, but they had the brains to save them from their mistakes and keep the machine running.

I remember Quinlan sighing to me about the Ministry of Defence when diarist, serial adulterer and career scoundrel Alan Clark was a minister: ‘We’ve only got one politician here with any brains — and he’s mad.’

But most of today’s senior Whitehall officials are nothing like as bright as Quinlan and other big figures of past generations. A headmaster of Eton remarked a few years ago that, when he first went to the school, every autumn a handful of the best leavers joined the Home Civil Service.

Not any more. Nowadays, if they want fun they join the media; if they crave money they head for the City. In David Cameron’s shoes, I would recognise a priority to get better people into the top Whitehall jobs if he is to have any hope of getting anything done.

Revitalising the upper reaches of the Civil Service could do more than almost anything else to make us a better-governed country.

As for our religious leaders, we should acknowledge that the Church of England has always been an object of mockery.

A century- and-a-half ago, Anthony Trollope found plenty to laugh at, in his great tales of the clerical world of Barsetshire. Does anybody remember the Seventies TV comedy series All Gas And Gaiters?

But until recent times, the teasing was affectionate. Decent local vicars, of whom there were many, commanded the regard and gratitude of their communities.

Yet in the space of a generation, respect for the C of E has almost evaporated. It is racked by rows about gay and women priests. Nobody any more sings Onward Christian Soldiers, which we all used to love belting out, because prelates are terrified it might suggest enthusiasm for the war in Afghanistan.

Fewer people regularly attend Britain’s churches than Britain’s mosques.

Gaffe Prone Dr Williams
The tenure as Archbishop of Canterbury of that absurd druid Rowan Williams has been embarrassing: he cannot open his mouth without inserting a ski boot in it. Most recently, he questioned the democratic legitimacy of the Coalition, claiming that ‘no one’ had voted for its flagship policies to reform welfare, health and education, which he said were causing ‘anxiety and anger’.

What most of us look for in a spiritual leader is wisdom. In Williams, instead, we see ineffable silliness. The C of E has lost its dignity, without discovering a role.

Britain’s judiciary is still full of clever people, but its reputation has been severely damaged by its assumption of powers that most citizens think far beyond its rightful competence, and often insulting to common sense.

Court decisions, often deriving from judges’ personal interpretation of the doom-laden human rights laws, make effective immigration control almost impossible, leave terrorist sympathisers at large in the community, and make Britain the world’s haven for both foreign benefits claimants and Islamic militants.

Respect for the medical and teaching professions has ebbed. NHS GPs now earn six-figure incomes for doing less work than ten years ago, but still they have their hands out for more.

After asking a local doctor to counter-sign an official form for me recently, I was amazed to receive a bill for £25 for doing so. I responded that the practice could sue for the money if it chose, then changed GPs. The demand reflected an attitude of mind wholly alien to that of service to the community.

As for teachers, I feel less cross with them for striking in protest about their pension changes than for refusing to teach our children what they need to learn to survive in the 21st century, and for their bitter resistance to reform.

The entire profession remains in denial about the debasement of exam results and university degrees. Where once the local teacher in a street or village was a figure to admire, today teacher training colleges turn out jobsworths clinging to Leftist ideologies even a Cuban might think outdated.

Not much more need be said about bankers, save that their armour of greed and complacency remains proof against shame or social pressure to change their ways.

Chancellor George Osborne and Bank of England Governor Mervyn King are bent upon reforming British banking. But, tragically, the Americans refuse to move in step.

Meanwhile, the British Army and the monarchy remain almost the only national institutions that still command solid regard, the latter chiefly because of the personal conduct of the Queen and Prince Philip. I doubt whether either has accepted an unsuitable ‘freebie’ in their lives. They simply know how to behave — as too many of their family do not.

The Prince of Wales seems increasingly detached from planet Earth. Yet he’s determined to impose his highly controversial views on the nation — and its government — and in a constitutionally ill-judged, if not improper, fashion.

Prince Andrew’s dalliances with foreign dictators and gangsters seem repugnant, while Prince Edward’s recent appearances in military uniform have made him seem ridiculous to the British Armed Forces from whom he once fled.

Many of us tremble for the monarchy’s prospects when the Queen goes — as, with luck, she will not for many years yet — unless Prince William and his new bride can revive the ethic of discipline and discretion which his grandmother has wonderfully sustained.

To preserve the crown, the Royal Family as a whole need to behave with grace, avoid unsuitable company and keep their mouths shut. Only if their advisers can reconcile them to these three things will this vital institution be secure.

There seems a common strand in the decline of respect for almost all the others: so ubiquitous has become the worship of money, and those who make most of it, that the old ideal of public service is close to collapse.

In former times, many good and clever people made a conscious choice to adopt careers in which they would not earn a fortune, but where they felt they could make a worthwhile contribution and enjoy the regard of society.

In other words, they made sacrifices in order to serve. This was true of parsons, doctors, teachers, civil servants, service officers and indeed MPs.

Yet not long ago, I was dismayed when a brilliantly clever middle-aged teacher at a great school said to me ruefully: ‘My pupils assume I do this job because I couldn’t find anything that paid better.’

We have conditioned ourselves to a grotesquely exaggerated respect for wealth, and those who achieve it.

Britain’s public services and institutions were for centuries the envy of the world, not least because they were untarnished by the corruption endemic in the U.S., much of Europe and, of course, most of Africa and Asia.

I do not suggest that today Britain has become a very corrupt place: the rest of the world laughs at how cheaply one can buy a few British MPs and government officials. But the recent flood of scandals represents a wake-up call.

The public must feel assured that public servants, from Downing Street to the humblest beat copper, are working to serve the interests of the State, rather than being in it for what they themselves can make out of it.

The people who run and influence our society need to preserve their dignity and command our respect. Too many have recently done too much that diminishes these qualities. We shall all be the poorer if we cannot win them back.

Ends . . . .

I can't think why an article on corruption should link so naturally to the release of the latest crime figures, but it does!  (I like the word veniality better than corruption, thinking of senior police chiefs prostituting themselves seems highly amusing and appropriate).

The latest work of fantasy from the Home Office Crime In England & Wales 2010/11 can be reached by clicking the link.

This year, the Home Office madarins thought detections deserved a seperate publication, such is the wealth of fantasy contained within the document, it is deserving of a place alongside messrs Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson on bookshelves everywhere. The detections publication can be read here.

For those of you with a particular interest in the numbers, (or in need of a cure for insomnia) the data files can be downloaded by starting here, and clicking the links for what interests you.

Now that the crime fgures are finally released, and having had the opportunity to examine the bulk of the documents and datasets, very little has changed. Recorded crime is still being wickedly suppressed and detections perniciously and fallcaiously exaggerated. Strong stuff you might think . . .  Our latest analysis of crime and detections has taken many months to complete and exposes the facts behind the "Cooking of the crime and detection books". The arrival of this final piece of fiction from the Home Office will enable us to complete and publish the report on this site over the net few weeks.

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