Simon Cole: Police seek more reports of disability hate crime
Is it me, or does the joyous celebration that was the Paralympics seem a long, long time ago? There has been a fair amount of coverage in the media recently regarding the police approach to disability hate crime. Coverage which has, in general, given the impression that we are doing very little to tackle this crime and support victims. As the National Policing Lead for Disability, I am keen to dispel this myth and highlight some of the good work ongoing across the country to improve the way that we deal with this abhorrent crime.
The media coverage highlighted that many victims of disability hate crime still don’t have the confidence in the police, or the accessibility, to report it. There is little doubt from work done by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission that the overall levels of reported incidents do not reflect the true extent of people’s lived experiences. It seems an obvious point to make but the police can only investigate incidents, and show people that we take hate crimes seriously and are committed to tackling it, if it is reported. The True Vision website was created to simplify the reporting process for these crimes, and we would urge anyone who feels they have been victimised, and members of the public who witness such incidents, to report it to the police by calling 101, or online at www.report-it.org.uk . The hate crime statistics published by the Home Office today show that we are moving in the right direction, with nearly an 8 per cent increase in reports of disability hate crime over the last year.
Of course, there is more work to be done and the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s report; “Hidden in Plain Sight”, identified areas for improvement in 2011. Since this report police have made progress in improving our service, with focus on speaking to disabled people to understand the types of harassment they face, why they don’t feel confident reporting it and what we can do to remove those barriers.
The police service has to be accessible to everyone, regardless of their individual needs. I have urged all police chiefs to sign up to the British Sign Language Charter, which pledges to improve access for deaf people to services, promotes sign language and encourages regular consultations with the deaf community. I am also working to establish Communities of Practice through the College of Policing focusing on accessibility, autism and dementia and I’ve written to chief constables for an update on the progress of forces in this area. The National Autism Society has also been complimentary of our progress, stating that they are pleased with the measures taken by police so far to improve understanding of autism.
I would also like to promote the good work of Lancashire Constabulary, which I will be encouraging other forces to adopt in their attempts to tackle disability hate crime. The Lancashire model initially records all crime against a disabled person as a potential hate crime incident. This has led to a huge increase in reported, rather than actual, incidents. The EHRC report stated that police were failing to correctly identify incidents as disability hate crime, and I feel that the Lancashire model will go a long way towards improving this. The Disability Hate Crime Network has praised this approach, which they feel increases the confidence of disabled people to report to the police.
I am confident that we are moving in the right direction and the actions agreed in response to the 2011 EHRC report, with the full backing and commitment of chief constables and the support of the College of Policing, are being implemented. Our understanding of disability hate crime, from the perpetrators, to the victims, to the witnesses, is improving all the time, but I must stress again that it will only be through increased reporting that we can further combat disability hate crime and continue to improve our approach.
The ACPO and College of Policing “EHRC Out in the open: A manifesto for change” can be found here: http://www.college.police.uk/en/docs/Disability_hate_crime_implementation_framework.pdf
ACPO Questions and Answers on Taser, 15 October 2014
*This blog was originally published in February 2012, and was updated on 25 July 2013 and 15 October 2015.
The public are asking more questions now than ever before about the police use of Taser and what it means for policing and protecting the public.
There are many different views on it, and it is regularly debated and discussed in the media and across social media.
We believe it’s important for the public to have the facts around Taser to help with that discussion, which is why we have drawn up a list of the most frequently asked questions for the public and media to use.
ACPO constantly reviews the guidance around Taser to ensure it remains fit for purpose and this Q&A will be updated as more issues arise.
- National Policing Lead for Taser, Commander Neil Basu
When was Taser introduced?
In 2004, following a trial in five forces, it was agreed to allow chief officers of all police forces in England and Wales to make Taser available to authorised firearms officers.
In July 2007 authorised police firearms officers were allowed to use Taser in a greater set of circumstances. These officers are now able to deploy Taser in operations or incidents where the use of firearms is not authorised, but where they are facing violence or threats of violence of such severity that they would need to use force to protect the public, themselves or the subject.
It was also announced in July 2007 that the deployment of Taser by specially trained police units who are not firearms officers, but who are facing similar threats of violence, would be trialled in ten police forces.
The 12-month trial commenced on 1 September 2007 and finished on 31 August 2008. It took place in the following forces: Avon & Somerset, Devon & Cornwall, Gwent, Lincolnshire, Merseyside, Metropolitan Police, Northamptonshire, Northumbria, North Wales and West Yorkshire.
Following the success of the trial, from 1 December 2008, Taser use was extended to specially trained units.
Is every police officer given a Taser?
Every chief constable makes a decision, based on an assessment of the risks in their own area, to train and deploy a proportionate number of officers to use Taser so that the public are kept safe and their officers are protected as far as possible.
Every use of Taser is reported and scrutinised and officers are individually accountable to the law for the amount of force they use. Not everyone will be trained in Taser
Why use Taser at all?
Taser provides an additional option to resolve situations, including the threat of violence, which can come from any section of the public. In certain circumstances, the use of Taser is more appropriate than conventional firearms in resolving dangerous situations safely and with less risk of serious injury. In addition, officers who are trained and equipped with Taser must decide on the most reasonable and necessary use of force in the circumstances. The level of force used must be proportionate to achieve the objective and officers are individually accountable in law for the amount of force they use on a person.
The alternatives to Taser include a range of other measures such as physical restraint, batons and police dogs. Much will depend upon the circumstances, but Taser will often be less injurious than resorting to baton strikes or deployment of a police dog.
In the majority of cases involving Taser, the mere threat of its use has been enough to deter assailants and ensure a peaceful resolution of the incident.
What happens to someone when Taser is used on them?
The normal reaction of a person exposed to the discharge of a Taser is the loss of some voluntary muscle control resulting in the subject falling to the ground or freezing on the spot.
Recovery from the direct effects of the Taser should be almost instantaneous, once the discharge is complete. I
n addition to this, anyone who is arrested after being subjected to Taser is examined by a forensic medical examiner.
After Taser is used on someone, are the medical implications taken into account?
Yes. The medical implications associated with Taser are closely monitored by an independent panel of medical advisers who also monitor the learning from across the world. This enables ACPO to constantly review the guidance to ensure that it remains fit for purpose. In addition, the Authorised Professional Practice is supported by a detailed training curriculum which is delivered to all Taser officers and refreshed annually.
Who is responsible for training officers?
Officers are trained by their own, in force trainers. All forces have a lead instructor (some more than one) who is trained by a small team of National instructors governed by the College Of Policing.
What happens if someone on drugs is Tasered?
Drug use is a common cause of violent dangerous and unpredictable behaviour, and Tasers can be a useful tool in safely subduing drug affected people who can otherwise be very difficult to restrain. Other more traditional methods can lead to injury to both the person and officers.
What happens if someone with a heart problem is Tasered?
Officers won’t always know the people they are faced with or their medical history. The officers still have to deal with the circumstances presented to them. Some people who are violent may have a condition that not even they are aware of. What is important, is that the officer deals with the situation in a proportionate manner and only uses that force which is necessary in the circumstances. If an officer becomes aware that the person they are dealing with is suffering from a condition, they will treat the person as a medical emergency and get them to hospital.
What happens if someone is Tasered more than once?
There are instances where people have been subjected to more than one use of the Taser in the UK with no ill effect.
Why has there been an increase in the use of Taser?
Taser use across the UK has increased due to more officers being trained and more Tasers deployed on the streets. This has been carried out in a structured way within each force area. The comprehensive training packages, governance and monitoring are in place and its spread is documented in each force areas threat and risk assessment. The Taser deployments across the UK including training and governance are monitored by the National Less Lethal weapons secretariat which is led by Commander Neil Basu
Why has Taser got a bad reputation when police say its so good?
This is a complex question which we believe may stem from a number of areas. Other countries in the past have deployed Taser in circumstances that some may see as questionable. This has resulted in negative press activity and public concern raised through human rights groups such as Amnesty International. Taser is a use of force option which deploys small pulses of electricity. When we were young we were taught, quite rightly, that electricity is dangerous and never to put our fingers near the sockets. This mantra has stayed with us. When Police announced the use of Taser which uses electricity, some people were concerned due to their past experiences and knowledge. Taser has been rigorously tested over many years. Taser has been safely used in the UK since 2004. It is a distance control option that police can use in certain circumstances. Every officer has to justify using Taser on every occasion.
Why is Taser used in Custody? Custody is a secure environment!
Custody can be a volatile and dangerous area. It is often the place where the reason for the arrest becomes more evident due to searches and the exposure of drugs and other such items. This can cause a violent reaction. It is in these situations where the Police are responding to the violence confronting them. There is no way of knowing if or when this will occur. Officers are bound by the law and as such must justify the use of Taser if it is used. Taser is a tactical option that affords a police officer distance when dealing with a violent or potentially violent person. This is good for the officers, the intended subject and anyone else in the vicinity. It is not acceptable that an officer uses a Taser to facilitate a procedural process, for example using Taser to take fingerprints when a prisoner offers passive resistance. If the prisoner displays violence then use of Taser may be justified and the taking of fingerprints is, in effect, suspended whilst the violent incident is dealt with. Once this has been bought under control the process of taking fingerprints can resume.
Why is Taser used on people who are Mentally ill or who are vulnerable?
Taser is used in situations of violence and potential violence. Police have a duty to prevent situations from turning violent, to protect the public and themselves. As we have already heard, on 80% of occasions that officers are presented with violence or potential violence, the mere presence of the Taser is enough to bring that situation to a swift conclusion without the need for any physical force to be used. In such dynamic situations, officers aren’t always going to know what the persons background or medical history are. It is in these instances the officers use their experience and training to make a decision as to what use of force option to use. If immediate action is needed and Taser is deployed, following the situation calming down, officers will make sure the individual is given immediate medical attention if needed which includes hospital if necessary. The priority is to remove the risk the person presents to themselves and others with the least intrusive options.
Can Taser be used on children?
There is no limit on the age of the person that Taser can be used upon. However officers are taught that there is an increased risk of cardiac ahrythmia in persons of small stature or children. A child is classed as someone under the age of 18. Lots of violent crime is carried out by people under the age of 18, indeed a recent survey of statistics in London revealed that only a few people had been tasered in this age bracket and they were involved in violent crime, armed with weapons etc. An officer has to justify their use of Taser to the standard of the criminal court. Taser will be used in such circumstances and is often less injurious that a baton or other forms of force. As said before only 20% of cases result in the Taser being fired.
What is ‘drive stun’?
Drive stun can be split into two distinct applications.
1) Drive stun and 2) Angled drive stun
1) Drive stun (cartridge off)
If an officer were to use a Taser without the cartridge in drive stun mode, the Taser will deliver an electrical current between the two contacts (electrodes) on the front of the device which are about one and a half inches apart.
If the Taser is used in this mode it will only deliver a shock to the intended subject which will cause them to recoil away in some discomfort. In this mode the Taser does not work in order to incapacitate an individual (unlike when the barbs are fired). It is probably the least effective, yet most complained about use of Taser across the world.
In ‘drive stun mode’ the arcing electricity at the front of the Taser is required to make contact with the subject’s body or clothing before a shock results. This requires the front of the Taser to be pressed against the person. Use of a Taser in this way can leaves signature marks on a person’s skin that are temporary, these range from reddening to burns regardless of whether contact is made directly with the skin or whether the Taser is applied through clothing. To that end, the UK police do not teach cartridge off drive stun during the training courses, but officers are shown how this could assist them in emergency situations. An example when it could be used would be the officer who has fired their Taser, both the barbs have missed and they discard the ineffective cartridge from the front bay in order to replace with the spare. However before the spare can be put in place, the intended subject closes the officer down to attack them leaving the officer with a Taser that is not ‘loaded’ with a new cartridge. The officer with the Taser knows that in this most desperate of situations, the application of the ‘cartridgeless’ Taser may be enough to give them time to re load, or to choose another option.
2) Angled drive stun (cartridge on)
Cartridge on drive stun is achieved when the Taser has been fired towards the intended subject and one probe has missed, or the Taser has been deployed towards the subject and the probes are too close together to incapacitate the subject and just cause localised pain, or possibly no reaction at all. In these circumstances if an officer then places the end of the taser in an opposite part of the body to the probe(s) then it is possible that incapacitation can be achieved. This is the most effective way of carrying out a drive stun, or angled drive stun as it more commonly known. Using the Taser with the cartridge is far more impactive than without.
(NB There is a third possible way a Taser can be deployed in a ‘drive stun’ mode and that is when the cartridge is fired, both probes miss and the officer places the end of the cartridge onto the intended subject which is attached to the Taser. This is not a common use and would be similar effect to a cartridge off drive stun.)
Are complaints involving Taser taken seriously?
Yes. All complaints about police activity are taken seriously. In the case of Taser, any complaint that is made is recorded and investigated by the force concerned. All complaints that are made are referred to the IPCC. The police have a definition of a Taser complaint. This is only guidance, and perceived involvement of Taser in a complaint will be recorded and investigated thoroughly.
“Any complaint directly relating to the deployment or use of Taser where Taser has directly affected the outcome or persons involved, or where the complainant feels that Taser was an issue”
How are officers selected to become Taser officers?
All officers involved in Taser training have to satisfy a minimum requirement. Some forces may introduce other requirements including raised fitness levels depending on the officers’ core role within that police service.
The Taser User is a constable (or equivalent agency rank or grade), trained in the use of Taser.
The Taser User, in line with national guidance and training:
Should possess sound judgment, a knowledge and understanding of the National Decision Model (NDM) to resolve incidents involving conflict, have demonstrated maturity of action in the workplace, demonstrated an ability to use legitimate force in a proportionate manner and have an acceptable Professional Standards / Complaints and Misconduct record. (There is no requirement for psychological profiling to be used for selection.) This will be signed off by an officer of at least the rank of Superintendent.
The officer will have been confirmed in the rank of Constable, or equivalent agency rank or grade, not being a Special Constable (see ACPO Council minutes April 2012).
They will be expected to undergo a biennial eyesight test to the same level as authorised firearms officers.
Will undergo an initial Taser User Course, of 18 hours minimum contact time, and be expected to be able to discharge a Taser accurately, pass the final examination at the end of the course, demonstrate competence at dealing with role-play scenarios in training and justify the use of force using the National Decision Model (NDM) and demonstrate understanding when dealing with vulnerable persons.
They will be required to successfully complete annual refresher training, of 6 hours minimum contact time. If they are found not to be competent during re-training then re-accreditation must take place or they will leave this role.
The officer must demonstrate safe systems of work for the loading, unloading and function checking of the Taser, report any faults or failures to Taser single point of contact or technician and will maintain competence to the national minimum standard in both first aid and officer safety training. This must include training on Acute Behavioural Disorder (ABD).
How do forces monitor Taser use?
All forces record and monitor all Taser use
Forces have been issued guidance in relation to monitoring Taser use. They are to have;
A well identified and experienced Single point of contact within force that can represent the force at National meetings.
- Credible well informed Taser lead - This person may be the forces ACPO lead which covers less lethal weapons.
- Knowledge of the force position relative to the National picture - Look at other forces and how the force sits within the National policing picture
- Protocols to quality assure all Taser forms - All forms should be supervised
- Knowledge of statistics and identify action to probe anomolies -
- Responses to Taser FOIA - Requests for information are constant. Any FOIAs should be recorded and the responses copied into the National secretariat.
- Anticipated media interest and have a prepared media strategy reflecting the National position - Forces should not be caught out by this. Taser is emotive. There is interest and it can be significant. Any failure to respond appropriately could make the situation worse when there is a perfectly reasonable explanation.
- A comprehensive engagement programme, to inform communities - It is essential that communities are involved and presented too. They may be supportive now, but if there is an adverse incident will that support turn.
- Complaints recorded correctly - Using the definition, complaints should be recorded accordingly.
- Flow of information with the less lethal weapons secretariat as a critical friend for support and guidance. - There are experts within the LLW secretariat.
Why does Taser use vary greatly from force to force?
Forces deploy Taser in response to their threat and risk assessment. This can reflect local variations in the demographics of violent crime and violence towards officers.
Some forces will deploy Taser with units that are specifically set up to deal with confrontation. This will mean there is a greater likelihood the Taser will be used more frequently than other forces that deploy Taser with officers who perform a general duty. What is important is that each use must be justified within the law and supervised within the force itself. If this isn’t happening there are safeguards at a National level that allow this to be investigated further.
Taser has killed people. How can you say it is safe?
Taser use is closely monitored. Its introduction into UK policing has followed a strict and comprehensive review and study by Government Medical Officers (SACMILL). To date there has been no deaths attributable to Taser use recorded in the UK. There have been deaths where Taser has been used, but inquests have revealed these people have died from other injuries or reasons.
How do officers make a decision to use Taser?
Officers use the National decision model when arriving at a decision to use force. The model is as follows
What Is The National Decision Model For?
The National Decision Model is a police framework that officers are taught to enable them to make considered and consistent decisions. It is to be used by all officers, decision makers, and assessors that are involved in the whole decision process. It is not only used for making the decisions but for assessing and judging them. It can also be used to improve future decisions and to help create techniques and methods for many situations.
Officers will look at each individual case and decide on the most appropriate tactical option that is in line with the law, is proportionate and necessary in the circumstances.
Tasers have been called '50,000 volt stun guns'. Are people hit with 50,000 volts?
It is not correct to say Tasers use 50,000 volts to stun people, that is not how they operate.
At the top of a Taser there are two contact points which need to link together. In order to do this, the Taser generates a highest peak voltage of 50,000 volts for a fraction of a second to allow the arc jump a gap so the two contact points meet. The Taser also does this in incidents where a probe lodges in clothing and must jump the gap to the body.
When travelling across the human body, the peak voltage drops to 1,200 volts.
The average current a Taser emits is 0.0021amps.
A Taser works not by power, but by the way it sends the current into the body and how the muscles respond. For example, the energy delivered per pulse is 0.07 joules compared to a cardiac defibrillator which typically delivers 150-400 joules per pulse, which is 2,000 to 5,000 times more powerful.
Is it true that police are going to introduce a new Taser called X2 in a few months time?
The X2 is currently undergoing scientific assessment and the Home Office Centre for Applied Science and Technology is examining trials to determine if the X2 would be suitable for operational use in the UK.
The X2 would be subject to a raft of in depth and lengthy scientific and medical tests in the UK prior to deciding whether it was viable for use in policing here. The implementation of any new Taser would also need the approval of the Secretary of State before implementation. There is also another Taser similar to the X26 being considered. Its called the X26P and uses the same cartridges as the current Taser, but has an enhanced computer inside similar to the X2
Would the X2 be more powerful than the existing Taser?
The X2 model is more sophisticated in that it measures every pulse and adjusts the charge according to how good the connection is, so in some cases it is even less powerful due to this advancement in technology.
It also offers an increased level of accountability as it records every occasion when the device is activated and whether the Taser made a connection with a subject. This compares with the Taser X26 currently used which only records time, date and duration of discharge. It cannot differentiate between a hit and miss.
How can police be confident the right amount of current comes out of a Taser?
The manufacturer carries out thorough tests on all of its Tasers, which are guaranteed by an internationally recognised quality assurance body to ensure they meet operational specifications before they are supplied.
Tasers are also regularly checked to ensure they are functioning correctly.
If the current Taser works, why do we need a new one?
The police service is legally bound to explore alternatives to lethal force and continuously examines new technology to ensure if there are any developments which could be applied in UK policing .
The Taser X26 has been commercially available since 2003. As with all electronic devices, technology moves on and new models may offer significant advances in safety, use and accountability. All equipment has a realistic life expectancy and will require eventual replacement.
There has been some concern about Taser being used on the chest. Why do police aim there ?
Taser does not work by electrocuting people, but rather incapacitates them by stimulating their muscles. Due to this, Taser is most effective when it is targeted at large muscle groups, such as the back, thighs, abdomen and buttocks. These muscles are also largely responsible for posture so can be more effective at stopping a subject who poses a threat to the public or police.
As is often the case with frontline policing, an individual who poses a threat is unlikely to stand still and allow a police officer the choice over where the Taser is placed. This is further complicated by needing to avoid sensitive areas of the body such as the eyes, face, neck and groin. If a combative individual is attacking an officer and is face-on, then the reality is the only area the officer may be able to hit, whilst avoiding sensitive areas, is the chest and abdomen.
Training does not encourage the chest as a preferred area for probe placement as it is often less effective than other areas of the body due to the smaller muscles that are not responsible for posture. However, the operational reality is that where a subject is rapidly closing an officer down and posing a threat to the officer or the public the very narrow window of opportunity may mean that is all they can see and therefore aim at.
No use of force is risk free, but the alternative to Taser when an individual poses a threat includes a baton, police dog and a firearm. These can obviously have a much more long-term impact on someone compared with a Taser, which lasts for five seconds.
But Taser International, the company who makes the devices, said police should avoid chest shots.
When Taser International raised this as a concern, a review was carried out by an independent body, the Defence Scientific Advisory Council’s Sub-Committee on the Medical Implications of 'less lethal' technologies (DOMILL).
The conclusion was the risks associated with such probe placement remained low for the vast majority of people. The medical statement concluded there was a slightly increased risk to people of small stature but even then, the probe placement would have to be close to the heart and not just anywhere on the chest. This advice is passed on to all officers throughout their training. In addition, the manufacturer has said ‘research does not support the idea that Taser discharge can induce fatal arrhythmia’.
After every use of Taser, an officer must record where on the body it was used.
Before now, the area of the chest was not defined and therefore the data collated on where shots were fired may include probe placement which was not strictly on the chest. The very latest version of the form which officers have to fill out has now subdivided the chest area to limit this ambiguity and provide greater clarity.
In the last ten years Taser has been successfully and safely used thousands of times to protect the public and officers. Whilst there have been several deaths following Taser use, of those enquiry’s that have reached a conclusion to date, the Taser was not directly responsible and other causes of death were identified.
It has been said that officers using Taser ‘only’ receive training for three days. Is that enough?
It is one of longest and most comprehensive Taser training packages in the world.
The training has been developed by an experienced group of Taser instructors and practitioners and is subject to regular updates and review.
It is among the best training in the world and is robustly scrutinised by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Less Lethal Weapons Working Group, the Home Office Centre for Applied Science and Technology (CAST) and the Science Advisory Committee on the Medical Implications of Less Lethal Options (SACMILL).
As well as reviewing the training, any police officer who applies to become Taser trained must undergo a thorough selection process and not every officer who applies will be successful.
In order to pass the training, officers must have an established history and training in the use of force, decision making, officer safety training and first aid. Taser training then builds on this existing training and experience.
The initial training module is 18 hours, spread across three days, however the total training an officer would receive to become a competent Taser user would be significantly more when you consider all of the prior training they receive.
Typically in other countries it is achieved in one day, whereas the UK’s package is three times longer and demands officers already have the skills mentioned above.
But why don’t police officers using Taser get the same amount of training as officers using a firearm?
A comparison between Taser training and firearms training fails to account for the significant difference between the two. The standards within Taser training are as thorough and robust as firearms training, but the length of the course for firearms is naturally longer because of the complexities and varying tactics used.
Taser is laser sighted and simple to load and reload. It is also used at limited, close ranges. This compares with a handgun which uses a conventional sighting system and is used over a greater variety of ranges, positions and integrates with a far more complex variety of tactical options. As a result of these differences it takes more time to train and assess an officer’s ability with a handgun.
As the skills required to use a Taser are far simpler by comparison with a handgun, the re-examination and training of officers is naturally different. The training concludes with a robust assessment process that will eliminate officers who do not meet the required standard. Once officers pass this training, they are then assessed every year and if they do not meet the requirements they will no longer be allowed to use it. It must also be remembered that length of training is also not the best way to judge someone’s ability. Ultimately it is not about how much training an officer has done, but rather the standard they must achieve and maintain.
Commander Chris Greany - New Head of NPoCC, 23 September 2014
As the new Head of The National Police Coordination Centre (NPoCC) I’d like to introduce myself to you and tell you more about my plans and priorities. This is the first in a regular series of blog posts I am planning.
NPoCC is a new unit opened last year by the then Policing minister Damian Green MP and overseen by ACPO President Sir Hugh Orde.
The NPoCC team coordinates police officers and staff from across UK policing to support forces during large scale events and operations and in times of national crisis. They ensure the right people are in the right place at the right time.
Recent work includes supporting the police response to the large scale flooding earlier this year, the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the NATO summit in Gwent & South Wales, all the time working to support the requirements of Chief Constables.
The NPoCC team is also mapping the specialist police skills available across the country so that Chief Constables are aware of what skills and expertise are available regionally and nationally. This work will allow the police service to make best and most efficient use of its specialist resources while policing budgets reduce.
I’m looking forward to building on the great work done by my predecessor ACC Stuart Williams and the team and I am keen to develop NPoCC as the “go to” place for Chief Constables when they need additional support.
Police And Communities Working Together To End FGM, 3rd July 2014
On the day that the Home Affairs Select Committee publish the report of their inquiry into Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), National Policing Lead for Honour-Based Violence, Forced Marriage and FGM, Commander Mak Chishty has spoken of the large amount of positive activity with communities and other outside partners which is helping the police understand and better tackle this horrific act.
I have noted with interest the findings of the Home Affairs Select Committee in their report on FGM.
I strongly welcome the fact that many of the recommendations which ACPO has made in relation to improving the legal framework supporting FGM detection and prevention, such as FGM Protection Orders, a review of female genital cosmetic surgery and a recommendation to place the FGM multi-agency practice guidelines on a statutory footing, have been adopted by the committee.
It is important to reiterate that there is a massive amount of work being done by the police service around the country to prevent the victimisation of women and girls through this harmful practice.
Our strategy has always been to raise awareness, educate families and communities, work closely with partner organisations, while seeking out all possible prosecution opportunities.
Officers are trained, through the College of Policing, in spotting the signs of FGM and are working to investigate it in a sensitive and caring manner, with an approach that puts the victim or potential victim firmly at the centre of our work.
In addition, specialist teams deal specifically with safeguarding, working to nationwide common principles, but also tailoring their approach to the needs and requirements of the communities in which they work locally.
Let me highlight some of the local ways in which forces are participating in this nationwide work:
Derbyshire Police have implemented training programmes and are developing an FGM action plan. They have also activated safeguarding procedures following three referrals from maternity services and have been taking part in community events on honour-based violence and FGM.
Northumbria Police have had meetings with local healthcare representatives to have in-depth discussions on FGM and encourage reporting of cases where there is the fear that FGM may have taken place. They are mapping communities to identify risk areas, developing local policy on the topic and have requested the development of a separate flagging system for FGM in their crime reports. They are developing a communications strategy and participating in safeguarding boards.
West Midlands Police have had FGM firmly on their agenda for many years, with training on dealing with FGM on the syllabus for detectives and child abuse specialists for five years. They have supported anti-FGM conferences, distributed posters to schools, surgeries and community centres, conducted web-chats on the topic, offered training to school representatives and are continuously working to improve their working practices in partnership with outside organisations, communities and the CPS, as well as sharing good practice with other forces. They are also an active member of the Birmingham Against FGM group, and have been for many years.
Greater Manchester Police are members of the FGM Greater Manchester Partners’ Forum and have also conducted a leafleting campaign among communities. They have been developing very sound working practices on a policing level and include FGM prevalence and FGM profiles in their reporting. They have also been developing initiatives for use in schools.
Meanwhile, further south, Avon and Somerset Police are also involved in their local FGM Safeguarding Partnership and have conducted summer awareness campaigns, supported a locally-produced play designed to raise awareness of the programme, sent representatives to an FGM Zero Tolerance Day event, have developed and implemented e-learning packages for officers, have highlighted the issue with their local media and have even advised the BBC on an FGM storyline for a special two-part edition of Casualty, which is filmed in the Bristol area.
Of course, these are all just examples from a small number of forces of additional activities which aid and supplement core policing work in this area – keeping people safe and cutting crime. But the two must be and are complementary with the work in our towns and communities.
Several airside operations at airports have resulted in a number of fruitful investigations and a lot of awareness-raising through the distributing of information leaflets and the very helpful ‘FGM Passport’ which carries key information on the law and support available.
The police are working very closely with the NSPCC's Childline and their dedicated FGM helpline, which has an increasing number of reports being made to it.
I am as concerned as the select committee about the low level of prosecutions to date, but that does not mean that the problem is not being addressed. All reports are taken seriously and investigated fully, and all those incidents of FGM and/or FGM-related crime activity are now referred to the CPS for a review of the evidence. All 42 forces in England and Wales have agreed a protocol with the CPS for the investigation and prosecution of FGM offences. In addition I have made it clear that anyone involved in the chain of events leading to FGM, anyone who aids and abets it will be subject to robust investigation with a view to prosecution. This includes those who knowingly facilitate the practice through money-lending and arranging travel and so forth.
We have produced, with the CPS and, soon, with the involvement of the College of Policing, a specific training course for the effective investigation and prosecution of FGM and forced marriage offences. This training commenced on 10th February 2014.
FGM is a serious crime, which requires serious policing responses. The police service is dedicated to eradicating this harmful child abuse practice within our shores and supporting those living with the effects of it. This is a stance shared by all levels of the service, from those who can and do provide leadership within forces, down to officers and non-warranted officers on the ground. Our work continues apace.
Gareth Pritchard - Changes to dangerous dogs legislation - 16 May 2014
We welcome blogs from anyone with an opinion of issues in or affecting the police service, providing they are not party political, defamatory or containing inappropriate language.
Today’s blog comes from Deputy Chief Constable Gareth Pritchard from North Wales Police, who is a national police lead for dangerous dogs.
The deaths of 12 children and eight adults since 2005 in incidents involving dangerous dogs have rightly raised public concern.
In the UK, there are between eight and 10 million dogs, with 110,000 strays being dealt with each year, costing £57m to the taxpayer and animal charities.
Annually, 6,000 persons seriously injured in dog attacks which require hospital treatment. In addition, 3,000 postal workers are attacked every year, 70 per cent of which occur on private property.
The above demonstrates the scale of the problem, but for me it is the effect on children which is most profound, with many suffering very serious facial injuries which create a legacy of fear and can have a profound effect on a child’s confidence as they grow.
We also know that dogs have been capable of far worse when in the care of an irresponsible owner - and there are grieving families still numb from loss to prove it.
Children are extremely vulnerable to dog attack, not only due to their size, but also their unpredictable behaviour around dogs and their inability to understand warning signals.
The new legislation in the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 provides an opportunity to improve the situation.
Of these 20 deaths, 16 occurred on private property. The amendment to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 now changes the law to apply to ‘any place’ instead of ‘public place.’ This change is very welcome as many cases of death and serious injury from dog attacks have not resulted in proceedings in the criminal justice system.
My fellow police officers have reported being extremely frustrated with their lack of powers to investigate dog attacks involving serious injuries. This new power will protect workers who visit people’s homes to provide essential services such as; health visitors, midwives, utility workers and postal staff, all who have to date been unprotected.
This new legislation gives added protection to guide dogs too, along with other dogs recognised as ‘assistance dogs.`
The Guide Dogs Association estimates that 10 of their dogs are attacked each month. It is appreciated how devastating an attack on an assistance dog can be not only to the animal, of course, but to its owner, who relies on their dog every day.
Each assistance dog costs £50,000 to train to the level needed to support a person with limited vision. The new legislation offers additional protection for attacks on assistance dogs which sentencing being available for up to three years.
The Act addresses and improves sentencing, the maximum penalty for the owner of a dog who kills a person is increased from two years to 14 years. Where a person is injured by a dog, the maximum sentence is also increased from two years to five years.
There are a small minority of people who use powerful dogs as status symbols to cause fear and apprehension.
Gang members use certain dogs to protect their operations or their assets which causes anxiety within their community.
The new legislation will hold these individuals to account and has also given provisions to assess whether the individual is fit to be in charge of a dog, and minimise the risk to the public.
Many of these provisions seek to encourage responsible dog ownership in our communities.
Additionally, microchipping will become compulsory in Wales in 2015 and in England the following year. This is primarily a welfare measure but it does seek to hold dog owners to account.
There are currently opportunities available for free microchipping by a number of animal welfare organisations.
Later this year, new Anti-Social Behaviour proposals will be enacted which will give further tools for police and local authorities to deal proportionately and effectively with dog control issues. There are many localities and parks where the lack of effective dog control causes concern to the community.
This limits the ability of adults and children to enjoy the freedom to use their local amenities without apprehension or fear of a dog attack.
The vast majority of dog owners are responsible people who care for their animals and ensure that welfare is prioritised. Owning a dog enhances many people’s lives and they are a healthy part of any community.
I welcome these new provisions as they allow the police, working with local authorities and animal welfare organisations, to improve dog control, encourage responsible dog ownership and improve public safety.
Francis Habgood - Building trust in crime recording, 14 April 2014
We welcome blogs from anyone with an opinion of issues in or affecting the police service, providing they are not party political, defamatory or containing inappropriate language.
Today’s blog comes from Deputy Chief Constable Francis Habgood from Thames Valley Police, who is a national police lead for inspection regimes.
The findings of the committee and their report’s interpretation in the media leave many questions unanswered. I have tried to answer some of them below.
Why is there under-recording and why does it matter?
Accurate crime figures are essential to allow police resources to be directed effectively and inform the public of crime trends in their area. Chief constables need and want accurate crime data.
It is also vital that the public trust that if they are victim of crime it will be recorded accurately, investigated fully and that police will take appropriate action. Our policing model relies on that confidence and people coming forward to ask for help and report crime.
Both the Crime Survey of England and Wales (CSEW) - which is recorded completely independently of the police - and recorded crime, which is the police’s own statistics, show that crime has been going down. Over the last 10 years the level of reduction across both these measures is the same: 38 per cent. There has to be a margin for error in all statistics but there is no reason to think that the rate of error has changed dramatically over recent years. While crimes can sometimes be mis-recorded or placed in the wrong categories, mistakes such as this could not account for a significant impact on this overall trend.
That said, recorded crime does not capture all aspects of criminal activity; serious and organised criminality often does not fit neatly into one of the recorded crime categories. More emphasis has been placed on preventative police activity in recent years, such as protecting against dangerous people. Police resources in this area are allocated based on an assessment of threat, risk and harm. But it is more difficult to measure the success of this type of policing activity.
We know that there is a level of under-reporting of crime and that this level varies according to the offence type. We work hard to increase reporting: particularly in areas where we know underreporting is a particular problem such as domestic abuse and rape. In these categories a rise in the recorded figures is positive in the sense that it is uncovering crime we know is already there and may reflect confidence in the police’s ability to tackle it.
There can be many reasons for under-recording:
â€¢ lack of awareness and knowledge about the rules and standards, which are quite technical
â€¢ pressure of work – short-cuts being taken by staff or possible neglect of duty
â€¢ system errors where IT systems are not integrated
â€¢ use of professional discretion in the public interest; for example, a parent reporting a theft by their child and wanting police advice but never expecting a crime to be recorded
â€¢ pressure to achieve local performance targets which results in perverse activity
â€¢ more sinister manipulation of figures; although there is limited evidence of this and any cases are dealt with robustly.
Is ‘lax compliance’ by the police to blame?
We have to be honest and say that the service has not always met the standards of data quality that the public expects.
We should remember that the vast percentage of crimes are recorded accurately but there is certainly scope to improve that percentage.
People do not join the police service intent on failing to record and investigate crimes properly. There are clear standards in place for ethical and professional recording of crime but there is some inconsistency in how the existing rules are interpreted and applied by individual forces.
The focus has to be on the service that we provide to victims. Steps are being taken to introduce a more consistent approach across the country.
How can chiefs tackle this?
Chief constables have a responsibility for ensuring that crimes are recorded accurately and are appropriately investigated. Working with PCCs, chief constables have an important role to play in building a culture of ethical crime reporting that complements the service’s wider values, laid out in the draft Code of Ethics developed by the College of Policing.
Regular messages should reinforce the commitment to ethical crime recording, and the launch of the Code of Ethics later this year will represent another opportunity to emphasise this. It is important that staff have the appropriate level of knowledge to be able to undertake their role in the crime recording process; and chiefs will work with the college to achieve this.
Chiefs also need to ensure that their processes support good crime recording and investigation and that, where necessary and possible, ICT systems are integrated. Force Crime Registrars should be trained and accredited through the College and have appropriate access to a chief officer.
A better way of measuring performance?
In previous years, the use of targets in policing took on a life of their own. This has, on occasion, led to perverse activity, particularly in relation to crime detections. Numerical league tables and unsophisticated performance management that focuses exclusively on numbers without attempting to understand what lies behind them can provide a disincentive for accurate recording of crime. This is a pitfall of performance regimes in all walks of life, and especially across public services.
Measuring what is happening in our communities and the effectiveness of police activity is an important part of improving policing. It needs to be applied intelligently.
Across policing the approach to performance management is now more mature. There are no national targets, less locally-set numerical targets and the way that they are used is generally more appropriate. It is a responsibility of leaders to ensure that culture and behaviour that is encouraged by any targets or measures is not leading to perverse activity.
Concentrating solely on police-recorded crime as a means of measuring police effectiveness misses the many other aspects of police activity, such as managing risk.
Others play an important role in ensuring ethical recording; PCCs holding forces to account, the Home Office ensuring that data collected from forces is accurate and HMIC carrying out proportionate audits of forces. There is a responsibility on us all to ensure that crime is as accurate as possible.
Autism Society - Autism awareness can improve police practice, 2 April 2014
We welcome blogs from anyone with an opinion of issues in or affecting the police service, providing they are not party political, defamatory or containing inappropriate language.
Today's blog is from Claire Hughes, Project Manager for the National Autism Society (NAS), the UK's leading charity for people affected by autism (including Asperger syndrome).
Why do police services need to know anything about autism? We at the National Autistic Society (NAS) believe there are two main reasons. Firstly, it’s more prevalent than is often realised. More than one in a hundred people have autism so officers will come in to contact with people with autism. Secondly, it’s likely that the social difficulties and behaviour that can be perceived as unusual, which are often the result of the extreme anxiety and fear they often feel about an incomprehensible world, will bring some people with the condition into direct and potentially problematic contact with police and the criminal justice system.
Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects thousands of people in the UK. It’s a spectrum disorder, which means the condition impacts on people’s lives in different ways. Some people with autism may have profound learning disabilities and be unable to talk, some will experience acute sensory sensitivities, others may be prone to self-harm or may use alcohol or drugs to cope with the challenging way they view the world.
Although some people with autism will have learning disabilities, others will have average to above average IQ. Those with higher IQ are referred to as ‘high functioning’ people and include those with Asperger syndrome. They are less likely to have problems verbalising– although they can have rigid behaviours and rituals – and may be able to live independently in the community.
Common to all, however, are difficulties with perception that result in an inability to make sense of the social world. This means that people with autism are often unaware of the consequences of their actions or the effect their behaviour will have on others. Their ‘social blindness’ can also lead them to mistake dangerous, exploitative relationships for friendships.
Understanding autism better can impact directly on police practice. When a young Surrey girl with autism went missing, the police were called in to search for her. Officers found her fairly quickly but when she caught sight of them she ran off. The pursuit lasted for four miles until one officer realised why she was running: she hadn’t registered her pursuers as people. The police were dressed in bright yellow, fluorescent coats but she was only aware of large shapes, in flashing colours, hurtling towards her and was terrified. It was only after the lead officer removed his coat that she stopped running.
Also, their particular vulnerabilities can mean people with autism get drawn into trouble. We’re aware of cases where groups of people have taken advantage of a person with autism, using their flats to drink, take drugs and generally engage in anti-social behaviour, causing the police to become involved. One individual inadvertently became a drugs courier because he didn’t understand the implications of his actions and thought that the local gang member was his friend; friends were something he desperately wanted.
Greater understanding of autism and the application of evidence-based techniques on the ground will vastly improve interactions between the police and people with the condition.
At NAS, we’re pleased at the initiatives being taken across police services to improve understanding of autism among front line and other staff in key positions, such as awareness training and the Pegasus database used by Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Surrey amongst others.
Pegasus, which contains the names, addresses and information volunteered by people with a disability who find it difficult to give information via the spoken word, can be of enormous help to people with autism in a time of crisis.
Staff who want to share experiences and ideas and to learn how they can improve standards in their interactions with people with autism, should attend our forthcoming event. On 10 – 11 April, we are holding a two-day conference on the care of offenders with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The conference will feature presentations from some of the world’s leading researchers and practitioners in the fields of psychology and forensic psychiatry as well as new initiatives and best practice in the management of challenging behaviour.
This is a chance to learn strategies that will improve standards, increasing public confidence in the service. For more information on the conference: http://www.autism.org.uk/news-and-events/nas-conferences/upcoming-conferences/care-and-treatment-of-offenders-2014.aspx
For more information for criminal justice professionals: http://www.autism.org.uk/cjp
ACPO President on our FOI Disclosure Log publication, 21 February 2014
ACPO is dedicated to transparency: A blog by ACPO President Sir Hugh Orde on our Freedom of Information Disclosure Log publication.
I am very pleased that today we have announced the publication of our Freedom of Information (FOI) disclosure logs – a key part of our commitment to openness and transparency in policing.
It has always been a major priority of mine to ensure that ACPO as an organisation is as accountable as possible and I made it my business on becoming President in 2009 to push hard to have ACPO be brought under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act, a process which was completed, wholly voluntarily, in 2011.
Frequently, as part of my work, I refer back to the guiding principle of policing by consent – the police are the public and the public are the police – and I am conscious of the need to retain and build on public confidence in the police if that consent is to be maintained and if the UK police service is to continue to be the best in the world.
Confidence in the police is a constant talking point in the mass media at the moment, even though confidence has been fairly steady for the last six years. However, we can never be complacent about its maintenance, and part of that process is making sure that all our work is as transparent as possible.
The disclosure logs on our website cover all disclosures made since 2011 and are divided up, helpfully, according to national business areas, providing what I hope is an easily navigable way for the public to access information that has been requested by others.
These published logs form the first part of a rolling publication scheme and we will, over time, continue updating the information and adding new items that have been requested.
I welcome all FOI requests – it is important that the public know how we, as the body that brings together the operational leaders of our service, use our time, and both make and enact our decisions. We have a field-leading team of dedicated FOI experts delivering corporate advice and assisting forces as well as a dedicated ACPO FOI Officer and Decision Maker managing all ACPO FOI referrals. Their commitment to the job and the people who request their services is exemplary. I am proud to have them on my team and I am confident that, if you seek information from them, you will be impressed by the service you receive.
It may seem obvious to state it, but as a public service, our principal duty is to serve the public. In so doing, we owe it to you to be transparently held to account by a variety of means, including FOI requests. ACPO’s information stream is open to scrutiny, and we welcome the chance to show you how we help make a real difference to serving the public and keeping them safe.
Sir Hugh Orde OBE QPM
President of the Association of Chief Police Officers
The Future of ACPO - A blog by our President, Sir Hugh Orde, 17 Jan 2014
On Wednesday, a very useful Westminster Hall debate was had at Parliament about Police and Crime Commissioners and the future of ACPO, and I felt it was important to address some of the issues raised by MPs during the course of the debate.
ACPO’s future was the subject of a recent independent report, conducted by the highly-respected General Sir Nick Parker and delivered to the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners.
General Parker made some very insightful and interesting recommendations about ACPO, including looking at the future of our national units and how they are administered, and also in relation to ACPO’s role as the voice of operational police leadership.
While I have every respect for the work of those MPs who work tirelessly on the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) to ensure that, among many other things, our police service is run efficiently and accountably, I fear that some of those HASC members who took part in Wednesday’s debate are somewhat mistaken about the current lie of the policing landscape.
The College of Policing has been set up to provide a vital and valuable service to the police family in terms of policy, standards, ethics and training, and as a home for our national policing business area leads who formulate policy through the College’s Professional Committee.
But the business areas also have a home within ACPO, when the focus is on operational matters requiring leadership and decision making; in particular, discussing and shaping how to deliver solution most effectively so as to maximise the safety of our communities.
One contributor to Wednesday’s debate noted General Parker’s view that “it would be wrong to assume that there is a clear dividing line between policy and practice” and they were right to do so. There is certainly a relationship of mutual benefit between the operational expertise of ACPO and the evidence-based policy and education output of the college.
General Parker was very clear – chiefs still need a forum to pool knowledge and expertise and inform the service’s operational activities, and he commended the work of Chief Constables’ Council (which I have the pleasure to chair) in this sense. He also commended ACPO central office as providing value for money and said its £1.2m budget was a good starting point, funding-wise.
ACPO is not a vast, unwieldy organisation – our central office, which runs the work of the association, has fewer than 20 staff, who work tirelessly to provide the necessary support to our work – giving programme and member support to more than 300 members, making our finances meet the task set as a major professional organisation and keeping us accountable through FOI disclosure, running a communications office that manages a vast workload with very few staff, and I have a two-person Presidential team who help me in my work and represent me in many different arenas.
Our national units – the National Wildlife Unit, the National Ballistics Intelligence Service, the ACPO Criminal Records Office and FOI Referral Unit – do receive an amount of public money but are run separately, under our banner but not the direct control of central office, and, for cost-efficiency, have host force arrangements with Police Scotland/Greater Manchester Police, West Midlands Police and Hampshire Constabulary respectively.
Like the College of Policing, we are a company limited by guarantee, something that was essential to allow us to hire and second staff and secure office accommodation. I do not support the indefinite continuation of our status as a limited company – I believe we have a role to play in the statutory environment and I welcome that arrangement being created.
There has been some confusion as to what being a company limited by guarantee means. Some fear we are not accountable and not compelled to comply with Freedom of Information requests. It's important to reassure those who rightly question us that, being a regulated body, we voluntarily responded to Freedom of Information requests before 2011 and we handle and reply to all FOI requests.
Visibility, openness and accountability is something I passionately believe in and something I encourage in all areas.
Part of the accountability in policing project nationwide has been the introduction of PCCs, and chief constables across England and Wales work closely with their local commissioners and have welcomed the chance to engage with them.
I believe in democratic accountability – our parliamentary democracy is the bedrock of our society after all – but the calls for elected officials to sit on every governing committee throughout the service must be handled carefully. It is absolutely correct that the service should be held to account for the work that it does, and that it accounts for itself fully, frankly and to the representatives of the people we keep safe.
But there is a very clear difference between our service being made democratically accountable and being subjected to party-political interference.
Therefore I believe – as does General Sir Nick Parker, the Home Affairs Select Committee and the Policing Minister – that police chiefs need a forum to share thinking and make decisions on how our operational service can best serve the country.
Change is inevitable in all things, and I look forward to working as part of the Transitional Board, along with the Association of PCCs, the Home Office, the College of Policing and others, to find a way in which ACPO can continue to serve – openly, honestly, actively and positively – so that, in tandem with the college, we have the greatest breadth of workable, evidence-based ideas, operational expertise and accountable structure available to us, and, in turn, the public can rely on a confident, transparent and professional police service.
Sir Hugh Orde, OBE QPM,
President of the Association of Chief Police Officers
Simon Bray - Understanding the impact of new psychoactive substances,17 Jan 2014
Today’s blog comes from Commander Simon Bray, national policing lead for new psychoactive substances.
Chief constables absolutely understand the impact of new psychoactive substances.
The Home Affairs Select Committee’s (HASC) report on new psychoactive substances describes the use of new psychoactive substances (NPS), often called legal highs, as an epidemic.
We agree that the growing use of these drugs is a serious concern. People have died from taking these drugs and the future impact on users is unknown as so little research has been done. The supply and use of new psychoactive substances bring serious organised criminals trading in illegal drugs, firearms and weapons into local communities. With them they bring other types of crime and anti-social behaviour, causing real harm and leaving people feeling unsafe.
Just two weeks ago, police joined other law enforcers in targeting those suspected of supplying new psychoactive substances. Across the country police arrested 44 people, seizing unidentified white substances which were found to contain controlled drugs, visiting head shops and removing products labelled legal highs for analysis. 274 people who’d bought NPS online were visited and police wrote to a further 574 to warn them of the dangers of using products labelled legal highs.
In the report, HASC praised police forces making innovative use of current legislation, such as the Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act 1985 and General (Product Safety) Regulations 2005, to prosecute suppliers of so called legal highs, forcing them to pay costs, fines and confiscation orders. The committee also welcomed the news that ACPO is working with Public Health England to plan our response to the 2014 festival season - a dangerous peak time.
In light of this action, it is hard to see how police chiefs have failed to understand the impact of new psychoactive substances as the committee suggests.
The reality of dealing with new psychoactive substances is complex. Under current legislation, it is legal for people to buy and sell uncontrolled drugs. There is no responsibility placed on the seller to prove that the products they are selling are legal and safe. When is substance is controlled, we are fighting against chemists who are able to make small changes to the chemical recipe each a time a new psychoactive substance is controlled.
Where controlled drugs, including mephedrone and other illegal NPS, are seized and identified, data is collated and reported centrally. Through their neighbourhood policing teams, police forces have a good understanding of premises which are causing anti social behaviour and other concerns that are linked to the supply or use of NPS. Police forces also record intelligence relating to NPS, particularly where associated with criminality.
However, it is to be expected that police will focus greater attention on those drugs which are controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act and, within that, on those drugs which are deemed by Government to cause the most serious harms.
It is important to understand the problem of NPS but we need to be careful about not creating an overly bureaucratic system to do this if it takes officer time away from enforcement without positively impacting on the police’s ability to protect people from these drugs and the harms that go with them.
The Government review of new psychoactive substances aims to produce evidence-based tailored powers that will help us to tackle this threat and I look forward to being a part of that review. In the mean time, we will continue to use all the tools at our disposal to reduce the harms NPS can cause.
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Guest Blog, Paul Burstow MP - Policing and mental health,12 December 2013
Today’s blog comes from Paul Burstow MP; Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Sutton, Cheam and Worcester Park.
Paul served as Minister for Care and Support (including Mental Health) between 2010 and 2012 and chairs the CentreForum Commission on Mental Health .
Last week, I sponsored a cross party debate to turn the spotlight on the scandalous treatment of those in acute mental health crisis who end up being managed in the police stations, rather than supported in the health service. Thirty-six per cent of people taken to places of safety for a mental health assessment find themselves in police custody rather than hospitals. On the most recent figures, that is 7,761 individuals, and, shockingly, 263 vulnerable children and young people held in police cells in the last year at a time when they desperately and demonstrably needed healthcare support.
These are people who are not suspected of any crime - they are individuals experiencing a mental health emergency and are being let down by a health service that institutionally discriminates against those with mental health problems. There are many ways of measuring whether we have achieved parity of esteem between physical and mental health, and the numbers we lock up in police cells must be among the starkest measures of progress.
One in four of us will experience a mental health problem at any one time. We are talking about something commonplace, but often hidden in plain sight in our society. That is why Victor Adebowale, in his report for the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, was right to say that mental health issues are a part of the core business of policing. Rates of mental health conditions among offenders range from 50 per cent to 90 per cent and there is no escaping the fact that the police, often as first responders, are and will continue to deal with people suffering from mental health problems, whether as victims, offenders, witnesses and bystanders or members of the public. In London, according to estimates by the mental health unit of the Metropolitan police, 15 per cent to 25 per cent of police activity is related to mental health issues. Some estimates put the level much higher. In London alone that adds up to more than 600,000 calls a year related to mental health difficulties.
And this is not without its own consequences. Estimates suggest that in London alone the mental illness costs to the Metropolitan Police Service are equivalent to £1,000 per employee, while nationally 56 per cent of staff working in custody suites report experiencing anxiety and depression. The nature and role of police work, however, require the police to be in control and psychologically robust.
There are some positive initiatives. The street triage pilots seem to be working well and the soon to be launched concordat between the Home Office, Department of Health, NHS England, the Police and other critical agencies focused on emergency mental health care is a very welcome step in the right directions. But there is still to do to tackle the institutional bias and discrimination that people with mental illness suffer, including the deep seated stigma which mental health carries. One step Chief Police Officers could take would be to add their support to the Time to Change anti stigma campaign that has already made strides in tackling harmful attitudes to mental illness. I believe the police deserve all the support they can get.
Want to hear more on policing and mental health? Follow our national policing lead for mental health and disability, Chief Constable Simon Cole on Twitter - @CCLeicsPolice
Martin Hewitt - Rape discussion provokes strong feelings, 2 December 2013
Today’s blog comes from Deputy Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt, national policing lead for adult sex offences.
Last week police forces around the country ran targeted campaigns focussing on how they deal with rape and sexual offences, the support victims should expect and the realities of the judicial process.
As National Policing Lead for Adult Sex Offences, I was keen to use the opportunity to generate an intelligent, honest conversation around some of these issues. Working with national media and using social media allowed the discussion to take place.
Rape and sexual offences are uniquely damaging crimes for the victim. The impact on their lives is immense and the journey to becoming a survivor is an extremely difficult one for many. It is important that police, or other agencies in the criminal justice system, don’t make that process harder.
There are many victims who feel that the police have treated them sensitively, professionally and supported them as far through the process as they were willing or able to go. At the beginning of week, an extremely brave rape survivor, Jordan Hart, waived her anonymity to talk to Channel 4 News about her experience and to call for others who’ve been raped or assaulted to come forward and report it to the police. Jordan credited her support officer Debbie, a Sexual Offence Investigative Techniques officer (SOIT), with helping her through the process.
But there are also survivors of rape who feel that they have been let down by the police. On Channel 4 News, I was shown a film of another woman who felt that she didn’t have the support of the police officers when she reported that she’d been raped by an ex-partner.
Throughout the week, I have made clear the standards of service that victims of rape and sexual offences should expect from the police. They should expect to be listened to, believed and supported by the police as well as to be offered the support of specialist support workers. They should expect the police to do everything they can to bring the offender to justice. I am disappointed and angry when officers don’t meet those standards so I understand why others are too.
Training, supervision and leadership all reinforce these standards as does dealing with issues robustly when officers fall short. My role as national policing lead is to advise and help police forces to drive up their standards so the experience of reporting to the police and the subsequent process is as good as it possibly can be.
In both media interviews and on Twitter, I have been challenged about times where the service or individual officers have got it wrong. I have been honest that we don’t always get everything right in rape investigations. Sexual offences are complex to investigate and prosecute, and victims’ needs and reactions vary from person to person. But we do learn from our mistakes. All the changes we have made in the way police deal with sexual offences - specialist training of officers, the introduction of early evidence kits, greater access to sexual assault referral centres and working closely with support groups - are changes that have emerged from looking at ourselves and realising that we can do things better.
Last week I said it was important we are honest about the realities of prosecuting rape. Some criticism came from people who felt that raising the fact that 30 per cent of prosecutions don’t end in a conviction would put people off reporting. I disagree.
Firstly, I was absolutely clear it is always worthwhile reporting. It allows police to respond, it opens up access to support services: we need more people to report. Secondly, if I were to suggest that going through the criminal justice process as a victim of rape would be easy, that would be dishonest and would not, I believe, create trust. To increase reporting we need to increase people’s confidence in the police response and confidence is fundamentally based on being told the truth.
During the Twitter Q&A some people also found the hashtags we used - #InFocus #Rape - offensive. Hashtags provide a quick and easy reference for people searching on Twitter for particular topics and we wanted to make that search process as simple as possible – especially for those who might be looking for advice or opinion anonymously. We asked what others on Twitter thought and many found it sensible and clear, but we’ve taken the negative feedback on board and will consider hashtags carefully for this topic in future.
I didn’t want to deliver a single message last week; I wanted to have a conversation about a very complex and emotive issue. Some of the criticism highlights the strength of feeling and the difficulty that police forces have in trying to deliver campaigns to prevent rape. In interviews over the course of the week, I said very clearly that rape is rape and blame lies solely with the offenders. But I was still accused of victim blaming, as were other forces.
Just as we do with other crimes, many forces provide personal safety advice within rape campaigns, as well as targeting potential offenders. I understand why people are so passionate about the need for us to get this balance right, but it is disappointing when a message which could help protect individuals and prevent crime is misrepresented, because it impacts on people’s confidence to seek our help.
I do feel that we have been successful in having an open and honest debate and I want to thank all of those who’ve engaged with us and been a part of that, whatever their perspective. The work doesn’t stop at the end of last week; public engagement will help us continue striving to encourage reporting and improve the police response.
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Suzette Davenport - Drink and drug drivers, 2 December 2013
Selfish drink and drug drivers threaten to turn Christmas into a tragedy.
So many people look forward to Christmas and all the social activity that goes with it – spending time with family, relaxing with colleagues, going to parties – but there is a very real danger to everyone posed by drivers under the influence of drink or drugs who threaten to turn Christmas into a tragedy for themselves and those who get in their way.
That is why, every year, we press home the message that drink-driving is not worth the risk.
It is our wish for everyone to have the happiest festive period possible, but we owe it to those whose lives have been destroyed by those who drink-drive to ensure that we are doing everything we can to stop those who take this most reckless of chances.
We owe it to people like Neal and Penny Staley, on the Isle of Wight, whose 10-year-old daughter Evey, at the outset of a very promising life, was killed by a man who chose to drive after drinking and taking drugs, and in whose memory Hampshire Constabulary is backing a purple-ribbon campaign against driving under the influence: an initiative I am proud to support and to hold up as our national flagship campaign in the fight against drink and drug driving.
Those who think they are fit to take the risk of driving while intoxicated are amongst the most selfish in our society – they spare no thought for themselves and, even more gravely, they spare no thought for the lives that they are capable of irreparably destroying in the blink of an eye.
The message is very simple. If you are driving under the influence of drink or drugs, we will be watching out for you, we will catch you and we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.
Our equipment is fiercely accurate, our officers are highly trained and we do not turn a blind eye.
So think before you drink – make sure that if you are in a group that has a distance to travel at the end of the night, someone is a designated driver who does not drink at all. If all else fails, call a taxi, but do not get behind the wheel if you have been drinking.
The legal limit is not a challenge – it is the boundary between lawful and unlawful. Any alcohol in your system will impair your reactions, even if you are technically below the limit.
Do not be fooled into thinking that you are fit to drive the morning after a heavy night out so long as you have a coffee and a cold shower. Neither of these will do anything to get the residual alcohol out of your system. It takes an hour for every unit of alcohol you have consumed to be eliminated from your body, so it is very easy for you to still be over the limit if you have drunk heavily the night before.
And do not think that because your intoxicant of choice is not alcohol that you can fool our officers – even aside from the many methods at our disposal to detect those under the influence of drugs, your eyes will give you away if you have been taking them and you will be spotted.
Though you need to be aware of the penalties, what we are saying is basically grounded in common sense – look after yourself, look after each other and spare a thought for those who use our roads: don’t drink and drive, so that we can all have a happy Christmas.
Suzette Davenport is National Policing Lead on Roads Policing, amd is Chief Constable of Gloucestershire Police.
Mick Creedon - Fighting serious organised crime, 18 November 2013
Fighting serious organised crime: The National Crime Agency and police forces working together.
October saw images of officers clad in black fatigues flashing across our screens and new National Crime Agency (NCA) being hailed by some as the British FBI. A month in the NCA is getting on with the job.
The stark truth is that the step change in law enforcement which the NCA is designed to deliver is necessary.
We live in a world where crime networks trading in drugs, firearms, cyber crime, counterfeiting, identity crime, sexual exploitation and people trafficking are complex, interlinked and sophisticated. Their members are both highly resilient and skilled at evading the law.
So the launch and clear focus of the NCA on relentless pursuit of these criminals who bring misery to communities is to be celebrated and seen as an important part of the effort that many have been making for many years. It is not, as some have sought to say, just a rebranding exercise with a smaller budget and fewer resources, but an opportunity for all in policing and UK law enforcement to raise their game.
Organised crime group mapping was introduced by ACPO several years ago and this process remains at the heart of the new Home Office strategy and the work of the NCA. All forces take responsibility for identifying offenders, gathering intelligence, investigating and ultimately prosecuting members of organised crime groups. Alongside forces and working with national agencies, the police led multi-agency Regional Organised Crime Units (ROCUs) provide additional specialist assistance to police forces for covert operations, financial investigation and surveillance when required.
The police service has become increasingly successful at putting serious, organised criminals behind bars and taking their assets. We haven’t done this alone, it’s been in partnership with a range of others including the Serious Organised Crime Agency, HM Revenue and Customs, UK Border Agency, Trading Standards, the Environment Agency, the Gangmasters Licensing Authority and the Department for Work and Pensions.
Police forces are highly effective at tackling organised crime in their areas and the newly introduced ROCUs widen their reach and capabilities but their resources and structure mean that they cannot always tackle organised crime on a national and international level. As in other areas of policing, it makes sense to nationally coordinate policing rather than duplicating activity in each force.
That is why we in policing need a niche national agency to support what we do and enhance our ability to fight organised crime. The NCA’s links to European and international partners will be invaluable as will its ability to gather the most sensitive information and intelligence from other national partners like HMRC, GCHQ, MI5 and MI6.
ACPO has been working closely with Keith Bristow, NCA’s director general and his senior team to develop a strong, effective working relationship between chief constables and the NCA. As chief officers, we are in fierce and firm agreement that there needs to be a partnership approach: working together to assess risk, sharing intelligence and resources, and ultimately being jointly accountable for our operations.
Written into the empowering legislation is the ability for the NCA to direct forces to provide assistance or to ensure that a particular task is undertaken. In considering how we best deploy our resources we will always have to take account of specific demands that a particular force might be facing but we and the NCA are clear that directive tasking should not be necessary. I would go so far as to say that if it were to happen, then the relationship and partnership has failed as our shared understanding and responsibility should mean that we work together without falling back on legislation.
We all agree that serious organised crime has a corrosive and devastating effect on communities across the country – drug-related deaths, misery caused by anti-social behaviour, theft, burglary, sophisticated cyber attacks, people being trafficked for slavery, violence and murder. It costs the country at least £40 billion a year and we know that there are at least 40,000 people currently active in over 5,000 organised crime groups in the UK. While smashing the door down, collecting evidence and taking a case to court is attractive to us all, enforcement alone cannot win the war.
We all recognise that there needs to be much more focus on preventing and preparing for the threat of organised crime, making the environment as hostile as possible to these criminals. We should be applying as much crime prevention to top level offences as we do to lower level crimes.
Education, early intervention and social support can help to divert people away from criminal careers. Changes in technology, manufacturing and legislation have substantially reduced some forms of crime such as carbon credit card fraud, VAT fraud and vehicle theft and could do the same for serious organised crime. Looking to the future, effective border control and ensuring that all new computers, tablets and smart phones come with built-in protection from cyber attack could make a real difference. The NCA’s emphasis on tackling corrupt public officials, lawyers and accountants who act as enablers is another positive step in this direction.
Finally, I really do urge those looking on from the sidelines to give the NCA time and space to do what it is there to do. The public, media and politicians of whatever colour must realise that the criminals we are looking to defeat are sophisticated and will do all they can to insulate themselves from investigation, disruption and attack; it can take years of painstaking and complex investigations to build cases against them.
The best result for the UK may not be high-profile arrests and convictions of a few very bad people but rather the long term stifling of opportunity and the prevention of crime, which is much harder to measure and doesn’t make headlines but arguably has a much greater impact.
Mick Creedon is the National Policing Lead for the National Crime Agency Working Group, and is Chief Constable of Derbyshire Constabulary.
Andy Marsh - Firearms licence-holders are no cash cows, 1 November 2013
Firearms licence-holders are no cash cows – National Policing Lead for Firearms and Explosive Licensing, Chief Constable Andy Marsh responds to Backbencher blog.
The cost of a firearms licence has not changed since 2001 and at the time of writing, the taxpayer is subsiding shooters to a sum in the region of more than £17 million per year so the minority may legally operate firearms.
Shooters are charged £50 to be granted a five-year firearms licence. Following research in more than 20 different police forces, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has estimated the cost of processing such an application to be in the region of £200.
This creates a deficit between the cost of processing the application and the fee paid which is currently being picked up by the tax payer, rather than those who benefit from the licence. As such ACPO submitted a proposal to the Home Office to increase fees in licensing.
After protracted period of negotiation an increase from £50 to £92 was proposed. There was universal agreement amongst all consulted that this amounted to less than the actual cost of the licensing process, by anyone's estimation.
The proposal sought full cost recovery, in line with the Treasury's own guidance, within three to five years.
Any changes to the fees system would of course have to be implemented by the Home Office who were supportive of the proposal in principle which was clearly made in the interests of the taxpayer and with increased efficiencies to policing in mind.
ACPO does not seek to lobby Government and that does not form part of its remit. However, with the deficit in licence fee costs being picked up by the taxpayer, it is certainly a matter of public interest that we highlighted the issue and passed it to central government to decide.
As the national policing lead for this area, my three priorities for firearms and explosive licensing are:
to improve public safety by preventing foreseeable or avoidable harm through proportionate and necessary measures
to improve the efficiency of firearms licensing, making it a rigorous and appropriately thorough yet cost effective process, which is nationally consistent
to provide an excellent service to the public, inclusive of both certificate and none certificate holders.
The proposal of an increase in fees was far from an opportunity to generate income and was certainly not seen as a 'cash cow' to swell police coffers. Instead it was designed to support the delivery of these priorities and bridge the gap between the charge for licences and the actual cost of granting them.
There are approximately 780,000 firearms and explosives licences in force in the United Kingdom. Allowing for holders, who are licensed to have both firearms and shotguns, this equates to approximately 680,000 individuals with a licence lasting for five years.
Again, allowing for new applications and general licence-holder turnover, which accounts for just over four per cent of licence holders per annum, the police service will, on average, deal with approximately 140,000 applications and renewals each year.
In 2009-2010, the estimated total cost of firearms licensing was approximately £23.6 million with the fees paid equating to £6.4 million for the same period. This left a net cost to the tax payer of approximately £17.2 million. In simple terms this means the cost to licence holders of to about 27 per cent of the actual costs.
In my role I work and consult with shooting organisations such as the British Shooting Sports Council, and the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, as well as organisations such as the Gun Control Network - a relationship which is integral to the fair introduction and implementation of changes and improvements to police processes surrounding firearms.
It would be easy for the uninitiated to compare this particular licence with the likes of television licences, passports or rod licences for fishing. But these all involve significantly less administrative work and do not require public safety visits. By way of example, the cost of a shotgun licence over five years, as previously mentioned, is currently £50. The cost of a rod licence for migratory fish over the same period amounts to £360.
The current period of austerity is creating the need for forces to make efficiencies which are in some cases leading to backlogs in processing applications and maintaining up to date records regarding details of weapons held by an individual.
This presents a potential risk to public safety as well as impeding their ability to provide a fair and efficient firearms licensing service.
It’s for these reasons the proposal was made.
Andy Marsh is the Chief Constable of Hampshire Constabulary and National Policing Lead for Firearms and Explosive Licensing.
Simon Chesterman – Police use of Taser and training, 12 July 2013
The police use of Taser is often in the media and unfortunately some of the reporting and commentary is inaccurate and misleads the public.
Reports of this nature are damaging because they needlessly undermine confidence in police and do not acknowledge or understand the reason for Taser use.
The aim of Taser is to offer police a less lethal option to resolve situations, which include threats of violence from an individual towards the public, or themselves and the police.
Taser is more appropriate and less injurious to use when resolving certain situations, and without it, the other options open to officers include the use of a firearm, a baton or police dog.
In the majority of cases involving Taser, the mere threat of its use has been enough to deter assailants and ensure a peaceful resolution of the incident.
When Taser, or any other force is used on an individual, a police officer will always have to justify their actions as being necessary and proportionate under the Law.
All use of Taser is reported to the Home Office in great detail, including those where young people are involved.
Some commentators have also suggested a lack of investigation into complaints about Taser could be a breach of human rights legislation. This claim is a fundamental misunderstanding of the process.
Every complaint received by police in relation to their use of Taser is automatically referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission for investigation.
One issue that has come under scrutiny has been the training given to officers who use Taser.
The training has been developed by an experienced group of Taser instructors and practitioners and is subject to regular updates and review.
It is among the best training in the world and is robustly scrutinised by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Less Lethal Weapons Working Group, the Home Office Centre for Applied Science and Technology (CAST) and the Science Advisory Committee on the Medical Implications of Less Lethal Options (SACMILL).
As well as reviewing the training, any police officer who applies to become Taser trained must undergo a thorough selection process and not every officer who applies will be successful.
In order to pass the training, officers must have an established history and training in the use of force, decision making, officer safety training and first aid.
Taser training then builds on this existing training and experience.
Taser training in the UK continues to be reviewed and updated. It is one of longest and most comprehensive Taser training packages in the world.
Typically in other countries it is achieved in one day, whereas the UK’s package is three times longer and demands officers already have the skills I mentioned above.
The initial training module is 18 hours, spread across three days, however the total training an officer would receive to become a competent Taser user would be significantly more when you consider all of the prior training they receive.
Some simplistic comparisons have also been made between Taser training and firearms training. These comparisons fail to account for the significant difference between the two.
The standards within Taser training are as thorough and robust as firearms training, but the length of the course for firearms is naturally longer because of the complexities and varying tactics used.
However, a proportionally similar amount of time is spent on training in both disciplines when you take into account the differing nature of both disciplines.
Training is also not the best way to judge someone’s ability because ultimately it is not about how much training an officer has done, but rather the standard they must achieve and maintain. What is important is the assessment and standards which officers must meet before being given a Taser or firearm, and they are set at a very high level.
The comparison between Taser training and handgun training also must recognise the significant differences between the two.
Taser is laser sighted and simple to load and reload. It is also used at limited, close ranges.
This compares with a handgun which uses a conventional sighting system and is used over a greater variety of ranges, positions and integrates with a far more complex variety of tactical options.
As a result of these differences it takes more time to train and assess an officer’s ability with a handgun.
Due to the more complex nature of handgun training, these skills require regular practice and assessment in order for officers to retain a high level of competence.
As the skills required to use a Taser are far simpler by comparison with a handgun, the re-examination and training of officers is naturally different.
The training concludes with a robust assessment process that will eliminate officers who do not meet the required standard.
Once officers pass this training, they are then assessed every year and if they do not meet the requirements they will no longer be allowed to use it.
In addition, the Association of Chief Police Officers and the College of Policing will continue to set high standards for Taser training and ensure its future use by officers continues to protect the public and be necessary and proportionate.
We believe it’s important for the public to have the facts around Taser to help with that discussion, which is why we have drawn up a list of the most frequently asked questions for the public and media to use.
Simon Chesterman is Deputy Chief Constable of West Mercia Police and the national policing lead for armed police.
Julian Blazeby - Police use of automatic number plate recognition, 18 June 2013
The use of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) systems in policing has proved highly successful in tracking criminals, preventing and detecting crime, targeting uninsured and licensed road users and bringing people to justice.
They assist police in investigating crimes, including theft, burglary, drug offences, violence, sexual assaults and murder.
But people are often interested to know exactly what ANPR is, what happens to the data collected by police and who has access to it.
Put simply, ANPR uses cameras, which can be mobile, portable or placed at fixed locations, to capture details of vehicle registration marks or from number plates, along with the time and location of the vehicle. This information can then be instantly checked against a range of databases of vehicles which are of interest to police. These include the Police National Computer, and those supplied by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency and the Motor Insurers’ Bureau.
There are usually two images stored, on a computer in the force where the vehicle was sighted. One of a number plate itself, and then a second which is a wider overview of the vehicle. Each police force then shares its data with a national computer system which can be used to identify patterns of behaviour by known criminals as they cross county boundaries or travel across the country.
All of the information is stored on computers locally and nationally for a maximum of two years.
If a vehicle matches one stored in any of these databases, an alert can be triggered, which police refer to as a ‘hit’. This hit ensures officers are immediately alerted to vehicles that are stolen, unregistered, unlicensed, uninsured or are believed or known to be involved in crime.
A hit can instantly tell an officer if a vehicle associated with a known criminal was in the area at the time of a particular crime.
The system can also be used in real time so police can intercept and stop a vehicle and make arrests if necessary. This technique has been used to successfully detect and prosecute many cases of major crime.
When a hit happens, each one is marked high, medium or low priority, and each category has a particular police response to assist with prioritisation. High priority relates to events where life is at risk and can include child abduction, murder and terrorism.
Medium is used for major or serious investigations and low priority is used for crimes that are a priority within a locality, where the vehicle or occupants need to be traced.
There are many benefits to using ANPR but the police recognise it has to be used in a proportionate and responsible manner with effective safeguards in place to ensure against inaccuracy and misuse. My aim is to inform the public and reassure them that ANPR is governed by a set of standards and principles with safeguards in place to deal with the information gathered, which are outlined in the Human Rights Act, Data Protection Act and are subject to guidance from the Information Commissioner.
The ANPR community was actively involved through consultation in the creation of the new surveillance camera code of practice and fully recognises the importance of such guidance.
We want to make sure there are no consequences for law abiding members of the public and a report, called Police use of ANPR, outlines a number of recommendations and a set of ‘Golden Principles’ which were devised with support from organisations outside the police service.
Among the golden principles is our belief that ANPR data should be used responsibly for the public good, to the benefit of both prosecution and defence cases. Access to such information should be restricted with clearly defined rules on who can gain access to it.
This area is always under review by the police and we want to reassure law abiding members of the public they have nothing to fear from ANPR. It is a powerful crime fighting tool which will continue to protect the public, while targeting criminals and bringing them to justice.
Julian Blazeby is Assistant Chief Constable of
, and ACPO lead for ANPR.
Pat Geenty - Improving the police response to missing people, 24 May 2013
We knew that we needed to change the way we dealt with the missing people because the blanket approach we were using wasn’t working. It was not identifying those who were most at risk and prioritising police resources accordingly. It was also not providing a good service to those who repeatedly went missing for short periods and were easily found because it didn’t enable officers to investigate the reasons behind their repeated absences.
We wanted to be sure that any new approach was based on what did work. So, we:
- listened to reviews of the police management of missing people by the National Policing Improvement Agency, the Home Office and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary as well as the views of police officers, charities, local safeguarding boards, local authorities and other partners
- drew on the experiences of Sussex police where a new risk based approach to missing people had been used successfully since 2010
- piloted and evaluated with the College of Policing the new approach in three police forces over three months
- presented the new approach to all Chief Constables for their approval at ACPO Chief Constables' Council
- with the help of the College of Policing trained those working with missing people and provided guidance to forces on the processes they should have in place before implementing the new approach.
Following this process, I am confident that the new approach, which forces can begin to use from April 2013, will mean both missing and absent people will get a better service from the police.
Under the previous system, officers would be deployed to every report of a missing person. In 2010/11, 60 per cent of missing children reports came from children’s homes. Reviews expressed concern that the initial police response was disproportionate because, in many instances, the children’s home knew where the person was, had not taken steps to return them and did not anticipate the person would come to any harm.
Through the new approach, call handlers who receive the initial missing person report will undertake a risk assessment to determine whether the person is:
- Absent - not at a place where they are expected or required to be
- Missing - not at the place they are expected to be but the circumstances are out of character or the context suggests they may be subject of a crime or at risk of harm to themselves or others.
The categorisations will trigger a police response appropriate to the needs of the missing or absent person. Police resources will be directed immediately to missing people who are at risk of harm to investigate. If a call handler assesses someone as absent, they will explain the categorisation to the caller and agree a time to speak again to check if the absent person has returned. They will tell the caller to contact them again if the circumstances change so that they can re-assess the situation and change the categorisation if appropriate.
Specialist missing persons coordinators, or an equivalent role, within forces will analyse all absences and identify if someone is being regularly reported as absent or if their absence appears to be part of a wider pattern in a particular area or children’s home. They will then start asking questions - where are they going? Who are their friends? Is there a reason they don’t want to be at home? - to try and uncover if there is something behind the absences. The missing persons coordinator can then work with parents or carers and other partners such as children’s homes, schools and social services to take action to address any issues.
Under the old system, police would not have investigated those repeatedly reported missing. They would have simply been found and returned to their home by a response officer. Response officers don’t receive specialist training to recognise that someone regularly not being where they are expected to be is a sign of vulnerability and identify that they could be at risk of abuse, exploitation or getting involved in criminal activity.
We will continue to engage with partners to get their feedback as the new approach beds in as well as commissioning independent research to measure whether we are achieving our aims bringing those most at risk home safe and identifying the vulnerable and acting to protect them.
Adrian Lee - Police commitment to tackling alcohol harm, 15 May 2013
When I took the national policing lead for alcohol and licensing in September 2012, I was clear that the police service’s focus should not just be on licensing but on preventing and tackling the harm that alcohol can cause in society.
I recognise that alcohol can be beneficial for our wellbeing and community cohesion: sharing a drink with family, friends and neighbours in a pub, over dinner or at a summer BBQ is a social activity that has long been a part of British life.
However, alcohol also causes damage that we cannot ignore. Nearly 50 per cent of all violent crime is alcohol related. Drink related anti-social behaviour is the most common form that people experience. Offenders are thought to be under the influence of alcohol in nearly half of all incidents of domestic abuse and alcohol plays a part in 25-33 per cent of known child abuse cases. Excessive drinking clearly increases your likelihood of committing a crime or becoming a victim.
On April 30, I held a conference to share best practice and solutions to policing issues posed by alcohol.
Sue Robinson from Durham Constabulary presented work in the North East to measure the impact of alcohol on policing, which showed that officers see alcohol as a root cause for many of the problems that they have to deal with on a daily basis. 86 per cent of the officers surveyed had been injured when dealing with someone who was drunk.Sue called for all forces to undertake similar research to find the true cost of alcohol on policing.
Bruce Ray from Carlsberg stated that it is both right and smart for the long term sustainability of industry to support solutions to alcohol harm. Bruce told the conference that the industry has committed to a five point plan, which includes looking at education, labelling, product formulation, local partnerships and drink awareness campaigns.
Alex Brewis, a peer mentor at Durham prison, told us his story of offending fuelled by alcohol addictions and how support from the HM Prison Durham Rolling Alcohol Programme helped him beat his addiction and move away from crime.His message to the conference was that offenders that have problems with alcohol need support and education from the criminal justice system to make changes.
We heard about Birmingham’s multi-agency alcohol strategy from Jacquie Kennedy from Birmingham City Council. The presentation demonstrated the value of partnership working, targeting hazardous drinkers and working with their families to provide support and help break the cycle of offending.
Superintendent Claire Bells from West Midlands Police updated the group on the experiences of several forces who have trialled data sharing with Accident and Emergency departments. Data from A&E departments will assist the police in targeting their resources, identifying crime hotspots, using licensing powers effectively and monitoring CCTV. Claire shared valuable lessons learnt from her force to assist other forces in developing effective data sharing agreements with the NHS.
DCI John Cushion from the Metropolitan Police informed the group about his approach to tackling rising alcohol related violence in the borough of Newham.John set up a crime reduction hub and used a combination of crime prevention design advice, licensing enforcement and business crime reduction to reduce alcohol harm in the community.
Inspector Dean O’Connor told us how Dorset Police have reduced the high level of alcohol related violence and sexual assault in Bournemouth town centre.The force has delivered training based on local events to students, bar staff and licensing boards.The aim of the training is to get each group to question whether they could have done something to prevent the crime.
All the force representatives went away with a range of ideas that could reduce harm caused by alcohol and promote responsible drinking. I will continue to drive forward this agenda supporting forces and working with our partners in government, local authorities, health and the alcohol industry to robustly tackle alcohol harm and prevent crime.
Adrian Lee is ACPO lead for the alcohol licensing and harm reduction working group, and the Chief Constable of Northamptonshire Police.
Andy Trotter - Secret Justice, 30 April 2013
An awful lot has been written about secret arrests and secret justice over the last few weeks. Should the police name people who have been arrested, even though they have not been charged with any criminal offence and may never be? By not naming them, are police, under cover of the Leveson Inquiry, placing free speech and democracy at risk?
I pose these questions because the situation right now must be pretty confusing to anyone unsighted on what this debate is really about. It is worth reminding ourselves of some of the facts.
The Leveson Report challenged police practice on four counts: ‘off the record’ briefings, recording contact with the media, appropriately reporting any personal relationship between a police officer and a journalist, and (although not a specific recommendation) providing information concerning arrests to the media. Not surprisingly, the police service is reviewing recommended practice to take account of these conclusions. The aim is a framework which supports public confidence in professional, transparent and open relationships between police and the media. If we get it right, that framework should support, not restrict, the free flow of appropriate information about policing which is vital to our accountability. Anyone who doubts our sincerity about this point would do well to read the evidence of numerous police chiefs who lined up to emphasise the value of professional and open police media relationships to Lord Leveson.
But it is the naming of those arrested which has provoked so much comment, not all of it well informed. The current situation is that most forces will already neither confirm nor deny the name of a person whom journalists put to them has been arrested. However, some forces will confirm details if journalists have gathered them from other sources. That general lack of consistency is a source of confusion to police, press and public alike.
A common occurrence has been for a journalist to be given the name of a person from a source.That source could be a witness, friend, family member or even a corrupt public official. The journalist then telephones the force press office and says the name of the person concerned will be published tomorrow.
What sometimes follows is a bizarre parlour game where the journalist sometimes says things like: ‘will you be angry if I publish this name?’ or ‘am I completely wrong on this?’. Depending on the relationship between journalist and press officer, he or she may receive some guidance, or alternatively, may become quite frustrated when none is provided.
So the current situation is less than satisfactory, with no one certain as to what can be expected, and a pervasive sense that these arrangements may not be transparent or fair. This is damaging to public confidence in both police and media.
What we are proposing is that forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland adopt a common practice of neither confirming nor denying a name which is put to them. There will be exceptions when it will be in the public interest to publish a name, whether to prevent or detect crime or for some other serious concern. The police will always put public safety interests first. It could include when someone has been arrested for kidnap and we are searching for the victim. It could also be in the public interest to publish the name of someone who could be responsible for many other crimes, in order to encourage other victims to come forward. In such cases the decision to publish the name would be subject to the agreement of a review officer.
As is current practice, the details of people charged would be confirmed and the approach of not naming would only apply to the period between arrest and charge.
These proposals have nothing to do with what the media can publish. That is a matter for editors. I am only concerned with what the police do and we must be above reproach. The leaking of details of people to the media, either for payment or not, by corrupt officers has led the police to disrepute. The public, the media, and those arrested should all expect police to behave with the highest standards.
It is, of course, within the gift of the person arrested and their legal representatives to inform whoever they choose about their arrest. Those are clear rights within our legal system which the police uphold. It is also within the gift of the media to publish names of those arrested if they are confident of their facts. That is a matter for them.
The Law Commission takes a different view and recommends that we confirm names that are put to us. When I spoke to a symposium organised by the Law Commission on this matter, I was surprised to find myself almost a lone voice concerned about the many people that we arrest who are not subsequently charged. Their names could forever be linked to heinous offences of which they are entirely innocent. It is unlikely that any newspaper will give the same prominence to news of no further action to be taken as they would to news of an arrest.
Senior judges and the Information Commissioner have since added their voices to the debate, as have many within the media. Charting a course through the radically different viewpoints is no easy task for the police. But in the absence of any statutory guidance to determine a way forward, it is up to the police, through the new College of Policing and ultimately all Chief Constables, to deal with it.
This is not secret justice or secret arrests, but an effort to set clear standards which meet a test of fairness where everyone knows what to expect.
Andy Trotter is Chief Constable of British Transport Police and leads on media issues for the Association of Chief Police Officers.
This article appeared originally in the Press Gazette on April 29, 2013.
*(May 2013) The College of Policing have now published Guidance on Relationships with the Media, which is available here.
Garry Shewan - Stalking. Know the law, use the law, 18 April, 2013
The police service is acutely aware that the experience of being stalked can destroy the lives of victims. Tragically, in some cases, it may end in violence or murder.
Over the past year the National Stalking Helpline has spoken to over 2,200 victims of stalking and the latest Crime Survey of England and Wales shows that 4 per cent of women and 3 per cent of men reported having experienced stalking.
What’s the impact?
Many of these people have been stalked for a long period of time. On average we know a victim experiences 70-100 incidents before contacting the police.
Many of these people’s lives have changed dramatically. Some have lost jobs or moved house and or feel unable to go out socially as a result of being stalked. Many are also experiencing anxiety, insomnia or depression as a consequence.
Groups like the Everyday Sexism Project, which has been encouraging victims of stalking and harassment to share their stories via social media, cites startling examples of victims as young as 14 being routinely harassed on their way to and from school.
How can we help?
As the national policing lead for stalking and harassment, I’m acutely aware that if we are to continue improving the response to this crime the first thing we need is victims to come forward to the police. They have to have the confidence to do so and they need to know that the police will take their reports seriously.
Reporting to the police at the earliest opportunity will help to save lives.
Only 50 per cent of people who contact the Stalking Helpline have been to the police before; many do not think it is an option.
So I’m pleased today on National Stalking Awareness Day (April 18) to be chairing a conference in London to help raise awareness of stalking as a crime.
Currently the law is slightly different in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland but what is important is that stalking behaviour is against the law across the UK. Everyone affected by stalking should know that there is help available and that they are not alone.
Therefore the Know the Law Use the Law campaign being rolled out by stalking awareness groups and police forces is aimed at encouraging those who are being stalked to seek help and to know that stalking is a crime.
New stalking legislation came into effect last year. The new amendments to the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 create two new stalking offences, section 2A - stalking and section 4A - stalking that causes serious distress or fear of violence. Section 4A has a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
ACPO has worked hard to raise the profile and understanding of stalking and harassment and extensive effort has gone into improving training, guidance and our overall response. We want officers to risk assess at the earliest opportunity to understand the victim’s needs, involve trained Public Protection Investigation specialists in the investigation and safeguarding, and use the law to protect victims. The service absolutely recognises the seriousness of stalking and ensuring best levels of service and consistency in the policing response across 43 force areas remains an ongoing challenge.
Where are we now?
More than 20,000 officers have so far completed specialist training developed by the College of Policing. This work will continue
We’ve also linked in with the Independent Police Complaints Commission and their Continuing Professional Development events to ensure any lessons on stalking case reviews are learned. Steps are also being made to look at how forces can be held to account on stalking issues
We’re also at the early stages of conducting research with forces on how the new legislation is being used. This includes looking at arrests under section 2A/4A and successful prosecutions. ACPO has asked the Home Office to carry out a formal review
We’re also looking at proposals to develop new National Crime Recording Standards for stalking.
As you can see there’s much work underway to improve our response and understanding of stalking.
And along with an improved policing response there’s a need for a wider change in cultural attitudes to stalking.
Historically such offences have been the butt of jokes. Having met and listened to the victims of these sustained and insidious crimes, I can assure you that stalking is no laughing matter.
Society needs to challenge those who think it’s acceptable to harass and stalk.
And we need to ensure that those people who are being stalked use their instincts. If they are intimidated, feel threatened or scared for their safety then they should report it to the police.
Not sure if you are being stalked? Check the 11 questions police will ask when you make a report.
For more advice about stalking please visit the Network for Surviving Stalking website or call the helpline on 0808 802 0300.
International Women's Day - Women in Policing, 8 March 2013
In 1914, the Women’s Police Volunteers organisation was formed in London. The then Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police agreed that the women could patrol London on a voluntary basis. The number of female volunteers grew and in 1916 the Police Act made it possible for women to be appointed as constables. During the Second World War the number of female police officers multiplied and the number of women in policing has continued to grow ever since. The Sex Discrimination Act was passed in 1975 and ended the segregation of women officers who moved from a specialist body into the general police service in January 1976.
In 2012, there were over 36,000 female police officers and 45,000 staff in England and Wales. Seven of these women are leading police forces and many more are chief officers. To celebrate International Women’s Day, some of our female ACPO officers tell us about their careers in policing.
ACPO Women’s Forum lead, and Assistant Chief Constable in Bedfordshire, Katherine Govier
When and why did you join the police?
I joined in October 1982. It was something I had always wanted to do and I was motivated by some very clear personal values which, in simple terms, were to ‘deal with criminals and make the lives of the vulnerable better’. These values have stayed with me throughout my career. I often refer to them when talking to others about my motivations but also to reaffirm that what I am doing will contribute to those aims.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I have enjoyed the variety that my career has brought me. I have been privileged to have carried out many different roles and to have worked with many talented individuals. I am currently deriving great satisfaction from my role on the Strategic Command Course, helping aspiring chief officers to develop and be ready to take on demanding leadership roles in the future.
What do you find most challenging?
In recent years the biggest challenges we have faced have been financial: trying to balance budgets whilst at the same time maintaining and improving performance. We ask a lot of our people and I am constantly amazed by the extra effort that our staff put in, over and above what they are required to do, to keep our communities safe. Over the last two years my own force has been constantly re-structuring to meet these challenges and sadly that has meant some staff have lost their jobs. I think for many of us the operational challenges are easier to deal with than the human ones.
What is your experience of being a woman in policing?
When I joined it didn’t cross my mind that I might be treated differently and I have always had the mind-set that with hard work, I could achieve what I wanted. At times it has been hard, for example, continuing to work full time whilst having young children in the 1990s was a challenge because the organisation wasn’t used to women continuing to work.
I hope that I have been a good role model to other women and shown that you can achieve a balance in your working and private life. What I have learnt is that being the first to do something is very hard, but it is very important to have the energy to still reach back and help others along the path.
Do you think things have changed in terms of gender equality during your time in the police?
Things have changed hugely and for the better. I think it is also important to acknowledge that the genders will always have different needs, that we are different and don’t necessarily need everything to be the same. For example, the treatment of women who are pregnant. When I was a superintendent and eight months pregnant, I ran a firearms operation in the middle of the night from the back of the van! At the time I felt unable to ask for help and didn’t want to be viewed as different. I felt I needed to pull my weight. All I can say now is how silly was I? There is now an understanding that many men are carers and need the facilities of part-time working and flexible hours too.
In terms of operational equality, I would always encourage women to seek to achieve their dreams; it is only by being part of something that you can actually start to change it. Being a role model can feel lonely at times but it is immensely satisfying when what you do encourages others.
What more do you think the service needs to do attract and keep women in the service across all ranks?
We need to get to a stage where being a woman in the service doesn’t make you feel different. Things have changed a lot in my service. For example, about fifteen years ago I was very active in the Superintendents’ Association but for many years there was only one other woman in the country who was equally active. We would meet up at National Conference, two out of about two hundred delegates! That was quite lonely but the picture is so different now with the first female President Elect of the Association.
Women need to continue to be role models and bust a few myths, such as demonstrating that you can have a balance in your life and be in the police service. Women need to tell hopeful stories about themselves and their careers, build supportive networks and never believe that they can’t do something. It really is a fantastic career!
ACPO lead on migration and associated issues, and Assistant Chief Constable in Sussex and Surrey, Olivia Pinkney
When and why did you join the police?
I joined the police in 1991, straight from university. In truth, I joined 'for a bit' until a got a proper job (as my grandfather commented at the time). However, I quickly found a strong sense of vocation that has never left me.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The extraordinary variety of opportunities to really improve policing services for our communities, and to develop staff to be the very best they can be in delivering that service.
What do you find most challenging?
The professional aversion to risk which still exists in certain areas- we are brought up on evidence and aspiring to certainty, which means we can find it hard to take some bold steps or simply try something out and give it a go!
What is your experience of being a woman in policing?
It has been largely a very positive one. I have been fortunate to have managers who have encouraged me to be the very best I can.
Do you think things have changed in terms of gender equality during your time in the police?
Yes, but not enough. Any organisation that is lacking in diversity of all types will never benefit from the wider considerations and perspectives available, so, inevitably that remains a limiting factor for the service which we must all strive to address. Austerity is not an excuse!
What more do you think the service needs to do attract and keep woman in the service across all ranks?
We do pretty well at attracting women into the service at the moment but some specialisms are still sparsely populated with women and progression remains bumpy. We need good talent management programmes, good flexible working and buckets of active role models and mentors, mentors, mentors.
ACPO Women’s Forum runs a mentoring scheme to support women officers and staff progress to ACPO rank. Our mentors are women who have made it to ACPO rank or Assistant Chief Officer roles. They are ideally placed to guide others through the challenges ahead, helping them to gain recognition and improve their networking. Further details on the mentoring scheme can be found on the Hertfordshire Constabulary website .
A word from ACPO president, Sir Hugh Orde - 22 February 2013
At the recent Home Affairs Committee’s session on the College of Policing (February 12), it was evident that there are high expectations all round for the College. Rightly so, it represents a fantastic opportunity for policing. But there is still a degree of confusion around who does what in the new national landscape.
This is hardly surprising – the landscape has seen lots of change in very little time. Over the past three months, Police and Crime Commissioners have been elected, and they are already getting organised at the national level. This is something we as chiefs saw as critical, but adds another new body to the equation in the form of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC). The National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) has left the scene and, the College has just been born. More widely, numerous functions including IT, forensic and procurement have returned to the Home Office, and the National Crime Agency (NCA) continues to take shape. While we still await legislation to be enacted for two of these bodies, we need to move on quickly to ensure that the opportunities to develop a professional college for all colleagues are not lost, and that the real value it will bring to the landscape is made explicit as soon as possible.
Looking back to initial statements made around the genesis of the professional policing body, the current plan is significantly different and significantly better. These advances being achieved through debate and engagement with the Government to ensure it had the best chance of success. The appointment of a highly experienced leader from the service and a highly qualified Chair, together with a Board of Directors that spans the policing family and beyond, provides clear evidence of commitment to an inclusive structure that will represent the totality of policing. The decision by the Home Secretary to keep the Home Office at arms length from the board is to be supported, as is the aspiration that in time it should seek to become the “Royal College of Policing”.
In their most recent session, the Home Affairs Committee enquired into the relationship between the College and ACPO. This is an area where there is a strong willingness to work together and emerging clarity over who does what - a result of continuing close engagement.
The transfer of all non-operational business area work into the new governance structure has already taken place, and the first meeting of the professional committee which brings together business area leads takes place in the near future. While the band of Chief Officer volunteers who lead will continue to draw on expertise from across the service in an identical way, the work will progress under Alex’s Chairmanship instead of that of ACPO Cabinet.
ACPO Chief Constables' Council will now meet more regularly to ensure that all operational policing matters that fall outside the College’s scope are swiftly dealt with, ensuring citizens are protected through collective action against national threats, and that papers from the College requiring sign off to deliver a consistent approach across our devolved policing model are presented to Chiefs in a timely fashion. Operational matters requiring the voice of service leaders will continue to be handled through ACPO press office ensuring proper transparency on matters in the public domain, whilst policy issues and college business will be dealt with under the college banner.
Policing is a profession and needs to be recognised as such. But membership of a profession carries with it responsibilities and standards and codes of behaviour which will – and should - be top of the College agenda. The Home Secretary’s statement to the House on Tuesday mentioned a Code of Ethics, something I strongly support and, in keeping with the Patten Report, introduced myself into the PSNI. It was delivered to the whole organisation through a 2-day training programme which allowed every officer and member of staff to understand and discuss its importance before, in an act of symbolic but real significance, signing for their own personal copy. This may be the way to go here.
So much to be done but I believe the College has the potential to become a worldwide centre of excellence that complements the worldwide reputation of the British policing model.
A word from ACPO president, Sir Hugh Orde - 25 January 2013
We are not far into 2013 but already some themes for the year ahead are emerging. One such is the role and place of police leadership.
It seems timely to offer some reflections on this for a number of reasons. First, I want to take a moment to pay tribute to Police Federation chairman Paul McKeever, who sadly passed away last week. Paul and I began as Constables in the Met in the same year and our paths crossed many times thereafter. Our views in our respective leadership roles did not always coincide, but far more united us than divided us. As do so many in our profession, we shared a passion for policing and serving the public. His untimely loss is a great sadness to the service.
Policing needs leaders at all ranks and roles but there is a particular media focus on the top echelons of the service right now. For one thing, several forces are appointing new chiefs under their Police and Crime Commissioners, while the Home Affairs Select Committee is holding an inquiry into leadership and standards. Meanwhile in the weekend’s papers we learned of Home Office plans to consult on Tom Winsor’s proposals to open up Chief Constable appointments to those with experience of ‘common law jurisdictions’ - understood in the main to be Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US.
It is quite difficult to have an informed debate about these issues without sounding defensive or insular, both of which are not and have never been characteristics of British policing. Essentially, Britain has exported its own much-admired model of policing by consent across the world - by the same principle of course we should be willing to learn from international comparisons ourselves. There are always new ideas in policing and we should embrace them wherever they come from.
In my own experience I have gained hugely from involvement in the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), a group which brings together representatives of US big city law enforcement and on whose board I sit. I’ve learnt much from the experience and know full well that there are some exceptional leaders in US policing in particular.
Latterly PERF’s work on policing in a downturn has provided insights for British chiefs - many US forces have had to make swingeing cuts and faced the challenge of doing that without halting innovation and development in the fight against crime. Conversely, British chiefs have been in regular demand on the other side of the Atlantic to share experiences on issues such as public order policing, developing police ethics and fighting gangs.
So while we need to wait to see the Home Secretary’s proposals in full and give them a considered response, we have to knock back the implication that British police leaders are reactionary, complacent or worse. And without being defensive, we also want to assert our self-confidence. Crime is down, public confidence remains broadly stable, in spite of some highly-public challenges to policing, from which we will learn. The debate around standards and leadership goes on and is hugely important because it goes to the heart of confidence in our service. But equally, in communities up and down the country the police service is getting on with the job in challenging times, and very largely, it is delivering. In many respects, those daily debates our officers and staff are engaged in, around how we tackle crime and keep people safe, are far more urgent.
The Prime Minister recently remarked that the Chief Constables he sees are ‘extremely capable and competent people’ and we’re confident that the next generation of talent coming through the service is stronger than ever. This year sees the launch of the new College of Policing - an outstanding opportunity to recognise and further develop our professionalism, at every level, underpinned by a solid academic evidence base. That is a tremendously exciting prospect.
We need to continually respond constructively to challenges on our leadership and standards but we also need to keep our focus on the service we deliver. I am also absolutely convinced that it is the daily efforts of our people on the frontline - well led and supported, showing outstanding leadership themselves - in their daily interactions with people, which underpin and lie at the heart of our relationship with the public.
Martin Hewitt - Adult Sex Offences, 17 December 2012
After taking over as ACPO lead for adult sexual offences about seven months ago, I have been assessing, learning and thinking about how best to take this work forward in the coming years. All of that thinking has been brought into a sharp focus by the events in relation to Jimmy Savile and all that has emerged as a result of that investigation. While the revelations are shocking and disappointing, the level of public interest, government concern, and victim confidence that they have generated do present us with an opportunity to move forward in the way that we deal with these most serious crimes. And they relate not just to child sexual offences but victims who are now adults.
The central theme of my reflections on how the service, with partners, attempts to tackle adult sexual offences is that we need to take more practical action to prevent offences. In almost any other area of crime, prevention is the central element of our approach. In relation to adult sexual offences, and particularly rape, we have, for understandable reasons placed great emphasis on the investigation process and our joint victim care with partners. This is incredibly important work and I will be driving hard for us to continue to improve the service we provide, especially with colleagues in Health and the Crown Prosecution Service. But it is not enough.
If we accept that perhaps that only 30 per cent of victims ever formally report a rape or serious sexual offence, then the vast majority of victims never receive this service. Where we can help them is by working to control as many factors as possible in an attempt to prevent offences in the first place. None of this thinking is particularly innovative or clever - it is more about applying the crime prevention principles and practice that we are familiar with in other areas to this type of crime.
So what does it all mean? Initially, we are working within the Metropolitan Police Service to produce a prevention plan that drives some achievable actions to deliver in four key areas:
- Managing offenders
- Managing dangerous places
- Delivering effective investigations and criminal justice outcomes
- Reducing vulnerabilities (of victims)
I will be very keen to learn from good practice around the country in all of the four key areas of activity. To summarise where I think we are, we need to understand as much as possible about the actual level and patterns of offending, and that will mean more than just reported crime.
We then need to manage the offending groups. Some of that will be about education and awareness, and some will be about proactive targeting in the way that we would for a gun supplier or drug importer.
We need to understand where the dangerous places are - public, private, virtual - and exert control where we can. We then need to conduct effective prosecutions. It is a very brave action to report a rape and we must do everything to ensure that the system supports those that come forward.
Finally, we want to do everything we can to protect people and reduce vulnerabilities which we know offenders look to exploit. Getting this message right is difficult: we acknowledge that police failings in the past have damaged confidence, and that some campaigns run by the police on rape prevention have been criticised because of their focus on potential victims, rather than offenders. But we are very clear that alongside the other aspects of our approach, protecting people is a critical part of the police’s duty. There are practical steps that people can take to reduce their vulnerability. Education about this does not in any way remove the sole culpability for crime from those who commit it.
Many forces across the country are actively engaged in these public awareness campaigns to help us with prevention and many also actively working with partners over the festive season to raise awareness of what is sexual abuse. This work will continue into 2013 and beyond. Police campaigns are linked to the Home Office prevention advice at thisisabuse.com which offers advice for victims, busts myths about rape and helps identify abusive behaviour.
So we need to move forward and ensure the lessons from the past drive us in the right direction. That direction is targeting offenders and ensuring that victims are never left feeling they are to blame.
Martin Hewitt is ACPO lead on adult sex offences and Deputy Assistant Commissioner in the Metropolitan Police Service.
David Whatton - Violence against women and girls, 4 December 2012
In my 28 years in the police service I cannot remember a time when the media spotlight has been so intensely focused on the issue of violence against women and girls.
In past times these appalling crimes were more likely to be committed out of sight and go under-reported. Now they are being discussed more openly than ever.
The police have seen a significant increase in victims coming forward, particularly in cases where the abuse concerned took place many years ago.
Quite rightly the public is concerned about what the police and Government are doing to help such abuse ever happening again.
Within ACPO, there is a child sexual exploitation action plan for police forces across the country. It sets out key considerations which will guide police officers and staff working with partners such as local authorities and children’s services, to tackle this abhorrent crime.
One of its key priorities is to improve the way in which data around this crime is collected by local forces.This will prevent the national picture and our understanding of this crime being hidden by the way data is stored at local levels.
The plan also seeks to enhance victim protection and the pursuit of offenders.
It will help raise awareness of child sexual exploitation and ensure tackling it is at the heart of local policing.
Since the summer riots in 2011 the public have been made much more aware of the dangers that gangs pose to our communities. While the focus at that time was criminal damage and violence, the work of the Children’s Commissioner for England on child sexual exploitation in gangs and groups has helped draw attention to another criminal side to some gangs.
Police are determined to tackle this head on and build support for victims which is accessible, relevant innovative and sustainable.
Victims may feel isolated, or in some cases not even see themselves as victims, but we are working hard to improve identification and support anyone who comes forward. Police are also working with the Home Office to look at the facilities that are in place across the country to safeguard victims of abuse.
With the Crown Prosecution Service we have produced a‘charging checklist’ for cases of domestic abuse, this ensures we can give the best evidence to allow the CPS to charge and take forward effective prosecutions which will give the support victims deserve. One-in-four women and one-in-six men experience domestic abuse in their lifetimes and this is a further step forward in protecting vulnerable people.
It should not be forgotten that continued focus on domestic abuse is a vital contribution to public safety in other areas.
This kind of criminality is closely linked to risk factors for other types of crime so by continually improving the police response to it we are often tackling dangerous people and preventing other offences.
There is also a lot the public can do such as supporting the White Ribbon campaign, which started last weekend (25th November) and will see men and boys wearing ribbons as a visible pledge never to commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women.
In the next month we will also see campaigns linked closely to rape and serious sexual abuse, including the Home Office teen rape prevention campaign.
The 11 December will see a parliamentary event on the Ugly Mugs campaign, which allows sex workers to report crimes through a third party, and 17 December is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.
In my last blog as the lead for adult sex offences I talked about a report from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) which looked at rape investigations and prosecution.
I am pleased to say work continues across forces to improve the service to victims of rape and the way we manage the risk posed by offenders.
These campaigns all help emphasise the importance of partner agencies working together to deliver services, which is vital to preventing and dealing with these crimes.
With these crimes prominent on the news agenda and in the minds of the public, we need to see this as an opportunity to strengthen our services for protecting the public and bringing perpetrators to justice. One of the best ways to do this is to demonstrate to the public that we will listen to them and take positive action when they come to us for help.
A word from ACPO President, Sir Hugh Orde - 15 November 2012
This week will finally see the most fundamental change to police accountability and governance for many years come into place. Chief constables are committed to forging constructive relationships with incoming PCCs. They may not agree on everything, but nor should they! For PCCs to properly hold their force to account, a degree of tension is both necessary and healthy. My sense is that the vast majority of disagreements will be settled through sensible conversations, to move forward in a way which benefits our communities.
So, when newly elected PCCs sit down at their desks – which must be after taking their oath of impartiality, what then? What might a Commissioner’s in-tray look like on a Monday morning?
Initially, there is a huge job to do, even for those Commissioners with current knowledge of policing, to understand our business. Chief Constables and their teams will be working hard to help them grip the complexity of modern policing as soon as possible, to make sure any disparity between aspirations and what is deliverable can be worked out where necessary, and to help Commissioners hit the ground running in a role which is extremely wide in scope and complexity.
Indeed, listening to and reflecting the views of their communities may in itself prove a considerable practical challenge. The demographics of force areas vary widely, from urban to rural, ethnic make-up and social class. Crime issues and community needs will vary too in line with this. An individual charged with representing equally the multiple needs of their communities will have some difficult decisions to make when it comes to strategy and setting priorities.
There will also be an amount of ‘housekeeping’ involved as new PCCs get to know their staff, appoint a chief executive and chief financial officer, a deputy, and work out exactly how their offices will operate moving forward. Will they take on additional staff to handle administration or media? How will PCCs create their own staffing arrangements without leaving their force under-resourced? And there will be existing business inherited from police authorities including new and ongoing complaints from the public, which will also require attention.
High on the to-do list will be producing both a police and crime plan and a budget. New PCCs have 10 weeks to do this and outgoing police authorities will already have begun preparing for the task. Of course depending on who is elected, the new Commissioner may or may not want to build on those foundations. The first weeks in office will see a full diary as PCCs work to engage not only with their Chief Constable, but partners across the community. PCCs will need to live up to the wider crime and justice remit of their role, working with third sector bodies, local authorities and district councils, bringing people together and moving into 2013 considering funding requests.
Two years into the comprehensive spending review, savings have already been made by cutting ‘excess fat’ in policing – through efficiency gains, service reductions and one-off savings where possible. With two years left to go, there is still uncertainty as to the amount of funding forces will receive in future. The Chancellor’s Autumn budget statement has been delayed until 5th December and details of the police funding settlement and damping rules for 2012 are expected around 21st December. PCCs may well be on the receiving end of further cuts. As Commissioners will be required to present budget and crime and police plans to their Police and Crime Panels (PCPs) by the beginning of February, assessing all this within just over a month will be no mean feat. PCCs may find that current force models for aspects of policing may not be sustainable moving forward – this will of course impact greatly upon any strategic plans they may have.
Elected with the purpose of strengthening a local voice in policing, PCCs will also need to consider the national responsibilities for policing the role also entails. Protecting communities from crime efficiently and effectively requires local policing connected all the way up to regional and national levels. Less visible issues such as cyber, organised and international crime, public order and firearms may not feature in local priorities but are crucial nonetheless. Equally important will be the need to ensure an individual force’s contribution to the national policing effort is not overlooked. All benefit from the logic and efficiency of agreeing evidence-based operational policing approaches once at the national level, rather than 44 times across each force. And there will unavoidably be times when officers on the beat may be sent to another part of the country to support policing in times of national need.
Crucially, a PCC will also have the weighty responsibility of appointing a Chief Constable where a Chief is temporary or about to retire. As it has been reported, a number of new PCCs will face this very issue as soon as they take up their post. It’s vital that a robust and transparent recruitment process is developed, so that the most talented within the service step up to take these critical jobs. Deciding how to make these appointments is in the hands of the PCCs, but they will be wise to think carefully and take advice as a matter of priority.
All in all, a pretty full workload, all carried out under the watchful eye of the media, PCP, and the communities that have elected them. Over the next few weeks we will start to learn much more about PCCs as this momentous reform beds in.
Simon Cole- Policing and Dementia, 8 November 2012
Today the Prime Minister receives a report on the progress of various organisations in improving in dementia care. The Centre for Mental Health has found that at least 15 per cent of police work touches on mental health, including dementia. As the ACPO lead on mental health, I am representing the police on the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia and take great interest in this report.
The report states that the Health and Care system plays a vital role in supporting people with dementia but that ‘it cannot tackle the challenge alone'. I think this can be said of all of the organisations involved in the challenge but it is particularly true of the police.
The most common point of contact that the police have with people with dementia is when they are experiencing a crisis. Police are increasingly being called to deal with people with dementia who are distressed or asked to respond when a person with dementia has gone missing. The police are the service of last resort and we will do all that we can to keep people safe and respond sensitively in that moment of crisis. However, medical staff are extensively trained to deal with patients in distress and the police cannot replicate that level of training.
With this in mind, the key to providing an effective police response to people with dementia is working in strategic partnerships with the health service and other agencies. We can train police officers to recognise the signs and symptoms of dementia but they then need to be able to refer the dementia sufferer to the correct service.
So, if the police are called to a situation where someone is confused and behaving aggressively, they should be able to take them to a place of safety where they can receive the treatment they need rather than to a police cell. When someone with dementia goes missing, the police can work to find them and return them home - but it is valuable for them to be able to refer them to an agency who can check that they are getting the support that they need, which may prevent them from going missing again.
People with dementia may also come into contact with police when they have been a victim, witness or perpetrator of a crime. The police service trains staff on how to interview people with dementia, but there is then a need to share information with other agencies so that relevant support can be offered.
Police forces around the country are already embracing collaborative initiatives with the public, private and third sectors to ensure an appropriate police response to people with dementia.
Leicestershire Police has worked in partnership with Leicestershire County Council, Age UK and local community groups to develop ‘keep safe places’ in libraries, stores, Age UK shops and businesses where people can go if they are feeling upset, confused or worried while out in town centres. Staff can offer basic support, including a place to sit down and contact friends or relatives if necessary - or the emergency services if required.
Thames Valley Police have linked up with the Neighbourhood and Home Watch Network to pilot a Neighbourhood Return scheme. Forty-one per cent of people with dementia get lost at some point and this increases the chance of early admittance into care homes. The pilot is recruiting volunteers who will receive a message when a person with dementia goes missing and will go out and look for them.
For me, one of the key benefits of being a part of the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia is the opportunity for us to build those working relationships with other organisations. These relationships will enable us to divert dementia sufferers to appropriate services before they reach a moment of crisis. Or when they do, ensure that police contact is a catalyst for further assessment of their needs and, if necessary, treatment or support to prevent them reaching crisis point again.
Dave Thompson - Police work to tackle gun crime on our streets, 30 October 2012
The horrific shootings of PCs Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes have shocked us all and have thrown gun crime and gangs into the spotlight. The appalling act brought the issue of gun crime into our living rooms as we watched the awful events unfold in Manchester on the 18th September. Unfortunately the heartache felt by the community in Manchester has also been felt by other communities across the country who have also experienced gun crime.
Police have had much success in tackling gun crime, but we are never complacent and the events in Manchester are further proof that we need to tackle the problem with the same vigour that we have always done.
At times like this it is easy for people to become concerned and so it is important the public are aware of the facts around gun crime.
The UK has some of the toughest firearms laws in the world and as a result of that, and excellent policing, a relatively small number of firearms are available and in the hands of criminals.
Residents across the UK also benefit from one of the most unique and impressive agencies in the world for examining gun crime. National Ballistic Intelligence Service (NABIS) allows us to examine ballistic material and firearms recovered by police across the country.
The work at NABIS helps us track the weapons in use and it also means we can link offences.
For the first time in UK policing, NABIS gives us a national database of firearms, rounds of ammunition, shell cases and projectiles that have been recovered.
Specialists at NABIS are at the fore front of firearms forensic technology and as a result can provide information to link firearms incidents.
This information can then be quickly handed over to senior investigating officers who can use it to further their own investigation very quickly and establish if the gun has been used elsewhere.
Another part of tackling gun crime is stopping weapons entering the country in the first place. To do this, NABIS works with other law enforcement intelligence agencies to find the supply route and cut it off at the source.
This kind of specialist work is constantly going on in the background and is a major contributor to combating gang crime.
Behind every weapon is someone who is prepared to pull the trigger. It is another strand to gun crime which we pursue vigorously and employ highly trained officers to combat gangs.
We don’t just look at trying to tackle gangs, we also work to prevent people from ever entering them in the first place. It is a fascinating piece of work which requires huge skill to stem the attraction of young men and women to get involved with gangs.
A programme called Ending Gang and Youth Violence works tirelessly across the country to achieve this aim and already we have seen gun crime and serious youth violence falling.
In a Home Office report published only last year on this exact topic we saw the families of gang members make up around one per cent of the population, yet cost the economy more than £8 billion a year, and violence and abuse is being transmitted from one generation to the next.
To tackle this we are joining forces with the Government and other agencies.
For the first time in UK policing, work was also being carried out by the Association of Chief Police Officers to map gangs and gang violence in selected forces across the country which will provide a national picture of the issue.
The horrific events that unfolded in Manchester is the result of a much wider picture which police officers use to tackle the problem from all avenues and make the UK’s streets safer.
Sara Thornton - Authorised Professional Practice, 22 October 2012
Good policing relies upon information and intelligence. It is what supports and underpins the many thousands of decisions which police officers and staff take every day during the course of exercising their powers or discharging their duties. Information and intelligence about people and locations is important, but so too is the detail of criminal offences or police procedures, or just knowledge about which approach is most effective in cutting crime.
We want the policing that we deliver to the public to be the very best it can be, which is why the information we give our officers and staff has to be up-to-date and authoritative, as well as delivered in a way which makes it practically useful. Of course policing must be dynamic and willing to embrace risk - no one can stop to consult a textbook in the middle of a developing situation. But equally knowledge and guidance has to be made available, as an invaluable tool to assist good decision-making.
This is where Authorised Professional Practice, or APP for short, comes in. The aim is create a concise, searchable, and authoritative body of knowledge to support police officers and staff. Over the last 10 years we have developed many policies and procedure guidance documents which were all aimed at making us better at doing the job. The extent of the guidance reflects the increasing complexity of the job we ask police officers and staff to do, and also our desire to improve policing standards in response to critical incidents, inspections or recommendations of the past. However we have developed over 650 individual products – and they are a mix of national standards, operational guidance and reference material -covering everything from homicide investigation to policing cricket matches.
The net effect has been more guidance than anyone can realistically read, let alone draw on in real life situations. My first task in 2011 when taking on a review of all this was to define the issues where national policing guidance was really needed - those activities which are core to policing such as investigation, intelligence and custody. In addition, we have looked at those high risk issues where police officers and staff have to work across force boundaries and with other agencies - where close working or 'interoperability' is crucial. So again, we have consolidated guidance in areas such as armed policing, civil contingencies and public order. The benefit of such an approach can be seen in situations where officers from around the country have been mobilised to respond to planned events such as the Olympics, or unplanned ones such as the riots in 2011.
Before APP, the variety of reference documents - on even an activity such as investigation - consisted of up to 50 manuals which officers might wade through. So there is a clear benefit to bringing information together in one place, ensuring it is up to date and accessible to officers and staff across the country. As we continue to professionalise the service I think that we will all be consulting APP more and more to ensure that we base our actions on the latest guidance, rather than what we can remember of what we were taught on a training course a few years ago. APP is designed to be made simply available to officers and staff via police force intranets. All chief constables have endorsed it and we are urging police forces to add a simple click through button on their force home page.
APP will continue to develop with new content being added and the platform being developed and improved. The electronic format allows us to keep the content up to date as policing knowledge and practice develops. APP will also underpin training and it will be within the responsibilities of the new College of Policing which comes into being in December 2012. The work we have done in ACPO and the NPIA over the last 18 months will shape the professional delivery of policing over years to come.
A full demonstartion can be viewed here:
Alex Marshall - Drones, 9 October 2012
The only droning I'm very familiar with is the sound of my own voice. As the ACPO lead on air support I am often asked about the potential for introducing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones into policing.
For the purpose of this blog I'm referring to the sort of advanced technology used by the military and others as an aerial alternative to aeroplanes or helicopters. That is materially very different from the kinds of lightweight aerial technology with a camera which are available in every high street gadget shop. These small devices have limited capabilities and can only be used legally in the UK within line of sight.
Last week I was asked about drones in the run up to the launch of National Police Air Service (NPAS) on October 1 2012.
I gave my usual answer, which (for the record) is always as follows:
"The use of UAVs (over 20 kg) is not allowed in the UK under Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) regulations. The introduction of UAVs would not only need to be legal but seen as acceptable by citizens in the UK. This public debate has not happened and initial views are polarised between 'why aren't we doing this now' and 'we must never allow this'. I can see the advantages in terms of cost and capability but I can see the risks of safety and public support. I cannot foresee the introduction of UAVs / drones into UK policing for many years. My focus is on the successful introduction of NPAS to ensure we protect the public, cut crime and catch criminals."
UAVs which are under 20kg and used only within line of sight are allowed with permission of the Civil Aviation Authority. The CAA provides permit based on compliance with conditions that ensure public safety. We are aware of one such UAV currently in use within the police service in the UK, owned by Staffordshire police. It is used in searches for missing persons in hazardous environments or to support planned operations.
Whenever UAVs / drones are mentioned, it tends to result in newspaper headlines and leads to a number of UAV suppliers contacting me with offers to demonstrate and sell their latest products. This burst of understandable commercial interest is always matched by a similar number of contacts expressing understandable objections to drones on civil liberties grounds. These post-publicity contacts demonstrate the wide distance between those who hold views on this subject. We are in no position to purchase UAVs for the reasons given above.
There is no likelihood of this type of technology arriving in UK policing for many years. But should civil authorities open a debate on the use of UAVs, then I will be happy to engage in it with an open mind. For the time being I have a single focus in my ACPO aviation role – the successful roll out of a highly effective national police air service.
A word from ACPO President, Sir Hugh Orde - 25 September 2012
This week has been an exceptionally sad one for the police service, with the tragic death of two officers from Greater Manchester police. Both unarmed and responding to a routine call, Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes were killed in the line of duty, simply going about their daily job – responding to one of the 9m calls for help that the police in this country receive each year.
The catastrophic events of this week serve as a reminder of just how real the dangers that the men and women of the police face day in, and day out, in order to protect the public from harm. The officers who died paid the ultimate price for their dedication and bravery. Our thoughts and prayers are with them, their family, friends and colleagues at Greater Manchester Police.
My colleague Chief Constable Peter Fahy has said that these officers exemplify the very best of British policing. They were delivering that neighbourhood service which is so important in our style of policing in this country. The British model has always relied on the close link between the public and the police, from neighbourhoods upwards. It is this relationship that breeds trust, confidence, and legitimacy. Minimum interference with the citizen and minimum use of force form a vital part of this bedrock. Quite simply, we police with the public's consent. That we are a routinely unarmed service is part of our identity and helps support the closeness and connection with the public.
Looking to colleagues in America, and across the world, it is strikingly obvious that bringing firearms into the policing equation does not solve the problem of violent crime, or protect officers from being injured or killed. When such catastrophic events happen it is so easy and understandable to look for ready solutions. That process, of openness to scrutiny and learning from events, is critical. Transparency is equally important to legitimacy in British policing. But the police service collectively does not want to routinely carry guns – we agree our relationship with the public we serve is too precious to jeopardise.
Recent days have been difficult ones for British policing. At such times we are sometimes asked about police morale, but what can never be questioned is the unswerving commitment that our officers have to serving our communities. This is the business of policing, and we go about it every day. Things do go wrong, mistakes are made, and when this happens, we are held to account.
The men and women of the service will continue, as ever, carrying out the job that they have sworn to do – protecting the public with dedication and courage, putting their lives on the line as they do so. For this, I remain immensely proud.
Andy Marsh - changes to firearms licensing, 18 September 2012
When Dorset man Peter Wilson won gold in the men’s double trap, the nation’s eyes were glued to the shooting at the London 2012 Olympics.
As he secured Britain’s fourth gold medal, the first in a shooting event since the Sydney 2000 games, many will have felt a spark of enthusiasm and pride, as I did. Perhaps they’ll even feel inspired to try out one ot the 15 Olympic shooting disciplines themselves.
So it’s a good time to speak about police and Home Office plans to update firearms licensing, bringing processes that have seen little change swifly into the 21st century.
It is not hard to look around and spot young and old fiddling with a variety of technological devices, checking emails, using social network sites, exchanging text messages and so on.
People routinely do their family grocery shopping or banking online, along with tax returns and applying for driving licences and passports. Yet to apply for a firearm of shotgun certificate we are still completing paper applications and waiting for the postman to deliver rather than an instant click and send.
This summer the police service has launched its national eCommerce initiative. The idea is to provide a professional and efficient online service which can be utilised across any transactional processes between public and the police service. You could consider it an “Amazon” for policing services to the public.
Over time, the initiative aims to provide a range of service, such as online payments, driver awareness course booking, management of lost and found property and a host of other public contact work. But I am very pleased to say that those seeking a firearms licence will be the very first to gain benefits from eCommerce, with the initative going live in some counties in the summer of 2013. It will be possible to simply log on to a website and apply for renewals and grants; you will be able to complete variations, track your applications, see the date and time of your home visits, pay online and more.
Crucially, this radical change in the processing of firearms licensing will allow police forces to become more efficient without any impact on public safety. The website will be easy to use but for anyone who prefers paper forms, that service will remain in place.
I do stress that we will always put safety and security first and we are already taking new measures to achieve this. With the British Medical Association we have now agreed and implemented a process where we can inform and consult with local GPs when considering applications for firearm and shotgun certificates. What does this mean for certificate holders and applicants?
Well, currently on application a declaration is signed giving consent for the firearms licensing department to consult with your GP. We certainly do not want to know every detail of your medical history but it does mean that your doctor will be notified that you are a firearm or shotgun certificate holder. This means your doctor can notify the police if they have any concerns about retaining a certificate. With this information, local firearms departments will then be able to consider whether they wish to ask for more detail from a GP in order to make a decision.
This is an excellent measure to improve public safety which is our first priority. We have listened to and heard concerns of representative bodies in respect of this communication with doctors and several alterations have been made to adjust the process to take them into account. However public safety will always come first for policing and an early review of this measure has shown in occasional but important cases, information has come to light which may help to prevent an avoidable tragedy.
So this is an exciting and positive time of change for firearms licensing. With a modern and secure system in place, perhaps someone inspired by watching the sport at the London 2012 Games will go on to repeat Peter Wilson’s success at the Rio Olympics in 2016?
Andy Marsh, Deputy Chief Constable of Hampshire Constabulary and ACPO lead on firearms and explosives licensing
Simon Cole - disability hate crime, 10 September 2012
As the Paralympics came to a conclusion Lord Coe said: "We will never think of sport the same way and we will never think of disability the same way."
The challenge to all of us now is to make sure that is the case. I am sure that, like me, you have not failed to be impressed with the efforts of the Paralympians. Their athleticism and commitment really does challenge the perceptions of disability that all too often can become cheap abuse, bullying and worse. To see stadiums packed to the gunnels, to watch the 100 metres final, to see the awesome wheelchair rugby is a slap in the face for those who stigmatise and demean. It has been life affirming and inspiring from the moment that the flame arrived to Coldplay's last note.
Rises in cases of disability hate crime have caused a debate on stigmatisation, and speculation as to the reasons for the increase. But from an ACPO point of view there is little doubt that the overall levels of reported incidents still do not reflect the true extent of actual incidents. The same conclusion has been drawn by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
A number of police officers, including myself, gave evidence to the EHRC inquiry into disability hate crime. Forces have sought to respond to the publication of the EHRC Hidden In Plain Sight report by finding ways to ensure reporting of disability hate crime increases, and that support is provided to victims and witnesses. Of course that is likely to be one of the reasons that our awareness of disability hate crime is increasing; as forces engage with members of disabled communities and better understand their concerns and experiences, then reporting will increase. As a consequence what will also increase is effective action to solve problems, and to target offenders.
That action will best happen in a partnership framework. The EHRC heard evidence from many others beyond policing. Certainly I gave evidence with local partners from both the County and District Council, outlining a shared approach to providing access and opportunity. I know that my colleagues from British Transport Police are working within their partnerships to see how experiences on transport links can be enhanced.
Such work will be supported by the emerging national hate crime guidance. This will capture what works, outline effective ways of working and ensure that disability hate crime is treated professionally.
None of this can take place without listening to the views of service users. In the coming weeks I shall be meeting again with members of disabled communities to see what they think of the work to date.
There has been much talk of an Olympic legacy. I am hopeful that part of the Paralympic legacy will be a reduction in stigmatisation, an acceptance of difference, and further improvements in the policing of disability hate crime.
Simon Cole, Chief Constable of Leicestershire and ACPO lead on mental health and disability
Tim Hollis - Olympian policing operation, 30 Aug 2012
As Vice President of ACPO with oversight of the Police National Information Co-ordination Centre (PNICC) and Vice Chair of the Olympics Business Area, Chief Constable Tim Hollis offers some reflections on a recent visit to the Olympic Park, which last night hosted the Paralympic Opening Ceremony.
Having been involved, in a modest fashion, in the national planning and preparation for the 2012 Games, together with Sir Hugh Orde, we took the opportunity before the start of the Paralympics to visit the Olympic Park. It was a fascinating visit and prompted the following thoughts on the Olympic Games:
Scale and complexity: This was, unambiguously, the largest and most complex operation undertaken by the British Police Service for a generation. AC Chris Allison, the National Olympic Security Coordinator, must have had more than a few sleepless nights but the fact is that through sound planning, attention to detail and hard work, the service was able to field the full range of skills and expertise required to deliver across all necessary areas of policing. What was notable was the extent to which all forces in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland worked so well together to deliver a successful policing operation embracing progress of the Olympic Torch Relay and the delivery of a safe and secure Games across all venues.
Managing risk: The management of risk is a key feature of day-to-day policing. We are comfortable with it and regularly prioritise our use of resources against our professional assessment of the threat and associated risks. What was interesting in respect of the Games was the manner in which a range of agencies, Government departments and Ministers were required to reach an agreement as to the nature of the risks confronting the Olympics and the appropriate response required. Things could change quite significantly. For example, the widespread disorder of August 2011 meant that the original assessment that the risk of serious public disorder was low had to be revisited. In consequence, significant additional PSU resources were required at a relatively late stage. Once again, the service rose to the challenge and necessary arrangements were made.
The start of the Olympic Torch Relay came as something of a relief. As one senior officer put it: “In the planning phase, you are concerned with what might happen. Once the torch got underway, we could concentrate instead on what was actually happening. In many respects that’s more straightforward.”
Flexibility and resilience: As is so often the case in policing, the ability to deal with the unexpected is key to success. For all our planning, we had not anticipated the failure of G4S to deliver on its commitment to provide venue security. The manner in which the police service and colleagues in the military rose to the challenge was, in my opinion, exemplary. Having oversight of PNICC, I saw the daily updates indicating the scale of the additional demand that fell on venue forces at very short notice. In many cases this was very significant. Whilst G4S and the Home Office have, quite rightly, agreed that forces will be refunded for this additional demand, the manner in which those forces hosting venues dealt with the situation reflected great credit on them. Of course, it did not go unnoticed in the media that the police and the military were stepping up to fill the gap left by the private sector. I anticipate that the wider reverberations will run on for a long time yet to come.
Timely lessons on interoperability: In many respects, the demands of the Olympic Games came at a most opportune time for the police service. At an early stage, it was realised that, in order to deliver such a complex policing operation, we required a much better understanding of what skills and capabilities the service had overall and where it was located. For example, we had never previously needed to know in detail just how many mounted officers, close protection officers, police search advisors and so on that we had nationally.
At an early stage, Chris Allison and I agreed to base the resource planning for the Games on a tried and tested model – PNICC. Rather than creating a new unit, we agreed to enhance the small PNICC team with additional staff for the purposes of the Olympic Games. As the months progressed, a series of resource tests, based on our understanding of the Games demand, allowed us gradually to build up a comprehensive national picture of what assets individual forces had, to arrive at a common set of definitions of what skills such specialists required and thus to identify where the resources for the London 2012 Games would be found.
That knowledge is a crucial legacy from the Olympics. As we enter a new era of Strategic Policing Requirements and continued reductions to police resources as a consequence of the ongoing budgets cuts, accurate knowledge of overall police capabilities will be of importance in allowing chief officers to manage risk confidently and to know where specialist help will come from when required.
Additionally, the cross border nature of the Olympic Torch Relay operation and collaborative approach developed by neighbouring forces, which saw joint teams supporting the Met Police Torch Security Team moving freely across force boundaries under a unified command structure, provided valuable experience in joint working for the future.
Public appreciation: One of the most encouraging lessons to come out of the Games was the extent to which the British public appreciated the style and professionalism of both the police and their military colleagues in ensuring a safe and secure event. I cannot be the only Chief Constable who has received a range of favourable letters, emails and messages via social media complimenting my officers on their conduct and behaviour whilst deployed on the Olympics. It was heartening also to receive positive feedback from the officers themselves who had been impressed by the manner in which their time in London had been organised and supported by our Met colleagues.
I think that everyone was pleasantly surprised at just how well the Olympics went. We now have the Paralympics to deliver, but I am confident that we have set a high standard which will be maintained.
Team GB in the very widest sense has already delivered a fantastic Games which will be talked about and remembered for years to come. Whilst the British Police service is going through testing times, it is hugely gratifying to know that by working together we were able to contribute to the overall success of the 2012 Games. British Policing to the gold standard.
Tim Hollis, Chief Constable of Humberside Police and Vice President of ACPO with oversight of the Police National Information Co-ordination Centre (PNICC) and Vice Chair of the Olympics Business Area .
A word from ACPO President, Sir Hugh Orde - 14 August 2012
Sunday saw the spectacular finale to what has been a phenomenal event for Britain. The country has, without question, come together in an inspiring display of civic pride. There have been some stunning displays of sporting prowess over the past fortnight, and Britain’s performance has been truly outstanding. The athletes will be proud, and deserve all the plaudits they receive. I instead want to take this opportunity to express my thanks and admiration for the police officers and staff, Armed and other Emergency services, the volunteers and security staff who have stepped up to the world stage and made this an event for the world to envy.
Indeed, the quiet dignity and good humour with which British officers have conducted themselves in recent weeks has been an object lesson in policing by consent. The tweeted image of a group of officers striking Usain Bolt’s distinctive pose (which I’m told spread to over 120,000 people in a matter of hours) serves to remind us that this was a sporting event with a security overlay, and not a security event that happened to have some sport. That is important. Despite some initial concerns surrounding the security arrangements the event has gone extremely well. That speaks volumes for the careful planning that the service and its partners have put into this event over the past four years. Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison led from the front with a passion and energy that I cannot praise highly enough.
Officers from across the country cancelled leave, left their home towns and families (often at quite short notice) to band together to help make the past two weeks a success. It is the, globally recognised, approachable demeanour and can-do attitude of the British Police Officer that makes this police service great. Policing is a difficult job and the magnitude of this event cannot be played down, it was not only the individuals both in and out of uniform who went out to guard the venues but also those who stayed on the streets of their communities; all should be proud of what they have achieved.
Now the Olympics successfully behind us, the focus turns to the Paralympic Games, which begin on 29 August and run until 9 September. Although smaller in size, there has already been phenomenal demand for tickets (I myself have failed to get any) and we are likely to see another major event. I am confident that the professionalism demonstrated by the police service and our partners will once again be in evidence in making the Paralympics a success.
The Queen’s Police Medal bears the inscription to “protect my people” - a simple statement; but a vital mission. A mission that officers carry out every day. I am therefore pleased to note that the Prime Minister plans to recognise the pursuit of that mission through a commemorative coin for those who took part. It will act as a reminder for a story that officers will be telling for a generation. I was there and, to borrow Lord Coe’s words, we did it right.
Ian Learmonth - The riots one year on, 7 Aug 2012
Much has changed in the past year. Over 3,000 people have been before the courts charged with offences related to the disorder that gripped the country in August 2011. The response from the public in terms of providing information on offenders and also in supporting their police service has been tremendous. The physical damage wrought by those criminals who decided to wreck their own communities has been repaired in most places.
The police service has been reviewing our response to those events, learning the lessons, and changing how we approach public disorder. We have developed more effective community intelligence systems, including utilising social media, to better pick up tensions and allow us to be proactive in dealing with those. National mobilisation plans have been developed, tested, and exercised to ensure that we can effectively and rapidly respond to major challenges of the type England experienced last August. On top of ensuring we can always get officers to potential trouble spots quickly and in sufficient numbers, we have reviewed the tactics and equipment that public order officers use to ensure we are in the best possible position to ensure public safety.
We want the public to be clear on what they can expect from us in the range of public order situations that the police service face. We always have – and always will – facilitate peaceful protest. Where someone decides that they want to use violence or the threat of violence against people or property, then we will tackle it robustly in a way that is firm but also fair and proportionate to the circumstances, with the aim of securing convictions for those that break the law.
To that end we have developed a National Public Order Framework which aims to describe the role of the police in dealing with disorder, and gives clear guidance to practitioners on how to respond in different situations. It makes absolutely clear what response the public will get from the police when incidents occur. Public consultation will begin on that document later this year, and it has already begun with stakeholders.
The public should be reassured that we are in a better position than ever to respond to public order threats, and our ultimate guide always remains the ideas that Sir Robert Peel set out almost two hundred years ago: the basic mission of the police service is prevent both crime and disorder, and our aim must be the absence of both.
If faced with the same circumstances what would be different? We would certainly be able to detect the rising community tension earlier and better respond. We could get officers to where they are needed much faster, and they will be better trained, equipped, and prepared.
Ian Learmonth is the Chief Constable of Kent Police and ACPO lead for the public order and public safety working group.
Chris Allison - Olympic Games, 30 July 2012
On Friday the London 2012 Olympic Games started with a fantastic Opening Ceremony, marking the culmination of the 70 day Olympic Torch Relay and the beginning of nearly seven weeks of sporting and cultural celebration.
That the Olympic Torch Relay was such a great success from start to finish is in no small part down to the hard work and planning of every officer and police staff member involved in the various policing operations up and down the country. I would like to express my gratitude to every officer and staff member who has played a role in its delivery.
The National Olympic Coordination Centre (NOCC) has been up and running since May and the coordination centre’s multi-agency desks are working 24/7 to keep all partners, including Government, up-to-date with the safety and security operations of the Relay and Games.
As you are well aware, one of the largest pieces of work we have had to undertake ahead of the Games was the resourcing of the policing operation. The Police Service continues to step up to the plate to ensure the Games are a success, with 52 forces playing their part in delivering the safety and security operation - this incredible contribution has been made all the more challenging by G4S shortfalls. I am well aware that many thousands of officers are spending time away from home while serving on mutual aid or assisting in venue security. Despite this, I am confident that our officers and staff will continue to display the utmost professionalism on duty.
In the last few weeks, London has been transformed into a stage dressed to host the World’s greatest sporting events and it’s great to see officers from up and down the country in the Capital, policing the streets and welcoming visitors. Every officer I’ve come across, no matter where they are from, has been both helpful and welcoming to the public, not to mention excited to be part of such an iconic event in our history. All of those who I have come across seem to be enjoying the buzz on the streets of London at the moment.
All of our 11 Olympic venue forces, and British Transport Police, are working hard to ensure the successful delivery of the Games. I’d like to recognise the work of the Games command teams and planners who after years of preparation, are now not only experts in various fields of sports, but are also delivering excellent policing operations.
We all continue to play a critical role in ensuring that while the eyes of the world are upon us, the Games and our communities at home will be kept safe and secure. A successful Games will need every ounce of the usual hard work and dedication to duty which make the British Police service the envy of the world.
I remain confident that once again all partners will deliver fantastic events across venue forces, showcasing Britain and the police service to the world and I thank you all for your continued assistance and support.
A word from ACPO President, Sir Hugh Orde - 20 July 2012
It has been said on many occasions that the London 2012 Games will be the biggest peacetime policing operation ever staged in this country. The events of the past week have borne out what a significant security challenge that presents.
Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison is doing an exceptional job in leading for the service in securing this internationally important event, and the speed with which contingencies have been enacted is a clear demonstration of the flexibility, resilience and dedication of our police officers.
They are getting on with the job with their usual professionalism and the can do attitude typical of British policing. There will be time for further reviews about what has happened in due course – what we now need to do is get on, working with partners, with delivering the Games. My sense is that the police service recognises this and is fully focussed on getting policing resources to where they need to be.
What the past week has highlighted is the continuing demand for the police service to work together across the 44 territorial forces to deliver on the national agenda. That is why, as we draw ever closer to the arrival of elected Policing and Crime Commissioners, I will continue to emphasise the critical importance of the Strategic Policing Requirement – the document which sets out the need to ‘have regard to’ national policing issues. I have spoken now at a number of events for potential PCC candidates and it is very clear, and understandably so, that among them there are very differing levels of knowledge and experience of how the police service works collectively at the national level.
Where I think there remains work to be done is in clearly specifying what policing resources are available at national level to tackle threats. When a moment of national demand comes along, the police service needs to be able to say very clearly what numbers and resources are at its disposal. Put very starkly, in COBR, the Government’s crisis committee, it cannot be that I tell the Prime Minister to ‘hang on a minute’ while I call every chief constable in the country and ask them to do a quick headcount. That means I need to know that forces are committed to a national resource that is fixed, over and above their local commitments, so that in incidents with a national dimension like the fuel strike or 2011 riots, we can have absolute confidence in our capacity and capability to deal with a given situation.
As the PCC will hold the budgetary responsibility, they will have an important role in this debate. But we do need to nail down the detail so that responsibilities in the national context are clear. There is still a considerable amount of work left to do, but right now our focus has to be on delivering, as they say, the greatest show on earth.
So in the meantime may I wish you all a safe and enjoyable Olympic Games. I have every confidence that the police officers and staff who have worked day and night in helping plan this event will keep it safe and secure.
Alex Marshall - PCCs, 10 July 2012
Just over a month has passed since the ACPO Leading Change in Policing Conference and I’ve now had the chance to reflect a little on some of the outcomes and themes that resulted. One thing is for certain: in policing, there’s a lot going on. I had the pleasure of chairing the second day of our conference which was entirely dedicated to exploring the role of a Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) and the challenges (both political and operational) that will face them on the road ahead.
Although at the time of the conference the vast majority of candidates had yet to declare their intentions, we still managed to muster up a crowd of those who are interested in throwing their hats in the ring. I hope they found it as useful as we all did. The opportunity to discuss the important issues, in what is a shifting landscape, with those we may be working alongside in future was immensely valuable. There were plenty of questions on both sides. It was useful for chiefs to hear where prospective candidates thought the role was headed and what their remit would be in practice. I also imagine it was useful for candidates to hear about the latest operational thinking coming out of the service in an open and intellectually stimulating environment.
We began the day by looking at the ‘rules of engagement’ between a chief constable and a declared (and undeclared) candidate, led by a charismatic Police Area Returning Officer (David Cook). These are the individuals who are going to have to make sure everyone plays by the rules in the run up to a PCC election - no easy task. Particularly given that, despite our in depth discussion, that there was little agreement on what those ‘rules’ will actually be in practice. I know a few colleagues made light of that fact that we may be guilty of breaching section 100
just by discussing the elections. It’s a tricky area to say the least.
It is obviously in the police service’s interest to have as much public engagement in policing as possible, for that is how we secure our legitimacy and is how we remain accountable. However, when it comes to the ballot box the police have to (rightly) stay well clear. There is still a little way to go in clarifying how this will work as it’s new territory for everyone, but it’s fundamentally important we get it right.
Catherine Crawford (now formerly) of the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), was helpful in extrapolating the lessons of London’s experience of direct accountability. But she was keen to explain that the parallels only went so far, a point that the Commissioner himself made pretty clear.
PCCs will have an incredible amount of information to take in and a crammed in-tray when they take office. ACO Nigel Brook noted the urgency of decisions required around the Police precept and budgets as part of the Police and Crime Plan. They have to be finalised by February, (the bulk of which will have been done by late autumn) therefore if a PCC is sworn in and wants to rip up the budget plan everyone will have their work cut out to lay down a new one.
The breakout sessions centred around the new world under PCCs and DCC Rob Beckley took a thought provoking look at what ‘commissioning’ services actually means. As a service we have often not focused on things in policing that are not intrinsically to do with "bobbies on the beat" or crime fighting. The business and organisational skills that a PCC may bring could make a contribution here.
Our ‘question time’ debates took both an internal and external perspective on what PCCs can offer. There is clearly still little agreement on what and who makes the best candidates, and perhaps nor should there be. Policing isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ profession and PCCs may reflect the public we police. We heard from two professional politicians (a councillor and ex-minister) and a former policeman as prospective candidates. All took very different views on what they would bring to the role.
What I, and I hope others, took away from the event was the importance of dialogue at both local and national level. These forums are more than just talking shops, they provide a vital space to share knowledge and build understanding as we prepare for such a historic and seismic change. As we heard at ACPO Conference, we still need the nuts and bolts attached to the Strategic Policing Requirement, and it will be for us collectively to remind PCCs that we have national obligations to meet on behalf of the public, that go beyond the local issues they may focus their campaigns on.
A word from ACPO President, Sir Hugh Orde - 26 June 2012
The calendar has been full this month; we have had our own conference (a successful and informative event that started a debate with PCCs), and many other events hosted by interested parties in both the public and private sector. Each one with a different focus, each one with its own burning questions.
The ensuing discussions and debates have certainly served to remind us all of how busy the timetable is – and how much work there is left to do. To take one example: the House of Lords is currently dissecting, line by line, the legislation around the National Crime Agency. My colleagues Jon Murphy and Mick Creedon are working closely with Keith Bristow on how we collectively focus on the most dangerous criminals in the country, through co-operation and proper tasking across all agencies and forces. This change alone will be a step change to our policing model.
But it is by no means the only change. I have taken many questions over recent weeks on how the shifting pieces in the policing jigsaw all fit together. The challenge lies in the complexity of the policing mission and how it will be delivered with the proposed new structures.
Recent developments around HMCIC have shifted the balance again as, in keeping with many inspectorates, it moves away from a leadership model based on a sworn officer to a body that will have a very different, more regulatory, feel. It is entirely the Home Secretary’s prerogative to choose who inspects the police, but we do need clarity on who advises the Government on operational matters following this decision. Whoever speaks on behalf of the service must be seen as legitimate, capable of speaking for the 44 Chief Officers and have the confidence to represent them in the routine, as they get on with running their forces.
It is for this reason that I feel we are reaching a point for some clear and unambiguous conversations around who does what in the new landscape. ACPO remains at the centre of this debate. Although the Government is cutting funding in December, I am confident that as the essential ‘glue’ in the system, that by bringing together chief officers, holds, and legitimises the National Policing agenda, we will continue to operate beyond the horizon for some time.
There are of course many other players on the new national stage. The Director General of the NCA is a chief constable (at the moment), has a direct line relationship with the Home Secretary; and will be on hand to provide advice. But if that is to be the arrangement we need to understand how it plays out across the wider service. The Police Professional Body (PPB) will also exist. But rooted in the totality of the police family membership, it will simply be unable to fully represent the views of the leadership of the service, and on some occasions the two may be in conflict. Where we do appear to have clarity is around the role of ACPO Chief Constables’ Council, which will remain firmly within ACPO.
So work continues apace! I do believe that the policy making aspects of ACPO’s Business Areas fit properly into the new Professional Body. However, I think there is a growing realisation that a substantial percentage of the work undertaken by Business Areas is operational and as such must remain outside that structure, firmly in the grip of ACPO. We must ensure that as much clarity as possible is achieved here and Business Area leads must be able to operate on a day to day basis through both ACPO and the PPB when appropriate.
Government will continue to need to know the views of all 44 forces collectively, since 44 forces is the model we currently have. I am pleased to note that there is now a corresponding transitional body in the form of the Association for Police and Crime Commissioners to represent PCCs collectively – they too will need a joint voice on national issues and we fully support this move.
So there is still a huge complexity of work requiring a settled home in the new landscape and it is the job of myself and others to find it. The ACPO press office took calls, to take a single day last week, on the policing approach to anti-social behaviour, drug driving and plastic bullets. That’s just in a few short hours. The answers to the questions arising from those calls could all be found through the vast resource of operational knowledge that can be drawn from across the service, at all ranks and grades, through the ACPO business areas and portfolios. Would a standards and accreditation body, be able to provide operational commentary in the same fashion, grounded in real-time expertise? I am not convinced. The Royal College of Physicians doesn’t speak for Radiologists, Radiologists don’t speak for Nurses and so on and so forth. If a Royal College for Policing is to speak for the whole service then it needs the buy in of everyone.
We must be positive in driving this forward - the recognition and respect that a Royal College could confer on policing is an enormous opportunity and the fact that it will be service owned is hugely significant. A body that can draw together the knowledge of chief officers, the operational leadership of the Superintending ranks and the knowhow of Federated officers would be hugely valuable.
I am therefore keen to up the pace on progress with the Professional Body. The NPIA will cease to be as of December, but the IT successor body ‘Newco’ isn’t expected to be in place until the following summer. The Association’s central funding runs out at that time too, that is no secret. We can’t leave an empty space, it’s not right for the service, it wouldn’t do for the Government and we wouldn’t be doing right by the citizen.
So we must fit into a coherent picture and that means bringing together ACPO, the Superintendents’ Association, the Police Federation, all the relevant police staff associations, the PCCs (as soon as they’ve sat down) and government stakeholders. We must bolt down the detail as soon as possible. It was once said the challenge is in the moment; the time is always now.
Nigel Brook - Budget cuts, 22 June 2012
In its July 2011 report 'Adapting to Austerity', Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) said: "The police serviceâ€¦ is facing its biggest financial challenge in a generation." One year on, HMIC’s second report updating on the state of police budgets is expected to be published in the near future and will offer a perspective on how the service is adapting to that challenge. A timely one too, as since taking over as Head of the ACPO Finance and Resources Business Area, I too have been taking stock of where the service is in delivering the budget cuts brought about by the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) covering April 2011 to March 2015.
As usual in the financial work there are complexities. The October 2010 CSR imposed a 20 per cent cut of central government grants to police forces in real terms. ‘Real terms’ means after allowing for the effects of inflation. To put it in everyday parlance, if your pay were cut 10 per cent and all prices rose 5 per cent during the year, by the end of the year your spending power would be 15 per cent worse (15 per cent worse in real terms). The police budgets have been cut by around 14 per cent which, together with the impact of inflation means that overall, police budgets are 20 per cent less in real terms. A cut of this scale provides a very significant challenge to police forces who want to maintain and even improve their services to the public. As 81 per cent of police spending is, on average, spent on staff then the budget cuts fall very heavily on staff numbers.
The impact of the 20 per cent budget cut is compounded by being front-loaded as opposed to being evenly spread over the four year period. The cut is made 6 per cent in 2011-12, 13 per cent by 2012-13, 17 per cent by 2013-14 and 20 per cent by 2014-15. So, as you can see, the biggest cut is in the first and second years. The advantage of this is that forces take significant initial steps to save money and a degree of stability then arrives later in the CSR period, but the disadvantage is that as police officers cannot be made redundant (only retire), then savings from declining officer numbers occur gradually throughout the period and a very severe cut is needed to police staff numbers to achieve the saving imposed.
The HMIC ‘Adapting to Austerity’ report assessed that staff numbers would need to fall by 34,100 in total including 16,200 police officers, 16,100 police staff and 1,800 PCSOs. As there are so many fewer police staff than officers to begin with this means a much greater percentage cut to police staffing.
Forces have tried very hard to protect what are being called front-line services, such as Neighbourhood Policing or Response Policing Teams but also those less visible to the public such as Counter Terrorist officers or detectives, at the expense of what is being called 'the back office': administrative and support services. This does not mean that overall front-line staffing is increasing, it is not. But as it is falling less quickly than back office staffing, the proportion (or percentage) of the total staff made up by the front-line is increasing.
Latest information suggests that forces are delivering more savings than they needed to balance the 2011-12 budget, which will allow them to fund the costs of change (for example, redundancy costs) and to ease the pressure on later years. They also have plans to deliver the savings in 2012-13 which is the financial year that started in April and the majority have pretty good plans on how to deliver the savings in the last two years of the CSR. Of course looking forward, spending cuts continuing into the next Parliament are now being talked about and the Government will need to think very carefully about any further cuts in future spending reviews given the demands on policing if the recession continues to bite.
Of note is the fact that most forces are also delivering reduced levels of crime and anti-social behaviour, together with higher public confidence figures. That is a record for the police service to be proud of, and it will be interesting to see how it is reflected in HMIC next snapshot report.
A word from ACPO President, Sir Hugh Orde - 10 May 2012
There is no denying that officers from across the country have shown the strength of their feeling today about the future of the police service. This is undoubtedly one of the most challenging periods for policing since its creation in 1829. Many police officers are worried, but I also sense that they remain determined to deliver the very best service to the public that they can.
The financial challenges facing forces are immense; the service has not shied away from that fact. Over time, we have delivered falling crime but all the while, the demands on policing have increased exponentially. Forces have had to make difficult decisions to produce the required savings, including major reductions to number of staff. The two-part Winsor report on pay and conditions has made some radical proposals but much of this is still subject to negotiation.
Chief officers sympathise with the demands placed on the officers and staff in our charge. We recognise the financial uncertainty created by the current economic situation and changes to job security and pensions. We firmly believe that proposals for change have to be viewed for their cumulative impact and recognise the unique demands policing makes of police officers and staff.
The challenges are not purely financial or local to force areas. There are national threats that the service must continue to confront in a joined up and co-ordinated way. My recent attendance at COBR, representing police chiefs in discussion about a potential fuel strike, again demonstrated with absolute clarity the requirement for a national contact point. As the National Policing Improvement Agency winds down and preparations for a new Police Professional Body continue, the Government announced in this Queen’s Speech the pending formation of a National Crime Agency. Combining the powers of the police, SOCA and the HMRC with the ability to task and coordinate at a national level will introduce a unique and untested dynamic to British policing.
The increased role of the private sector in our day to day business may also play a part in freeing up officers to deploy to the frontline and visible policing roles that the public value so much. We are seeing forces take many different paths towards this goal, but the great unknown is Police and Crime Commissioners and the new form of accountability they bring. My sense is there are still a great many changes on the horizon.
But whatever the future brings what we do have is a flexible and dedicated workforce that serves the public in often the most dangerous circumstances and with an enormous spirit of self-sacrifice and fortitude. The service demonstrates that commitment daily and will continue to do so.
Simon Cole - Local policing and partnerships, 4 May 2012
With the retirement of Chief Constable Richard Crompton I was delighted to be selected to inherit his Local Policing and Partnership Business Area. In Leicestershire Neighbourhood policing is at the core of how we set out to combat crime and anti social behaviour (ASB), with a longstanding legacy of dedicated neighbourhood teams.
This is a commitment demonstrated across the national stage, a huge part of police business is reflected through the extensive and detailed portfolios that work under the business area umbrella.
That said I know that all chiefs are having to focus their minds on how to sustain Neighbourhood policing in the face of significant austerity. The neighbourhood policing portfolio, led by Assistant Chief Constable Stuart Donald, is working hard to ensure public involvement in policing into the future despite these difficult times. That means looking at ideas from both at home and abroad.
Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) are inevitably, and understandably, going to have a local focus. They are going to want to know how we work and particularly what works effectively, as Neighbourhood policing is at the heart of what we do we will have to make sure we communicate this effectively.
The removal of the ring fence for Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) funding will need careful thought. There is no doubt that PCSOs have been central to crime reduction through focused problem solving and trust building. They have also provided the continuity that was so often missing prior to their existence; abstraction levels remain low, and intelligence is readily forthcoming from local people. It will be the job of ACC Jerry Kirkby (ACPO lead on PCSOs) to ensure that that bond of trust continues and that engagement with communities is always at the forefront of what we do.
Key to building that link with local communities has been combating Anti Social Behaviour. Finding new ways of confronting it was the key driver behind eight forces (selected to reflect different policing environments) taking part in the joint ACPO/Home Office pilot study to identify best practice leading to improved service. There is also an HMIC inspection report to come, following on from 2010's report.
These pilots were in part thanks to the hard work of ACC Simon Edens (ACPO lead on ASB) and Commander Ian Dyson, who brought in national contact management through the 101 phone number for non-emergencies. Ian and his team have now turned their attention to developing the National Standard for Incident Recording into a more risk assessed model. This will again improve the service members of the public receive.
PCCs will also want to look at the Community Safety Partnership (CSPs) landscape in their area. In Leicestershire all partners are now case managing ASB on a shared IT system, elsewhere multi agency hubs assessing victims and offenders are part of day to day work. These are real crime fighting initiatives, working with complex issues and people to achieve positive results.
A long time ago Robert Peel said that the police were the 'only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent upon every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence' – and we encourage the citizen to play their part. DCC Rob Beckley, ACPO lead on volunteering, (who is currently delivering national volunteering road shows). Peter Davies, Chief Executive of CEOP, have been working closely with the Security Industry to make sure volunteers and security staff are fully trained. This has transformed the professionalism of steward and security staff, who play a vital part in keeping our communities safe.
Maximising the impact of engagement with local policing is crucial to our work. That engagement may be through contact on patrol, through local meetings or through new media. DCC Gordon Scobbie (from ACPO Scotland) leads on digital media as a means of engagement; that may be twitter from your local officer or PCSO, it may be Facebook sites for major events, or shared photos of those who are most wanted, or it could be an E-meeting allowing real interaction on local issues, and what police and partners will do as a consequence of public concerns.
All of these different work streams come together in the Business Area. All of them help to reduce the risk of harm, to secure public spaces for the law abiding and to fight crime. I am very much looking forward to working with some really committed colleagues to push this work forward in the coming months and years.
Simon Cole is the Chief Constable of Leicestershire Police and head of the Local Policing and Partnerships Business Area.
Chris Allison - 100 days to go, 18 April 2012
From today, Wednesday 18 April, there are only 100 days until the opening of the London 2012 Olympic Games. As the National Olympic Security Coordinator (NOSC), I am confident that we are in a good place, thanks to the professionalism and commitment of the British police service and our partners.
We have been planning since we won the bid in 2005 and have made incredible progress towards what will be our biggest ever pre-planned policing operation. By using tried and tested ways of working we will deliver my priority; a robust yet discrete policing operation, which first and foremost allows the 2012 Games to be a celebration of sport and culture.
As the Games draw nearer, we are increasingly moving into the operational phase. National structures are in place to coordinate across safety and security partners, not least the National Olympic Coordination Centre (NOCC). This unique multi-agency facility, based at New Scotland Yard, gives us the necessary coordination to provide me with the information I need to keep government and partners briefed, to support Gold Commanders nationally and to coordinate our response to the challenges of the Games. The Olympic Intelligence Centre, another national function for the Games, continues to manage intelligence, so we are best able to respond to any emerging threat, locally and nationally, which may challenge us. Our planning has been to a level which gives us flexibility and scalability, no matter the threat, be it crime, terrorism, public order or natural hazard.
The sporting venues are near completion and the 12 forces which will police them, together with British Transport Police, have developed their own local operations. We are working closely with the Games organisers, LOCOG, to ensure a seamless security operation which is effective yet not oppressive. I praise the work of colleagues who have responded to the challenge by developing local plans which are detailed, robust and nationally consistent.
Most importantly, we are nearing our final understanding as to the resourcing challenge, and the logistics required, of what will be our largest ever deployment. With over 12,000 police officers keeping the Games safe nationally on peak days, the police service has responded to the unique requirement. Every force in the country is playing its part and has committed to supply officers to ensure we have the right skilled and trained officers in the right place to keep the Games safe.
A fair and proportionate approach has been taken to resource planning across all forces, taking into account local capacity, capability and local events, while also being sure that every force retains the capacity to continue to deliver core policing for our wider communities. This has been a huge challenge and is great testimony to the professionalism of the service, working together to meet the extraordinary demand, putting the national need ahead of localism.
Throughout the entire UK, colleagues from the emergency services and all our local partners have worked together to prepare for the Olympic Torch Relay, which will begin its epic journey in just a matter of weeks on 18 May. We have strong regional commands in place, a well-trained Met-led Torch Relay Security Team and the final local preparations are now being made. There will inevitably be unexpected disruptions and challenges, but it is through effective local planning and partnership working that we will be successful.
All of the progress I describe is the result of incredible teamwork, dedicated officers and staff across all forces and partners involved and I am proud to say I have seen the British police at its best. With just 100 days to go, I am confident that we will deliver a truly once-in-a-lifetime event, showcasing Britain and the police service to the world.
Nigel Brook - Police Finance and Resources, 12 April 2012
On May 15 I take up the position of Head of ACPO's Finance and Resources Business Area. As a member of Police Staff, and not a serving Police Officer (or Chief Constable for that matter), I feel very honoured.
The general public do not come across members of police staff perhaps as often as they may a warranted officer. Some may not know what a member of police staff is, or how it differs from a police officer.
Police staff jobs cover all sorts of ground and can include anything from Detention Officers guarding prisoners, to Scenes of Crime Officers (SOCOs) seeking evidence and Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) providing visible neighbourhood policing.
But like any business policing also needs people to help with day-to-day running and administration, thus it needs those with skills not necessarily apposite to a frontline police officer. Such as experienced communications staff dealing with the complexities of media relations, stakeholder relations and corporate communications, or information technology experts to manage the technology and communications systems upon which modern policing relies. Then of course there are those who populate the finance and administration departments, my particular area. The service manages complex and substantial budgets and solid financial support is critical to ensuring public money is spent efficiently and wisely.
Police staff typically make up around a third of the personnel of a police force, and in some places as many as half. While a varied group doing quite different jobs, we all share in the service ethos in trying our level best to help the public. Thus it is important, and I’m privileged, to represent police staff at the table of ACPO Cabinet.
Police staff are drawn from a huge range of professional backgrounds, my own being accountancy. I started working for Greater Manchester Police as Finance Director before moving to West Yorkshire Police as Assistant Chief Officer responsible for managing a variety of services including finance, procurement, estates, transport, logistics and IT; for a force the size of West Yorkshire it is quite a task.
Those in senior police staff roles, such as my own, are eligible to join the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) along with Chief Constables, DCCs and ACCs. ACPO organises its work in groupings known as Business Areas. My own relevant area is therefore Finance & Resources. Those in other financing roles across the country’s forces come together to address common issues, help each other, respond to government consultations and so on. Usually ACPO members elect a Chief Constable to head and represent the Business Area in meetings with the Home Office and other government departments.
After acting as deputy to the last three heads I threw my hat in the ring for the election to replace Chief Constable Grahame Maxwell who is standing down in May. I was delighted to be elected as the first police staff member to hold this position, and the second staff member to join cabinet – the Information Management Business Area has beaten us to it in electing a police staff member already (Ailsa Beaton, director of information for the Met).
I hope that my success will demonstrate that the vibrant mix of officers and staff within policing is represented at all levels of the service.
Peter Fahy - Winsor Part Two, 30 March 2012
The second part of Tom Winsor’s review of police pay and conditions has landed on desks in the last couple of weeks. The media concentrated on fitness testing, direct entry and cuts to the pay of new recruits. In fact, there is a lot more substance to the report (at 780 pages) but also some noticeable omissions.
Chief Constables do not believe that police officers are overpaid. But we do believe that the current way of developing and rewarding our staff does not always allow us to get the best out of them. Some police officers are not rewarded enough for the difficult and dangerous jobs they do, while there are also a minority of underperformers who are a frustration to the hard-working, committed and passionate majority.
These changes have to help forces make best use of their budgets and therefore have to be about long term reform not crude pay cuts. We have to watch the cumulative impact on individual members of staff who are seeing the cost of living rise. Just as important, however, is to recognise that policing is becoming ever more specialised and complex and there are changing expectations of our staff. One of my biggest concerns in my own force, Greater Manchester Police, is that we have lots of staff who want to be promoted and take on more responsibility, but not the opportunities for them.
So any changes have to help forces save money. But even more important, they need to allow us to use the skills and talents of our staff to meet the needs of the public. This means we need the flexibility to reward expertise and contribution made by those who consistently deliver high quality.
On some specifics; fitness tests, while important, are not new as we already use them for officer safety training. If extended to the whole workforce it will be important that they are role and age related.
The proposal for a compulsory redundancy scheme will be emotive for officers who do not have the right to strike. Some will say that when soldiers can be made redundant, why should police officers be exempt? This is hard to argue against but this issue is important to officers feeling they are valued by the public. We still await details of a voluntary redundancy scheme agreed by the Home Office and there is likely to be considerable interest in this offer dependent on the terms.
There are proposals to correlate more of an officer’s pay to level of performance and expertise. This cannot be about crude indicators such as the number of arrests but should be built around the key roles of neighbourhood policing, investigation and response policing. It needs a balance between knowledge and the ability to translate that knowledge into practise for the benefit of the public.
Chief Constables’ support accelerated promotion for talented staff to Inspector and will participate fully in the consultation on Winsor's other proposals for direct entry.
Of course the report and publicity focused largely on police officers but much of policing is carried out by unsworn colleagues in police staff. In some forces there is a fifty-fifty split between police officers and police staff: PCSOs, Crime Scene Investigator and those in a wide range of other roles. The report essentially says that in future their pay and conditions should be determined locally but with greater harmonisation between conditions for officers and police staff.
I cannot see any of these changes happening quickly. Staff do not need reminding that we are already under a two year pay and increment freeze and pay will only increase by about one per cent after that. Next month many officers will see an increase in their pension contributions. That means there is little scope to bring in further changes when staff are already taking such a substantial hit. There is also no spare cash about to smooth the impact of any changes.
I have made it clear that we need to look not only at the size of the cuts but also how society and the world of work is changing around us. We do need some radical changes to get through this. It is not about cutting wages or asking staff to work harder for less. Other organisations have got through major changes in their industries by encouraging their staff to work in different ways taking on higher levels of skills and specialisms whilst operating with less supervision. This allows these staff to have more responsibility and professional discretion and a more rewarding role. I am not sure that Winsor fully delivers this but it lays down a foundation.
Ensuring the service draws upon a diverse base of people with the right skills will always be paramount. The Special Constabulary goes some way in supporting that and a form of direct entry may expand it further.
We are unique in this country in that we believe it is not the job of the State to control its people, but the duty of citizens to work together to ensure the laws of a democratically elected parliament are observed for the common good. That is why we have an independent police service, of the people, for the people. Some of this is done by full time paid individuals and some by unpaid volunteers. But all, as servants of the Crown, swear an oath to the monarch, not to any particular government or politician, and that tradition will continue.
Gareth Pritchard - Policing dangerous dogs, 27 March 2012
Last week saw a serious attack that hospitalised five police officers and has left several of them with serious injuries. During a police raid five Metropolitan police officers were savaged by a dog. I wish them all a speedy recovery, and my heart goes out to their families. The attack comes at a time where dangerous dog law has been at the forefront of the news agenda.
Last month BBC’s Newsnight ran a special report on dangerous dog legislation (22/02/12) and its implications for dog owners, police forces and the public at large. The programme highlighted the difficulties for police officers trying to deal with dangerous dogs. This latest unfortunate incident serves to remind us of an ongoing problem.
The law concerning dangerous dogs is encapsulated in separate pieces of legislation from 1871 to the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991 and 1997. It is sufficiently complex to have required the training of specific Dog Legislation Officers (DLOs) to ensure its proper implementation. Even then, many believe it provides insufficient protection for the public, while the experience of the police suggests it disappoints victims when they realise the limitations to what the police can achieve.
Concerns centre around the fact that if an individual, whether postal worker, nurse, midwife or ordinary member of the public, is attacked by a dog in someone’s home, there is no scope for criminal recourse. Unfortunately such attacks are not an irregular occurrence: as many as 6,000 post office workers are injured each year by dogs and around 70 per cent of those take place on private property (cwu.org).
Individuals who are lawfully on private property have a right to be protected from harm. Yet under the law, if it takes place on private property, police officers do not have the same powers to investigate an attack by a dog that results in serious injury as say they would in an assault or domestic abuse case.
The Metropolitan Police Service has reported a rise in the number of dangerous dogs seized and has set up a Status Dog Unit to specifically address the issue. Criminals are using status dogs as a tool for intimidation and protection. The RSPCA published a review in August 2010 which found that the cost of irresponsible dog ownership to the taxpayer was an estimated £76.8 million a year. The current framework can lead to slow progression of court cases at significant costs to many police forces. Kennelling not only impacts on police budgets, but can have a negative effect on the welfare of the dogs concerned. Many of the dogs end up in the kennels for long periods of time and some may not have been looked after appropriately prior to being seized.
There is increasing demand to change the status quo. Scotland and Northern Ireland have taken steps to address the issue – there is now a growing pressure to do the same in England and Wales. Animal charities and agencies (such as the RSPCA) have been liaising with government to find possible improvements to current legislation. I have been working closely with a variety of interested parties to inform and advise on the current operational implications of dangerous dog legislation. It is not for the police to call for new laws but we do want to share our operational perspective so as to make sure any proposed changes are right for the wider public and practical for officers across England and Wales.
Most dog owners are of course responsible people and would respond positively to a preventative notice from a police officer. Dog control notices were supported by 68 per cent of respondents to a DEFRA consultation. It is irresponsible dog owners that we seek to challenge; the emphasis must always be to ensure that the onus is on the dog owner to be responsible for their animals.
Momentum behind the issue may be growing. Any coming change must improve public safety, be effective for enforcers and provide a set of preventative tools to allow early resolution. This in turn should lead to a quick and cost effective process in the criminal justice system and, equally important, better animal welfare.
Gareth Pritchard is Assistant Chief Constable at North Wales Police, and ACPO lead on dangerous dogs.
David Whatton - Investigating rape, 8 March 2012
Today I attended a reception at Downing St hosted by the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and ministers from a range of government departments to celebrate International Women’s Day.
One of the key things emphasised by Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, was that women’s issues are just as important for men and it matters to everyone that we all tackle issues of violence against women.
The majority of people present were from voluntary sector organisations and survivors and families who have had to face the realities of these heinous crimes. These groups are carrying out outstanding work across the whole of this area.
Last week saw the release of the HMIC Thematic Inspection, Forging the links: Rape investigation and prosecution, which is followed this week by the launch of the government’s Teenage Rape Prevention Campaign. Both are very welcome; one to build on the progress that has already been made in rape investigations and the second to ensure we look to challenge some of the misconceptions around rape, whilst seeking to offer guidance and support to victims of sexual offences.
Forging the links, in contrast to previous inspections which have predominately focused on victims of sexual assault, looks at the management of suspects and in particular linked offences and serial offending. It welcomes the ‘comprehensive and recent work on the treatment of victims by the agencies of the criminal justice system’ and looks to build on this in areas where improvements can be made, such as the way intelligence is gathered and how it can be used to construct cases against suspects.
The report concentrates on the structures in place to identify and manage the use of intelligence; so vital when protecting the public. The emphasis is on how intelligence is used to identify offending behaviour, spot patterns and linked offences and on making sure systematic processes are in place to successfully bring to justice those offenders that commit serial offences.
Fundamental to understanding the risk and threat to the public within a force area is having a clear intelligence picture in the form of a current problem profile. This needs clear definitions around terminology such as ‘repeat’ and ‘serial’ offending which are not just about ‘stranger’ attacks. ACPO will need to work closely with other key partners including, NPIA, CPS and the Home Office to ensure these and other issues identified by the report are addressed. There is much emphasis and discussion at the moment around no-crime rates and the inconsistencies that exist across forces. The reality is that little will be gained in trying to compare figures unless we have some consistency in the way crimes are initially recorded.
I believe real gains can be made by forces introducing specialised teams, particularly those that involve co-location of police and CPS, which bring with them the consistency and professionalism that is so important when dealing with rape. Of course in this period of austerity, resources are at a premium but I really do believe that this is one area where a dedicated resource, linked to close partnership working with the CPS and support agencies, will achieve not only a professional response to the victim but address many of the shortfalls identified in the recent inspection.
A piece of work underway at the moment is looking at the costs and benefits of such teams and will, I hope, assist forces in making a decision on whether to introduce a team or not. Evaluating the financial cost of a dedicated team against the risk of a sub-optimal investigation will be difficult to achieve but I hope it will offer corroboration that forces need to look hard at the issues. Having first-hand experience of introducing a dedicated team and seeing the almost immediate benefits it brings, is one reason why I am so confident in promoting their existence.
In addition to professionally investigating rape, we need to act to try and prevent offences from happening in the first place and that is why I am so pleased to see the launch of the government’s campaign. Highlighting rape within the media and in particular amongst teenagers is key in trying to prevent a vulnerable part of the community from becoming victims. Asking them to consider what they think constitutes a rape and providing the support necessary to challenge unfounded perceptions, will be key. The campaign will also add support to other marketing initiatives, for instance the award winning 'Where is your line' campaign from the Havens and the school based campaign recently launched in Avon and Somerset.
In summary there are some real positives to be found in many aspects of how we now investigate and prosecute offences of rape. We work much more closely with our partners and as the recent inspection highlights, ‘â€¦the reactions of practitioners are far more attuned to the needs of victims...’. We need to constantly challenge ourselves to do better, to identify those areas which we haven’t got right, and not only offer victims the support they need but prevent them from becoming victims in the first place.
David Whatton is the Chief Constable of Cheshire Constabulary, and ACPO lead for rape and serious sexual offending.
Dave Thompson - Renewed focus upon gangs is welcomed by the police, 8 Feb 2012
Today (8 February) sees the Metropolitan Police launch their new approach to Gangs in London. There is no question that the capital faces the largest challenge when it comes to gangs and the refocus by the Commissioner and Mayor will provide a new impetus.
The need for further action was brought into sharp focus by the disorder in the summer. In London one in five of those arrested had links with gangs and gang members were arrested in many incidents linked to disorder elsewhere in the country. That was not, of course, the whole story of the summer, but the renewed focus upon gangs is welcomed by the police. In the autumn ACPO worked to jointly host an International Conference on Gangs with the Home Office and supported the development of the government’s Ending Gang and Youth Violence Cross governmental report.
The renewed focus does take place in an environment where there is much success taking place in police forces. In 2006 I was the Police Commander in Moss Side in Manchester. The high levels of shootings had left a lasting scar on the area and gun crime involving young people was tragically too common. Today the major work by Greater Manchester Police and its partners through XCalibre has driven down gun crime and is vital in allowing the area to flourish. The same can be seen by the outstanding work through Matrix in Merseyside which has delivered international acclaim for its reduction in gun crime. In my own force, the West Midlands, there has been some brilliant work to make substantial inroads into gangs with partners and, despite spending reductions, we are investing more into tackling gangs. The same great work can be seen in many other towns and cities across the country and, on gun crime, forces work together through the world class National Ballistics Intelligence Service, (NABIS).
In many ways the challenges set out in the cross governmental approach are not about the police stepping up, though we always aspire to do even better. Much of the report concerns how other partners can meet the steps policing has taken. The new funding streams now available for tackling gangs are being allocated and led by local authorities, recognising the shift we need to make. Enforcement will not solve this problem, but it is a vital ingredient. Safeguarding young people is critical.
Over the next few months there are some further steps needed to build upon the government’s report. I see these as:
We are working now to set a consistent methodology to help forces identify gangs, using a common definition, and assess the threat posed by their own gangs using a common framework.
Building a stronger understanding of local problems:
Police data is not the whole picture. Schools, children’s services, youth offending teams, probation and particularly the community all feed into the local picture. We have looked carefully at work conducted in other countries such as the US and built on the experiences of other cities. This way we can implement a stronger local assessment model using a wider range of data.
Building effective local models of delivery:
The government has established an Ending Gang and Youth Violence Team with a wide network of advisors to help areas assess how well their partnerships are addressing gangs. This is a genuine attempt to support, not inspect, and provides a genuine opportunity for government and local agencies to work together. We need to make sure the reviews are put in place quickly to help the first thirty areas we are going to work with.
Making sure communities are part of the solution:
Gangs come from and affect a diverse range of communities. Black communities in particular have suffered a disproportionate number of deaths and serious injuries amongst young people through gun and knife crime. Over the years I have seen local communities stand up and face this horror and begin to work with the police to turn things around, they serve as powerful examples.
Media coverage has played up links with “gangsta” culture and Black Britain to an extent over the summer - and as such some communities felt worried a step up in police action would disproportionately affect them. Worries some minority communities have about stop and search also feed these concerns.
I do not believe many of the popular characterisations accurately reflect the reality of gangs. A better evidenced understanding of their actual nature will address this. We all need to ensure communities feel part of the partnership working with the police to solve this problem.
In some cases we will have to win their trust and support, but when the community are alongside an area’s agencies it is an unbeatable combination. There are challenges ahead but the Metropolitan Police, and indeed the police service across the country, are ready to step up to it.
Simon Byrne outlines the benefits of ANPR technology, 7 February 2012
Of all the many ways in which technology is handing the police service new ways to combat and investigate crime, Automatic Number Plate Recognition ANPR is perhaps the least well understood. Sometimes confused with CCTV, the volume of information ANPR cameras on our roads is capable of generating makes it a powerful tool. But one of the big challenges with ANPR is to broaden understanding of how it works and how it can best be used.
As ACPO lead for ANPR, I am actively working within a group set up by the IPCC, which also includes input of wider interest groups such as Liberty and No CCTV, to raise public confidence in the system and to meet concerns such as how we collate and store data or intrude on private individuals. Many stem from lack of understanding about how ANPR can keep people safe.
We use ANPR in three key ways, to identify and disrupt criminals, gather intelligence and investigate crime. Usually, ANPR consists of a camera linked to a number plate reading device. A photograph is taken of a number plate, the photo is passed to the reading device and the number plate instantly compared against criminal database records, along with the date, time and location of the vehicle.
ANPR is not, as many people think, primarily used for speed enforcement or traffic offences. While the system is used to enforce the congestion charge in London, ANPR main value is against a wide range of serious offences. The prevention and detection of crimes such as burglary, drug offences, sexual assaults and murder can all be very significantly aided by ANPR.
ANPR differs significantly from CCTV. Data is very easy to capture and quick to search and can rapidly identify locations of potential interest. An important difference includes the ability for ANPR to be used so that offenders can be stopped in real-time.
ANPR’s immense potential has in some respects led the system to become ‘a victim of its own success’ as Independent Police Complaints Commissioner Nicholas Long said following the investigation into the tragic murder of Ashleigh Hall. While the IPCC concluded it was impossible to say whether police could have prevented Ashleigh’s death, ANPR cameras picked up her murderer’s movements on several occasions before his arrest.
A great advantage in an era of transparency and value for money is the fact that the camera response is non discriminatory. The key to ANPR is intelligence-led policing. To make information usable there has to be sufficient intelligence to link a vehicle to a crime.
Without unlimited resources, it would be impossible for a force to use ANPR to its full potential and monitor or respond to every ‘hit’ of a suspicious vehicle. But this makes it vital that the right priorities are applied so that the police do respond to the most important. It’s also a powerful example of where differing local approaches could reduce policing effectiveness. Through ACPO I am working with chief officers to support national standards on ANPR and broaden understanding, so its immense value to public protection can be maximised.
Simon Byrne is Assistant Commissioner at the Metropolitan Police Service and ACPO lead for ANPR.
Simon Cole - Responding to mental ill-health and disability, 17 January 2012
Taking over an ACPO Portfolio always seems to bring with it a very steep learning curve. As ACPO’s new lead for mental health and disability I do find myself engaged in trying to approach that challenge.
There are some very real issues to confront. Notably the Equality and Human Rights Commission report ‘Hidden in Plain Sight’, which has really focused the service on how it is supporting those experiencing disability harassment. The report outlines ten critical incidents and then highlights a series of areas where improvements could be made.
I am now chairing ACPO’s EHRC Coordinating Group, which is pulling together the service’s response to the report. It is quite clear that the service is very much on a journey, with the requirement to record disability hate crime having been implemented in April 2008 but very different rates of reporting. Different forces have taken different approaches, but those who seem to be making the most progress have engaged with disabled members of local communities (very much in the spirit of “nothing about us without us”), they have had clear expectations set by their leadership and they are continually working to increase the amount of reporting and access to our services.
Training is also key. Many forces have delivered their own bespoke packages; certainly my own has done more than one set of training following on from the learning from the Pilkington case. The National Policing and Improvement Agency is now ensuring that disability hate crime features in their core leadership packages, that information about the EHRC is available on the POLKA system and that there is a link between the EHRC report and other ongoing pieces of work around violence and situational vulnerability.
The EHRC is not the only piece of work that is ongoing within the portfolio. I recently met with the mental health practitioners representing each of the ACPO regions at a mental health forum hosted here in Leicester. It is clear that great strides are being made around dealing with Section 136 of the Mental Health Act and places of safety, with some forces reporting 80 per cent-plus of mental health detainees going straight to places of safety. The guidance talks about police cells only being used in “exceptional” circumstances and only where risks are “unmanageable” to health staff. It also suggests that all transport around mental health should be made by ambulances. Making sure that this is the reality of local delivery is now a key aim for the portfolio.
At the same time, work to introduce NHS-led and commissioned services into the police custody environment grows apace. There are now some ten forces working within an early adopter scheme with another twenty places available this year. Details have been circulated to ACPO colleagues and at present it looks like this will be over-subscribed and some choices will have to be made. All of this is about putting the patient first and ensuring that access to proper mental health services is allowed to happen. ACPO guidance on dealing with individuals with mental ill health and learning disability is a really useful document that helps to shape what we should be doing on a day to day basis as a police service, and includes custody. It is well worth a look.
There are other pieces of work that have great significance. I was proud to sign the ‘Stand by Me’ police promise with MENCAP at a recent event here in Leicester. The promise is that the service will stand by people with a learning disability to end hate crime, and there are ten pledges which I would summarise about being accessible and supportive in a way that I am sure we will seek to be. For instance, the ninth pledge is that we hold regular beat meetings and ensure that they are open to people with disabilities. I know that the Minister for Disabled People, Maria Miller, recently spoke at a debate in the Palace of Westminster where she encouraged police forces to sign up to the promise. At present over half have done so.
Many will recall the Bradley Report, a seminal report for the criminal justice world. Lord Bradley reviewed the dealings of the criminal justice system with those with mental health problems or learning disabilities and made a number of recommendations. That was in 2009. In 2012 those recommendations are being assessed and I have been invited to represent ACPO on the overarching strategic review body. This is important work and it will be interesting to see how consistently Bradley’s recommendations have been taken forward.
All of this fits within the Government’s ‘No Health without Mental Health’ cross-government mental health strategy. That will be further supported in the coming months with a cross-government hate crime strategy.
I was privileged to share the stage at the recent ACPO Autumn Conference with Mike Smith, Chair of the EHRC Inquiry. While Mike acknowledged that the police service has made positive strides to improving service to disabled communities, he set out a fundamental challenge to us all. His challenge was that people with disabilities simply did not believe that public authorities would respond to their call for improved service. Their disbelief was based on 20 years of raising the same issues and feeling that there had not been a significant response. I have been lucky to inherit a portfolio that has already started to shape that response; I know the service will respond to the challenge and improve what we are doing.
Simon Cole is ACPO lead for mental health and disability, and is Chief Constable of Leicestershire Constabulary.
Ian Dyson - The new police 101 non emergency number, 11 January 2012
If you have ever wanted to call the police about something important, but known it was not an emergency, then the 101 number could be your answer.
To help the police handle your call in a better more efficient way, 101 is now the single non-emergency number across England and Wales.
The scheme has been tried and tested by a number of police forces since 2006 as a new number to accompany the emergency 999. In February 2010 the Home Office asked the Association of Chief Police Officers to look into adopting 101 as a single national non-emergency number, in place of lots of different public numbers across police forces. There was broad support for the initiative and the rest, as they say, is history.
Having just two phone numbers can improve the public experience and make the service more efficient. 101 can be used to raise local policing issues, get advice or report crime that has already taken place. It can help screen out inappropriate calls to the emergency 999 number and help the police respond to genuine emergencies at greater speed.
In short, 999 is for when a crime is happening, when someone suspected of a crime is nearby, or where someone is injured, being threatened or in danger. For all other matters, 101 is the single number to call.
Calls to 101 from landlines and mobile networks cost 15 pence per call, no matter what time of day or how long a call lasts. It’s available 24/7 and a call, no matter where it’s from, will be transferred directly to the control room of the local police force. In that way the information goes directly to where it needs to go. It doesn’t mean a non-emergency call will receive a lower priority than if it came through on the 999 number. We should aim to act on the information we receive quickly.
The point of first contact with the public is a vital area for the police as it has such an impact on the way we are perceived as a service. We need the public to help us cut crime – and that means they need to feel any public enquiry, emergency or not, is dealt with appropriately, efficiently and politely. It’s about providing a professional quality of service, being able to identify risk and vulnerability and effectively prioritising and responding to calls. Huge effort has been put into this area across the police service in recent years and call handlers are trained to a high standard. 101 should help us take those standards of service even higher.
To find out more about 101 log on to the police.uk website.
So when should you call 101?
Do call 101:
- if your car has been stolen
- if your property has been damaged
- where you suspect drug use or dealing
- if you want to report a minor traffic collision
- if you want to give the police information about crime in your area
- you can call 101 if you simply want to talk to your local police officer.
Call 999 when it’s an emergency:
- a crime is in progress
- someone suspected of a crime is nearby
- when there is danger to life
- when violence is being used or threatened.
Instead of calling the police, try calling your local council about the following:
- reporting graffiti
- abandoned vehicles
- dumping and fly tipping
Commander Ian Dyson of the City of London Police is the ACPO lead for Contact Management.
Andy Adams - Custody Matters, 28 November 2011
Sir Robert Peel's test for the police service was the absence of crime and disorder and in pursuit of this goal; all too often it becomes necessary to detain individuals in police custody. For many, their knowledge of that environment is shaped by crime dramas and television documentaries, but even so a significant number experience police detention first hand. In 2008/09 almost 1.5 million people, or roughly the combined population of Birmingham and Cardiff, entered custody.
It is a critical area of police work: through detention, officers are often given the necessary time to investigate a case so that a fair charging decision can be reached. Safe and secure police custody is an important element in the criminal justice process and this was seen in the recent summer disorder where custody sergeants, officers and staff played their role in dealing with significant numbers of offenders quickly and efficiently.
But it is not just the volume of those detained which makes the custody environment complex. A significant proportion of detainees - up to 30 per cent - will need to see a medical practitioner and approximately 1 in 5 detainees is a juvenile. Furthermore, police custody is also designated a place of safety which means that those people sectioned under the Mental Health Act can be taken there when no other place for them is available, even when no crime has been committed.
The experience for the majority of detainees is safe and secure. While many of our police buildings date back to the Victorian era, significant improvements have been made to custody environments in recent years. Safety and security is at their heart and the facilities are tightly controlled with CCTV, clear lines of sight and cell infrastructure designed to protect not just officers but also detainees.
Despite these safeguards, inspections by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and the knowledge and experience of custody suite officers, the custody environment is not entirely without risk. Of the 1.5 million people detained in 2008/09, 15 died in custody or following detention. As with any death following police contact, each and every death in custody is investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
There are always lessons to be learned and the custody environment is open and can be inspected relatively easily due to the high level of oversight. This does not mean we are complacent and where an individual officer or culture of an organisation has been found to have compromised the safety of detainees disciplinary action can be taken against them within the service or, depending on the nature of the incident, in a court of law.
Chief officers are absolutely committed to maintaining the highest standards of safety and security in custody suites. This is not simply because the safety of detainees is ultimately the chief constable’s responsibility, or due to the regular inspections by HMIC or various legislative provisions such as the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) or Corporate Manslaughter Act. The death of any individual while they are in the care of the police service can have a significant impact on public confidence in the service and we rely on that confidence to maintain law and order.
Custody sergeants, officers and staff are not just critical to frontline policing, but they are also on the frontline of the criminal justice system. The vast majority perform a difficult, and sometimes dangerous, job with professionalism and concern for those in their care, even when faced with some of the most challenging individuals and circumstances in policing.
Andy Adams is Assistant Chief Constable of Kent Police and ACPO lead for custody and movement of prisoners.
1. Hannan, M., et al. (2011). Deaths in or following police custody: an examination of the cases 1988/99 – 2008/09. (IPCC Research Series Paper: 17) .
Rob Beckley - 'Big Society' and volunteering, 17 November 2011
‘The police are the public and the public are the police’ – Sir Robert Peel’s most often quoted principle is as relevant today as it was in the nineteenth century and reminds us of the police’s need to reflect the communities they serve.
This has been brought to the fore with the Government’s ‘Big Society’ agenda, which is open to interpretation and means many things to many people. As the national lead for ‘Citizenship in Policing’, I know the ‘Big Society’ is happening all around us and has been for some time. Advances with neighbourhood policing in recent years has proven that there is no disconnect between the police and public - in fact quite the opposite is true.
We currently have more than three million Neighbourhood Watch members across the country. These members support their communities by running community projects, securing funding, working with their local Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) or simply looking out for neighbours’ homes and being the eyes and ears of the community. I am also delighted to see that Police Support Volunteer numbers have reached 9,000 and that we have more than 18,000 special constables. During recent public disorder, the Special Constabulary contribution was powerfully demonstrated when they put themselves in harm’s way, helping police forces to maintain resilience and restore order. These officers contributed over 110,000 hours which equates to £1.7 million.
Likewise, police support volunteer roles continue to support the police across the country and help us in delivering a better service to the public. Supported by our roads policing teams, Community Speed Watch volunteers have given the community the opportunity to get actively involved in road safety by using speed detection devices.
More recently I have seen an increase in citizen patrol schemes. Although there have been concerns about schemes under which communities patrol their own neighbourhoods encouraging vigilantism and risk to the public, it is not a new concept. Faith based citizen patrols such as Street Pastors and Street Angels have been around for years and have made a significant difference in preventing crime, helping people and keeping them safe. If residents wish to help make their communities better, safer places to live, my view is the police should support them and enable them to make this happen.
Reduced budgets and austerity measures have forced the service to look at efficiencies, but also created opportunities. In Avon and Somerset we currently work with the Woman’s Royal Voluntary Service to use their trained volunteers to provide telephone support to vulnerable elderly people who call the police for non police related matters. We currently field in the region of 10,000 calls a year from this group and this partnership will enable us to add capacity using appropriately experienced and trained volunteers.
But this is just the start. How can we use other third sector groups such as the one million RSPB members to tackle rural crime? Or how can we use the British Red Cross for spontaneous crisis support?
Another innovative concept is Facewatch, a web based crime reporting system empowering the business community. The system allows businesses to provide an evidential package and upload CCTV images within minutes of a crime occurring. Images can then be shared between businesses with the ability to reduce crime. In areas already using the system it has significantly accelerated the process of crime recording and officer time and resource.
But empowering communities and getting citizens more involved with policing does bring with it a number of challenges. I believe the police service is still very risk averse and I regularly hear the same reasons why something can’t happen instead of what we need to do to make it happen. Health and Safety, costs, vetting - it’s all too risky! All valid concerns, but they should not be the default position.
Looking ahead I am supportive of innovation and building on what has already been achieved. I would like to see more specialist Special Constabulary roles in departments like mounted, roads policing and CID to name a few. I am also encouraging forces across the country to embrace appropriate volunteering opportunities. I truly believe that greater involvement of communities within the policing mission will improve the service through these challenging times and ensure that we continue to deliver policing with the public and not merely for them.
Rob Beckley is Deputy Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Constabulary, and is ACPO lead for Citizenship in Policing.
Simon Byrne - Policing prostitution and sexual exploitation, 2 November 2011
Five years on from the tragic deaths of five female sex workers in Ipswich we have seen great progress in the way in which prostitution and associated issues are dealt with across the country. Significantly, in Suffolk, more than 200 sex workers have been helped out of sex work since the ‘Ipswich murders’, with them being provided with appropriate support to deal with the underlying symptoms of their issues, including drug and alcohol addiction, domestic violence and homelessness.
This said there is still much more to be done. As the current ACPO lead for Prostitution and Sexual Exploitation my role is to ensure that the policing of this area nationally is directed in the most appropriate way and that the law by which the police work to is fit for purpose.
On-street prostitution has not stopped; individuals, both women and men, continue to be at risk on a daily basis, vulnerable to threat and harm, in order to fund their addictions. Off-street prostitution also continues; often hidden away behind closed doors, but equally at risk to exploitation by criminals and criminal gangs.
Last week’s publication by the Home Office of its Review of Effective Practice in Responding to Prostitution is welcomed by ACPO. The document highlights ways in which policing mixed with multi agency and community support can provide the innovative ways to respond to the issues of prostitution. This same direction is given in the new ACPO strategy and supporting operational guidance for dealing with prostitution & sexual exploitation, published this week. It is my belief that the policing of prostitution will at best only achieve short-term results unless there is effective partnership at the local and strategic level, in order to support victimised individuals and communities with appropriate legislation and enforcement resources.
The strategy therefore promotes a policing approach that keeps in balance the three essential elements of individual and community needs, and the investigation and prosecution of those who exploit and abuse. These three facets must operate simultaneously and be sustainable. I absolutely recognise the responsibility that the police have to enforce the law that is set by the government of the time however, with much of the current prostitution related law being complex and on occasion contradictory, it is vital that the police understand the need for alternative approaches to dealing with the issue.
With the above in mind I would very much welcome a debate about alternative policy approaches that could be taken in this area, which would better equip the service to protect its communities and its individuals. There is a great amount of academic research available, much of which supports the view that an alternative approach is needed. An example would be the decriminalisation and regulation of brothels in Australia and New Zealand, not an answer to all of the related issues but certainly a solution to some. More of those involved in sex work in Australia and New Zealand can now access health services with ease, whilst maintaining more personal security in an emotive area for policing.
There is no perfect solution to dealing with prostitution and sexual exploitation, my ethos is to use evidence based approaches that consider risk, threat and harm to all. An approach like this would help to bridge the gap between tackling neighbourhood nuisance and the exploitation of sex workers by organised criminals and gangs.
ACPO supports the 'International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers', which is held annually on December 17. The day is to remember the men and women who have been lost through violence. The police service is committed to ensuring those in the community who are vulnerable, including sex workers, are protected from harm. We will continue to make every effort to bring to justice those offenders who commit violent crimes against the vulnerable.
Simon Byrne is the Deputy Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police and is ACPO lead for prostitution and sexual exploitation.
Tim Hollis: Policing Drugs in Austerity - Adjusting to the challenge,12 October 2011
One of the challenges of policing drugs is the wealth of anecdote as opposed to evidence about what works. The UK Drugs Policy Commission, whose report Drug Enforcement in an Age of Austerity is published today, is an independent body committed to evidence-based assessment. It’s an approach I wholeheartedly support.
The fact that the current austerity measures in the face of significant budget reductions are starting to have an impact on police operational capacity when it comes to drug enforcement is itself no surprise, although it is, perhaps, too early to draw firm conclusions on the longer term impact.
Only recently the National Treatment Agency announced significant reductions in the number of people addicted to heroin and crack cocaine. I welcome that reduction but I cannot claim that this is a result simply of better enforcement. The challenge presented by illicit drugs is more complex than that.
It’s vital to remember that enforcement is but one element of the Government’s overall drugs strategy. Education, prevention and treatment play an equally important role in tackling a long established and systemic social problem. Unambiguously, the police role is to be central to the enforcement element and I welcome the opportunity to debate how we can make the police service’s contribution, alongside other agencies, as effective as it can be.
So what are the key issues emerging from the UKDPC review? Well, it is important to remember that they drew directly on practical experience: surveying police officers and staff currently engaged in drugs enforcement. These are people absolutely committed to reducing the harms caused to local communities by drugs and, predictably, they are disappointed when our capacity to tackle the problem is reduced. Some of that sentiment is reflected in the findings. It is, however, inevitable that reduced budgets impact upon capacity somewhere along the line, and hard to argue that drugs enforcement should be made an exception.
Addressing the harms caused by serious and organised crime quite correctly remains a high priority for Government and the Home Office has only recently published its crime strategy for addressing the problem. Enforcement at national level plays a central role in setting the context within which local policing takes place. Having announced the creation of the National Crime Agency a year ago, the new head of the NCA has just been appointed. That provides the opportunity for ACPO, on behalf of the 43 police forces, to start a dialogue with the NCA as to priorities and intentions when it comes to drugs enforcement and how they intend to utilise resources and cooperate with forces.
We will not, however, lose sight of the need for forces to retain the ability to tackle local problems. As a Chief Constable, I know all too well how devastating to a local community low level drugs dealers and such things as crack houses can be. Of course we realise that if we take out one local dealer another will step up to take their place but if you’re a single Mum on an inner city estate trying to raise a family and hold down a job in a flat next door to a crack house then you don’t care about that. You want the local Neighbourhood Policing team to get stuck in, to raid the flat and move the dealers away. Retaining the capacity to tackle such problems is critical to retaining public confidence and Chief Constables will do everything they can to protect operational policing.
Finally, the UKDPC Review highlighted the importance of good partnership working when it comes to achieving long term solutions. I do worry about the cumulative impact of budget reductions across the Criminal Justice Agencies, particularly the Probation Service who have a key role to play in reducing re-offending. There is good evidence that Integrated Offender Management is delivering results but this initiative is under pressure. Similarly, local authorities are wrestling with greater budget cuts than those affecting policing, but joint-working is at the heart of so many successful local drugs initiatives.
I remain confident that Forces will continue to protect local communities as best they can at a time when we are confronted by challenges of an historic scale. The UKDPC provides evidence that the Service is already responding positively to the challenge.
Tim Hollis is Chief Constable of Humberside Police and Chair of the ACPO Drugs Committee
Olivia Pinkney: Policing the exploitation of labour, 26 September 2011
Labour exploitation is seen as an increasing issue across Europe as well as in the UK. Unfortunately, the victims are some of the most vulnerable of our society and particularly susceptible.
Intelligence on exploitation is notoriously difficult to gather, as victims may be afraid or not in a position to speak out. Often what little they are given is better than what they had before they were recruited, so they do not consider themselves victims.
The victims of trafficking are conditioned and threatened, and therefore unable or unwilling to escape to inform the authorities. But if a victim comes forward, the police will start an investigation. The Association of Chief Police Officers works closely with the UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) on all types of human trafficking operations. UKHTC provides tactical advice, co-ordinates intelligence, and engages with overseas law enforcement. Britain shares all intelligence relating to trafficking with Europol, as do all European countries.
There is a reliance on victims coming forward and it is the responsibility of the police, partner agencies, support organisations and the community to work together to ensure their safety and gain their confidence and trust. There is always more we can do to raise awareness, as crime groups adapt and change. But a great number of improvements have been made to enable UK law enforcement to tackle exploitation and support the victims.
Two main aims of the Government’s Human Trafficking Strategy are tougher law enforcement to tackle the criminal gangs involved, and improved identification and care for victims.
Legislation has been introduced that has given further powers to charge criminals who exploit others, such as section 71 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, which includes slavery and servitude. Victims can therefore fit the internationally recognised definition of being a victim of trafficking and are eligible for recognition by the National Referral Mechanism, which Britain adopted two years ago.
Neighbourhood policing teams undertake vital work, building relationships within communities, including the homeless and local charities, to increase reporting. Modern slavery and trafficking in any form is intolerable. The police and their partner agencies are committed to tackling exploitation in whatever form it takes.
Olivia Pinkney is the Assistant Chief Constable of Sussex Police and Surrey Police, and is ACPO lead for migration and related matters.
A version of this article appeared in The Times on Saturday 24 September (subscription required).
Tim Hollis: Reflections on Disorder, 12 September 2011
The week of 6 August 2011 was an extraordinary one. The disorder that occurred was of a nature not previously witnessed and has prompted a wide range of views and opinions as to ‘what has gone wrong’ with our society. Whilst I was personally relieved that we saw no disorder in this Region we cannot be complacent as I know that colleagues in the Yorkshire & Humber forces worked hard with local communities to avoid any ‘copy cat’ disorder taking place. West Yorkshire Police in particular did extremely well to deal with the very specific challenges with which they were confronted that week.
For my part, I observed events from a national perspective. As well as being Chief Constable of Humberside I have national responsibilities in respect of policing and was thus in London overseeing the coordination of mutual aid between police forces and working alongside the President of ACPO Sir Hugh Orde who attended COBR to report to the Prime Minister on policing issues outside London, the acting Metropolitan Police Commissioners dealt with the latter.
The scale, the geographic spread and the nature of the disorder that we witnessed was unprecedented and I speak as one who has been involved in Public Order policing since 1977. The pressure on the Police Service was intense and we were ‘running hot’ for three days. On Wednesday 10 August a remarkable total of 390 Police Support Units were operational nationally, mostly within their own force areas but some 88 were on Mutual Aid which included 15 PSUs from Scottish forces who rallied to our assistance. Consequently, we had a little under 10,000 British Police officers deployed on public order duties – and the rest of the Service was still answering calls, responding to routine incidents and policing neighbourhoods and, let us remember, the vast majority of our communities remained unaffected by disorder.
But therein lies the rub. Whilst a small number of people tragically lost their lives and we heard heartbreaking stories from many more who lost their homes and livelihoods as a direct result of the disorder, no one can have been unaffected by the scenes we witnessed in the media and the press over those days of madness. As a member of the public said to me recently, ‘we witnesses anarchy and it’s a frightening sight. Nobody wants to go back there’. These emotions underpin the strength of the public reaction to the disorder, the renewed support for local police which many forces are now experiencing and the hard questions being asked as to ‘Whyâ€¦?’.
Whilst there has been much analysis and speculation over recent weeks as to what lay behind the disorder, personally I believe that a range of issues came together in a moment of time and in a manner no one had anticipated. Certainly, for the police there was no advanced intelligence to suggest that problems in London would spread quite so rapidly not only to some of our inner cities which had experienced disorder 30 years ago but also to places as far removed as Gloucester and Nottingham which had not.
As the week progressed, the police first held the line and then regained the initiative without recourse to the baton rounds and water cannon which feature so regularly on the Continent. Personally, I was enormously impressed by how the Service responded after the initial challenge and I’m proud of the courage and dedication displayed by our officers and staff. Parliament was recalled and there is no doubt that, as the week progressed, we witnessed an unusual but very welcome degree of cooperation and support from our partners in the Criminal Justice system. We really did see rapid and robust justice with offenders being arrested, charged, put before the Courts and sentenced in days. This undoubtedly contributed to taking the momentum out of the disorderâ€¦ but for the police and public it did raise the question as to why cases take so long to get to court in the normal course of events and why imprisonment is not used more effectively at an early stage for those who make the lives of the law-abiding a misery on a more routine basis.
As for the future, I return to a point I made at the beginning. We can all sense that things have changed but I think it too early to say what the long term effects of the shock and confusion of those few days of disorder will be. Certainly, there are many more questions to be asked about the elements already identified: a ‘me first’ consumer society; family break down; poor education; unemployment; gangs. For our part, I know that police are already looking hard at the lessons we have to learn and whether we need to adapt our style and tactics to reflect the new reality but let us remember that these were not anti-police riots and British Policing did not fail, it was indeed sorely tested but rose to the challenge.
There are, however, question for us all: for individuals when we look afresh at the question of our personal responsibilities to one another and the wider society; for family members in setting standards and taking responsibility for their conduct and behaviour; for communities in making an honest assessment of how we live together and make contributions with the wider good in mind. And inevitably, there are question for ‘the powers that be’ including the Government, local authorities and the police who exercise authority over communities and make choices on their behalf.
In my experience at such times simple solutions are often sought but rarely found. We must resist the temptation to point the finger merely at those being paraded before the courts and then seek to carry on as usual. Personally, I was both impressed and reassured by the manner in which local communities across the country reacted. The ‘broom army’ of local people volunteering to clean up was frequently larger than the small number of people who had caused the damage. Support for local police was remarkable as the pubic demonstrated their support for an effective but approachable presence in their communities. The Criminal Justice system looked anew at how it operates and the extent to which local communities had confidence in its ability to deal promptly and effectively with those who break the law.
I do not believe that the events herald further social breakdown albeit no one can afford to be complacent. Perhaps the disorder served as timely reminder that we do not live alone, rather we are all part of a wider community which is stronger when it has a sense of pride and identify and stands together. As for the disorder ‘nobody wants to go back thereâ€¦’
Tim Hollis is the Chief Constable of Humberside Police.
Sir Hugh Orde: Tension between politicians and police is healthy
One of the foundations of British policing is the doctrine of constabulary independence, by which Robert Peel, characterising the police as autonomous professional agents of the law, deliberately insulated policing from political control. It is this conscious design that allows the police to rely on expertise, judgment and experience in taking professional decisions on operational policing. The public interest and standard of policing are protected from compromise.
This is the case for operational independence of the police. Now let me attempt to kill off a couple of ‘straw men’.
First, we must be clear that the essential counterpoint to operational independence is accountability to the public. It is effected in different ways, through the law, through the Home Secretary at a national level and through representatives at a local level. I am convinced there should be a healthy tension for these relationships to work.
Last week I attended Cobr meetings and the Prime Minister and Home Secretary were enormously supportive of the work of the police service throughout. The Home Secretary clearly understands the complexity of the world in which we live and I think she appreciates that we cannot get it right all the time. What I witnessed in Cobr was robust oversight but with senior officers making clear operational decisions.
This was the fundamental point I was seeking to address in media interviews last week.
I was not suggesting that politicians were themselves an irrelevance and would urge people to look beyond the headlines and sound bites to the fundamental point I was trying to make. The more robust policing tactics adopted last Tuesday were not a function of political interference; they were a function of the numbers being available to allow the chief constables to change their tactics – something the Home Secretary reinforced in her speech this week. I think politicians themselves would want the public to be clear on this point as they too seek to underline the importance of police service free of political interference.
Equally, the government has an absolute right to reform accountability at a local level, which it aims to do through replacing police authorities with locally elected police and crime commissioners. Our position is that the police service should have clarity on how new arrangements are going to work, complete with effective checks and balances that sustain the insulation from political interference in operations which Peel intended.
The second straw man is the idea that, infused with a strong sense of professional independence, British policing believes it is immune to learning lessons from outside policing or abroad. Neither is true. The Chiefs I represent are some of the most open minded individuals I know. US policing in particular has strong links with forces in the UK and in recent months our conversations have focussed particularly on sharing lessons of policing against declining budgets. That is why I have suggested to the Home Secretary that we host an international policing conference where we can bring all these ideas together.
The inference I am closed to ideas from other jurisdictions is flawed on every level. Firstly, I am a friend of Bill Bratton. We both served for exactly the same time in Northern Ireland and LA. Indeed he was one of the first people I invited to speak at a conference I organised in Northern Ireland in 2008. I also met Bill with other Chiefs in Scotland Yard at the invitation of Sir John Stevens to discuss issues of mutual interest when he was Commissioner and have spent time with him in LA.
I also sit on the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), the US Chiefs' organisation for larger forces in America. In fact I am the only non-US member, which is a huge honour. I recently briefed the Vice President of the United States on the current challenges we face in UK policing with fellow PERF board members.
I have been privileged to speak more recently at conferences in Australia, New Zealand and Canada where I talked on issues of leading change and terrorism.
It is also worth noting, the other direction, Peter Fahy, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police has been in demand in America to share lessons of GMP’s success in tackling gangs. Our leadership has much to offer the Government and that is why Chiefs were slightly surprised that the service was not asked for its view before seeking advice from overseas.
It is disappointing to see a mounting attack on British policing that has stood the test of time. We have much to be proud of in our model of policing and we are determined to preserve and sustain it. But let no one think we are not open to continual challenge, change and improvement. What we need now is a mature, reasoned and evidence-based debate that fairly recognises expertise and ensures we move policing forward.
We have a police service that has always been willing to acknowledge and learn from mistakes, a largely unarmed service based on principals of minimum force, minimum interference with citizens rights, yet when necessary prepared to stamp its authority on those who choose to break the law. A service that has reduced crime year on year by working with the communities it serves. It is reassuring to see that the public, who we ultimately serve to protect, understands the complexity of our world as evidenced by recent surveys. We police with consent, we must never forget that.
Sir Hugh Orde is President of the Association of Chief Police Officers.
Sara Thornton: Providing the best leaders, 29 July 2011
Everyone who cares about an organisation would want it to have the very best leaders. I am responsible, as director of the Police National Assessment Centre , for the selection of both high flyers and chief officers, and personally think we have many great leaders in the police service who have delivered significant reductions in crime and significant increases in public confidence. However, I am open to any suggestion that would enhance the leadership of policing further.
There are few more important institutions in a democracy than the police, and we all want the service to have the right leadership, culture and values.
The controversy surrounding illegal activity by News International and its relationship with politicians and the Met has caused questions to be asked about police leadership and culture. The prime minister’s statement to the Commons last week, saying he wanted to see “how we can open up our police force and bring in fresh leadership”, is prompting debate in the service. It was the first time I had heard the government voice this concern, and I remain unclear whether the proposal has been carefully considered or whether it was an expedient response to events. But before it gets a head of steam, a few things must be said.
Firstly, most forces are shedding senior police posts and many are not recruiting new officers. In my own force I have removed a management layer to focus on the frontline.
We also need to be clear about the roles carried out by police leaders. My chief officer team in Thames Valley is seven strong – five police officers and two police staff. All the officers are graduates and four were on the high flyer scheme. The two members of police staff have both worked outside policing and bring their particular expertise in finance, HR and technology to the table.
I assume the proposal is that senior managers could be brought into police officer roles. I am not opposed in principle, but would insist on competence for the role, which involves authorising covert operations and the use of firearms and being available 24/7 to provide leadership with critical incidents such as murders or multiple fatal incidents.
It is not good enough for our public to have mere administrators as their chief police officers. In life or death situations, where would that leave accountability? Management functions could be carried out by a generalist, but there are also specific risk-based responsibilities that require expertise in policing.
We have a national high flyer scheme and there are some fantastic young officers on it. Nearly 500 have applied for the scheme this year and about 50 will be selected – competition is tough. These are individuals who would flourish in any organisation but have the substantial advantage of having exercised the powers of a constable at first hand.
Decision-making and discretion in the office of constable really are the bedrock of policing, because it is the level at which most public and policing interactions take place. In leaders, an understanding of these situations is critical. Accelerated promotion has generally served us well – we have nurtured the brightest and the best, but ensured that opportunity is open to all.
In 2009 I sat on the government inquiry into Fair Access to the Professions. What struck me was that the opportunity-hoarding by the middle classes so evident in the traditional professions was not true for the police service. In the police there was intragenerational social mobility. Most of my middle-ranking officers had degrees, but many had studied in their own time, having joined with few qualifications. Sir Robert Peel didn’t want gentlemen in his newly formed Metropolitan Police because he sought to make it a meritocracy – in 1829, a gentleman would have bought a senior role.
However, the leadership is still overwhelmingly white and male. One advantage of bringing in people from outside is that you can change the mix far more quickly. We have pursued numerous initiatives and while progress is being made with women it is far too slow in respect of ethnic minorities, partly because it takes at least 20 years to become a chief officer. Lateral entry holds some attraction for this reason alone, but “battle-hardened colonels” will hardly change the mix.
Traditionally, all officers start at the bottom and work their way up. However, policing has never been more challenging and it is right to consider new ways of providing the best leaders. But we must ensure the debate is informed by a good understanding of current arrangements – strengths as well as weaknesses. It is far from clear that the benefits of such changes outweigh the potential cost.
Sara Thornton is Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police and vice-president of the Association of Chief Police Officers.
Phil Gormley: Recovery of vehicles - the truth, 28 June 2011
Every motorist will have seen crashed vehicles at the side of the road waiting to be removed. If we’re lucky we pass them or overtake them with ease. If we’re not so lucky we might get stuck behind them in a traffic jam for hours, waiting for the vehicle to be removed and the debris to be cleared.
It falls to the police to ensure the removal of these vehicles from the road where they are causing an obstruction or danger. Not a core police task, you might think, but in helping to prevent further accidents, it is one which can be an important part of the police mission to protect life.
So far so straightforward, but in recent days two sets of allegations, both of which are false have emerged concerning the police role in relation to traffic collisions.
The first of these concerns is an allegation made by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) that we sell the details of people involved in traffic collisions to ambulance chasing compensation lawyers. This is simply untrue, we do not.
The second allegation suggests the service is involved in a ‘cynical racket’ together with the insurance industry and vehicle recovery operators. This again is utterly false.
So what is the truth?
I believe this is a simple confusion of the issue of referral fees paid to claims management companies, which Jack Straw MP has termed the insurance industry’s ‘dirty secret’ and the practical task of clearing roads after a collision. It’s unsurprising that police forces are not always able to carry out this task themselves and therefore require the help of recovery companies.
When it’s possible for a driver to arrange their own recovery within a set period of time, the police will allow the driver to make those arrangements. But in most cases, drivers are unable to arrange their own recovery.
When this is the case police can rely on a long established recovery and storage scheme for vehicles that are broken down, abandoned or involved in collisions on the roads. This scheme operates under law and is operated to ensure the safety of other road users and that the free-flow of traffic is maintained to minimise disruption. Vehicles are recovered to prevent them being subject to arson, theft or damage and to prevent them being used by others in criminal activities.
Details provided by the police to vehicle recovery agents under these schemes are provided purely to manage the vehicles recovered so that they may be either released efficiently back to the owners or the insurance companies involved. The recovery operators work under the Data Protection Act, just like the Police do. They are not permitted to pass on the details of individuals involved in traffic collisions for any other purpose.
Clearing the roads does come with a cost though. Costs that we believe – and the Government agrees – shouldn’t fall to the public purse. Particularly at a time when police forces are fighting to save money and preserve their service to the public.
The fees charged are prescribed by law and are set to reflect both the size of the vehicle to be recovered and the difficulty of its removal.
In most cases, although there are exceptions, this charge is £150 for a car. The police retain a proportion of the agreed statutory charge in order to cover the administration and maintenance of the schemes and to offset some of the expenses incurred in holding vehicles involved in the commission of crime or with evidential value.
This has become known as a management ‘fee’ but is, more accurately, retention of money which already belongs to the force concerned. There is no such thing as a ‘Referral Fee’ in this context, as the money is the property of the force and is paid into a fund, from which recovery services are paid for.
The member of the public pays no more than the statutory charge and is not disadvantaged in any way by the arrangements relating to how the money is dealt with, once paid.
If any individual or organisation has evidence of police officers offering the details of those involved in collisions for sale, they should report it to the relevant police force and those concerned will be rigorously investigated for both disciplinary and criminal offences. The service understands the importance of personal information and treats it with utmost integrity. Any behaviour to the contrary will not be tolerated.
We understand that there is a broad debate taking place about the culture within which legal claims and insurance firms operate, and that may be uncomfortable for some. But it is disappointing that some are so eager to misrepresent the police role and opportunistic when it comes to unfairly attacking the service.
Police officers want to focus on catching criminals, keeping people safe on the roads and serving the public. Thankfully, the number of road traffic collisions has reduced sharply in recent years. Removing damaged or abandoned vehicles from the road is simply a task that needs to be done to help ensure that reduction continues.
Phil Gormley is Chief Constable of Norfolk Constabulary and ACPO Head of Roads Policing.
John Feavyour: Police complaints and improving public service, 23 June 2011
The job of a police officer is unique in society, with officers routinely placing themselves in dangerous and stressful situations to keep the public safe. It’s also a role to which certain powers are entrusted, of arrest and control of the public, given to a police officer by sworn oath and warrant. As the holder of an office, rather than an employee, each police officer has personal liability for their action or inaction.
With these proud responsibilities comes a requirement for high standards in professional and personal lives. So it’s critical that when a member of the public considers that the conduct of a police officer or staff members has been unsatisfactory of improper, that they are taken seriously within a complaints system that is rigorous and commands the confidence of both the public and those working in the service.
Last year, police forces recorded 58,399 complaints by members of the public.1 It’s important to understand what lies behind that figure. Police officers and staff have thousands of interactions with the public each day – over the course of one year 40% of adults will have some form of encounter with the police service.2 Looked at in those terms, the figures seem low, particularly when the Financial Services Authority reports there were nearly 10,000 complaints a day about financial institutions in the last six months of 2010. Tempting though comparisons may be, however, they’re not in fact very helpful. A key difference in policing is that we don’t really want the numbers of complaints to fall. The value of that information is that is helps us improve our service to the public, so we want people to give their views.
Something of concern is that almost half of complaints made about police officers and staff in the last year related to incivility, being rude or lateness. That suggests the Home Secretary is right to say that most of the time people want a simple apology – not necessarily a lengthy form to fill in. We need supervisors to take responsibility in these cases by dealing with them swiftly and sensibly.
At the higher end of the scale, if alleged conduct is so serious that dismissal from the force would be justified, then it is investigated as ‘gross misconduct’, and a disciplinary panel can dismiss without notice if the case is proven. The Times recently questioned why many misconduct hearings are held behind closed doors but in fact, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which has oversight of the whole police complaints system, has the power to direct a hearing be in public where it is in the public interest.
Looking at other professions, as a general rule the only discipline hearings conducted in public for teachers, doctors, nurses or lawyers are those which involve serious breaches of codes of conduct and therefore involve their professional bodies, the General Teaching Council, General Medical Council, Nurses and Midwives Council or Law Society. Even then either party can apply to have a hearing in private, while the majority of hearings are conducted by the direct employer and are always held in private.
To return to my first point, with the responsibilities entrusted to it, the role of a police officer is different, so the IPCC has a role to play in exercising its judgement proportionately. There is a subtle difference between something being in the public interest, and something else being of interest to the public. It’s also worth noting that in all police misconduct proceedings the complainant or interested person has the absolute right to attend.
Measuring consistency in the way complaints are dealt with across forces is problematic, especially while the Home Office and police leadership are pushing for common sense solutions at a local level. The bottom line is that when circumstances and priorities in each force are different, each and every case must be looked at individually. But the public can be reassured that we do not tolerate serious misconduct and that those who fail to adhere to our high standards will be dismissed.
My final point is that the police service needs to be careful to avoid a defensive mindset. Everyone in policing needs to be focussed on driving up our service to the public and to do that we need their input, of which complaints are an important part.
John Feavyour is ACPO lead for complaints and misconduct and Deputy Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire Police.
1. The Independent Police Complaints Commission Report: Police Complaint Statistics for England and Wales, 2009/2010.
2. Nicholas, S., Flatley, J., Hoare, J., Patterson, A., Southcott, C., Moley, S. and Jansson, K. (2008) Circumstances of crime, neighbourhood watch membership and perceptions of policing: findings from the 2006/07 British Crime Survey. Home Office Statistical Bulletin 06/08. London: Home Office.
Sir Norman Bettison: Prevent Review, 7 June 2011
Before July 2005, the focus of counter-terrorism strategy was terrorists crossing our borders to carry out their deeds. Of the 4 ‘P’s of Contest (the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy), Prepare, Protect and, following up on the national security leads to Pursue those who threatened harm on our shores were the ones that mattered. To be candid, any talk of Prevent was about trying to interdict between known intent and detonation – almost catching people in the act.
West Yorkshire Police was represented in the witness box at the 7/7 inquest. In reviewing the evidence beforehand, I was struck by how anachronistic our procedures and relationships with other agencies and communities were, and perhaps because of that, how limited our reach and ability to influence the upstream activity that comes long before an intent to do violent harm.
Immediately after 7/7 but, more particularly because of 21/7, the police and security agencies were propelled into Pursue. The Tiger Tiger nightclub attempt and other high profile terrorist plans occupied centre ground. Pursue activity has clarity, it has targets, it has professional tactics and techniques in which everyone understands their role and responsibility. It has outcomes – arrests, successful prosecutions and terrorists put out of commission and we can see all of that.
So what of Prevent? Any analysis of 7/7 reveals lost opportunities long before four men set off to London on the eve of the bombings. Hasib Hussain used to write in his exercise books at Matthew Murray School of the glory of Al-Qaeda. Mohammed Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer were part of a group of young men who went on outward bound weekends in 2001 organised by radical extremists. Germaine Lindsay, the fourth bomber, was born into a Christian family and converted to Islam as a teenager adopting the most belligerent interpretations of the Qur’an. He was, on everyone’s view, an angry young man.
Where was the disruption to those promoting extremism and the support of those vulnerable to recruitment?
Contest was first issued in 2003. But what happened in the aftermath of the July 2005 bombings changed the focus and the emphasis for its future. 7/7 showed us that whilst hatred was fashioned and schooled overseas, its impact on young men living in Britain was devastating. There were and still are sufficient young men (and occasionally women) born and bred in Britain who have grievances, feel anger, societal detachment - and some suffer mental illness - which make them all susceptible to the call of hatred, violence and even martyrdom. The internet can provide a context; radicalisers and agents of Al-Qaeda can provide the wherewithal and coordination.
The idea of Prevent is pretty immature in policing terms but our commitment, strategy and actions stand up to comparison with other sectors. Our idea, since 2008, (less than 36 months in development) has been to mainstream prevention of violent extremism into day-to-day policing, through neighbourhood policing which we do throughout the country in the heart of every community. Better community engagement can create a conversation about risks and harms. Our Act Now and Operation Nicole tabletop exercises, for example, are scenarios involving violent extremism explored with community groups who play the part of different constituencies and perspectives.
Better intelligence collection and analysis and broadening information sharing with partners and communities through our counter terrorism local profiles have all been integral areas of work.
Equally important is encouraging partnership working to support vulnerable individuals and sites. A particular example is multi-agency case conferencing and interventions under the Channel programme, which has intervened with over 1,000 young people (often young men) often, but not exclusively, Muslim. Critically, the interventions have not been police- led. More often than not they have involved mentoring and counselling. Not one of the young people engaged through Channel has ever been arrested or detained in relation to a terrorism-related crime.
Of course critics might say that is proof we are targeting the wrong people. But what if Hasib Hussain had received mentoring, counselling or challenge in his formative years?
Pursue activity can highlight people on the periphery for Prevent intervention and equally we can ensure that there is a process of escalation, if necessary, from Prevent to Pursue. That is, after all, what the police do and I don’t hide from the fact that in policing terms our preventing and our pursuing might sometimes overlap. I reject, completely, that the two occupy the same territory.
Of course, the police service understands that integration is a fundamental aspect of preventing grievance and hatred in the first place. We understand that any Prevent strategy worth its salt must be capable of tackling all kinds of extremism and not just Islamist extremism. That has been central to our strategy all along. Right-wing hatred gives way to violent intent, as we have proved through the arrests by the north-east counter terrorism unit of right-wing extremists armed with weapons, homemade bombs and Ricin. These men might equally just as easily been challenged and counselled and stopped before our dawn arrests in recent months.
So where to from here?
The Prevent review has been completed and the revised strategy now published. The Department for Communities and Local Government, as well as the Home Office, has considered a vision for the future.
Last year, after two and a half years of working to embed Prevent on the ground, I was hunting for some evidence that it had had any effect. While the ultimate target, the fact of no explosions cannot be laid exclusively at the door of Prevent. I therefore commissioned some academic research from Martin Innes, of Cardiff University, who was the author of the seminal research into post 7/7 impact on relations between Muslim Communities and both the police and Government.
This new research highlights the fact that the policing approach to preventing violent extremism has become more sophisticated and has not caused widespread damage or harm to relationships between Muslim communities and the police. It also shows that communities are increasingly taking the lead in challenging violent extremism. What we need to do now, moving forward, is to refine the Prevent policing approach so that it reaches deeper into communities.
The threat of Islamist terrorism remains severe which means that an attack is highly likely and could occur, without warning, at any time. To do nothing in the face of vulnerability to the Al-Qaeda single narrative is irresponsible. That is why Prevent is necessary.
We should learn lessons from the implementation of the Prevent policing approach, but it has also left us with some excellent legacies which should not be ignored. The police service looks forward to building on the important work already achieved over the last three years.
Sir Norman Bettison is the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police and ACPO lead on Prevent.
Janet Williams: Policing cyberspace, 9 May 2011
Policing cyberspace: Janet Williams, Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and ACPO lead on E-Crime, on how UK police are tackling e-crime.
I see cyber crime as a classic example of what is known in the service as 'invisible' policing: one in the rapidly growing array of tasks which the service carries out away from public view. Though so critical to public safety cyber crime is recognised by the National Security Council as second only to international terrorism in terms of the risk it poses, I'm not sure how aware the public are of the work which goes on to counter it. We need to change the narrative a little to recognise that actually, while it is global in nature and active in a virtual space, which may seem remote, it is individual citizens who get harmed by cyber crime. The connection between what my officers are doing and what happens locally is felt directly by every person who has an account compromised, credit card cloned or identity stolen, and indirectly by everyone else who pays for the damage caused in higher prices and insurance premiums. It's estimated that cyber crime costs the UK £27billion a year. (1)
Over the past three years considerable funds and resources have been invested into setting up the Police Central E-Crime Unit (PCeU), housed within the Metropolitan Police but providing a national response. It requires a high level of technical expertise from the officers charged to do the job, plus hi-tech kit. That all adds up to a considerable outlay, but it's definitely a case of 'can we afford not to do it?’. For every £1 invested in the operational activity the Police Central eCrime Unit runs through a ‘Virtual Task Force’, we currently return £21 in savings. That provides a good business case for investment.
The task force approach is absolutely crucial to the way we tackle the problem. Made up of partners in industry, academia, and other law enforcement agencies, the Virtual Task Force harnesses intelligence that the business sector possesses and couples them with the investigative skills of my officers. The approach has been so successful that investigations which would previously have taken three years are now taking three months or less. We are able to see online criminality happening in real time and disrupt illegal transactions as they happen. To take two examples, Operation Poplin led to the arrest of 13 non-UK nationals who had planned an attack using a Trojan virus. The group had access to £18.5million through compromised accounts. Operation Pagode saw four individuals jailed a combined total of over 20 years, for their part in an online criminal forum trading credit cards and information. The financial losses linked to this forum added up to over £20million.
There are some challenges we need to look at. One example is the time it takes to gather evidence from foreign jurisdictions using the existing 'Commission Rogatoire' system. As the name suggests, the system dates to another day and age and hundreds of years of legal practice. But the criminality we face recognises no boundaries. Transactions leap from country to country in the blink of an eye, and those who exploit that potential deliberately make the trail as difficult to follow as they can. Excellent collaboration with other law enforcement agencies and the private sector has helped us but requesting evidence through the Commission Rogatoire takes time. It hasn't stopped us bringing prosecutions but certainly slows us down, and therefore that time which could be spent targeting other criminals is lost. That's a description of the problem: it will be for the Home Office to look at it and consider whether there is a case for updating legislation to keep pace.
Another challenge is developing forensic tools to help us extract the information we need from computers. People's whole lives these days are on their hard drives and the forensic capability to sift that information quickly to find what we need is really important. At the moment, the hi-tech officers we use on that task across the country are working almost exclusively in the child protection area. We are working closely with industry on this to develop and give those specialist officers faster tools for this job which will let them cover more ground. If we can do that, we can free up more time for them to cover cyber crime in the wider sense.
Looking to the future I see us taking the taskforce approach to other sectors like telecoms and energy, where we know it can be as successful as it has proved to be in financial services. We will get further ahead of this problem if people are willing to share intelligence with each other and with us. Another significant step forward will be to establish three regional hubs working with PCeU, which we aim to do later this year. These will be small units - probably around two very highly trained detectives, and a sergeant with some high level kit, linked into existing regional capability created to tackle organised criminality.
Finally, we do need people to realise that they can really make a difference and help themselves by ensuring they are adequately protected online. I'm sometimes asked whether I use the internet myself to shop or bank. The answer is yes to the former and no to the latter - but that's more because I haven't got round to it than anything else! There are lots of things that citizens can do to protect themselves - some of them pretty straightforward like not using the same password across every online account. We're working with Get Safe Online, a government service that provides free advice to both businesses and members of the public about how to use the internet safely.
This is an area of policing that we consider to be a priority and the progress we have made in the three years since PCeU was established shows that. We're working technically from the 'back office' but in my mind the service we provide is quite clearly frontline - protecting the public on a daily basis as they carry out routine transactions online. Again, it demonstrates how all the job of a uniformed police officer must marry up with the unseen work we do in order to keep the public safe from harm.
1. Office of Cyber Security & Information Assurance and Detica report, The Cost of Cyber Crime
Mark Rowley: Surrey Police, bureaucracy and the frontline, 15 April 2011
Mark Rowley is Chief Constable of Surrey Police, and ACPO lead on futures.
The Telegraph has been a fierce advocate for police reform, an enthusiastic supporter of the coalition government's ambitious agenda. Police service leaders are currently taxed by financial imperatives, the potential recessionary rise in demand and the need to continually question and improve our service. An article last week by Michael Nicholson seemed to me, as a serving Chief Constable, to be nothing more than a counsel of despair. It prompted me to give some of my thoughts on the issues raised.
Surrey Police, which I have the privilege to lead, is the only force growing the number of police constables despite cuts, albeit not as great as many other forces who start from widely differing financial positions. From a baseline of 1,345 we have set out to grow our number of constables by 200. The force is not in debt, nor is it withdrawing local policing teams. We are pursuing four avenues of reform; cutting management by nearly half and empowering the frontline, cutting support services by over 40 per cent, collaborating with neighbours and sharing buildings.
This last point is contentious, but another fact may assist. Surrey County Council have led an audit of publicly owned buildings in Surrey - a county with a population of 1.1 million. The results are staggering –over 6,000 public buildings, because from central government to local agencies we have not been joined up. In Surrey, we are putting local policing teams in buildings alongside others - such as community centres and council offices. Shared rent makes them more viable, while we sell and more importantly, stop maintaining, ramshackle estate built between 1870 and 1970, that the public rarely visits. Unsurprisingly, consultation shows the public want patrolling officers and PCSOs above buildings!
Is it all working? Only a year in, the signs are encouraging. Crime is down and I can produce lots of other statistics – but I know the scepticism they provoke. The public’s view and our independent research tells us that when people call us for help regarding crime or anti-social behaviour, not only do a majority start with a positive view of Surrey’s policing, but four times as many end with their opinion improved rather than disappointed.
Much has been written on police bureaucracy. Rightly so, but often for the wrong reasons. Some bureaucracy is essential - the courts want reliable records with 'i’s dotted and 't’s crossed. But much is not and, more importantly, disables the discretion of frontline. On Google, quotes from every Home Secretary since Michael Howard express a determination to 'cut red tape'. But though the rhetoric has always been the same, successive governments have increased the burden over 25 years.
For example, the rules currently require even a push has to be recorded as an assault with no room for discretion - and then the imperative that detection rates should rise leads even a minor altercation between teenagers to result in a petty prosecution or caution. Those chiefs who refuse to play that game - I am one - are regularly criticised for poor detection rates. The reality is I encourage frontline officers to use their common sense - to find pragmatic solutions: the modern equivalent of a clip round the ear! The Home Office is well practiced at persuading successive ministers to hang on the seductive levers of targets and rules 'just in case', in the naive belief national stricture can prevent local errors. I hope Theresa May is more successful with the scissors than her predecessors.
Last week's article also expressed dismay that many frontline officers are not visible. That is because the 'frontline' includes officers doing surveillance against organised crime, forensics experts, detectives investigating everything from murder to burglary, officers investigating child abuse and domestic violence and trying to support vulnerable victims through the court system and staff who answer 999s calls. There was also confusion as to why fewer than a fifth of those uniformed officers were visible at any moment. But just as rolling news has a dozen presenters come and go over a week on the BBC or Sky, policing needs many officers to fill one seat. As officers work 40 hours per week, and a week is 168 hours, then to provide a 24/7/365 service inevitably takes more than four officers.
So I learn two things, the fact that policing has to do much unseen work to protect the public from 21st century threats still needs better explanation, and public sector reform remains a leadership challenge to wean people away from symbols such as buildings or comfort blankets such as bureaucracy. To deliver a high quality policing service in the face of these cuts to policing is a challenge that should not be underestimated. But far from taking heed of those counselling despair, in Surrey we are busy getting on with it.
Chris Sims: Frontline Policing, 11 April 2011
Chris Sims is the Chief Constable of West Midlands Police and is the ACPO lead on bureacracy.
So it is with front line policing. Efforts to pin it down to a physical location or quantify groups of offices are no more than counting angels on pinheads. The familiar cry of ‘protect the frontline’ should not be about maintaining numbers of uniformed officers but about jealously guarding the things that matter to the public: reducing crime, resolving problems, engaging, serving and offering protection from the less visible, but equally serious, threats of organised crime and terrorism.
The police service recognises this challenge and is applying a ‘can-do’ attitude to making it happen. The body politic, however, frets that the public is not sophisticated enough to rise above the hackneyed demand for more officers on the beat.
So does the recent debate on defining the front line matter or should we treat it as more unintelligible data? Meeting the financial challenges facing the police service is tough. The task becomes impossible if, rather than having the freedom to transform police forces, Chief Constables are constrained by artificial ring-fencing of the front line – now officially defined by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary as 61% of the service.
My own force, West Midlands Police, faces one of the hardest challenges because of its relative reliance on Government grant rather than local tax. We have to close a gap of £125 million, that appears annually, by the end of the four-year Comprehensive Spending Review.
We fully support efforts to save money through changes to national procurement and by adopting a new approach to information technology. Like every force we are rigorously examining the legendary ‘back office’ and challenging how it operates. We are engaged with the private sector to consider the merits of outsourcing and are fighting bureaucracy at every turn. Reducing the number of police forces would provide significant savings but that is politically contentious and not what the Government wants.
None of these strategies should be neglected but the politically safe areas – the so called back offices - offer less scope than might be supposed and cannot alter or hide the twin challenge faced by police finances. Firstly, the cuts are heavily front-loaded meaning that tangible savings must be found in the first two years. Secondly, the policing budget is heavily skewed (perhaps unsustainably) towards staff costs which make up some 85% of the total spend. Given those factors, the harsh reality is that only a reduction in the number of employees, both police officers and police staff can meet the challenge.
Chief constables understand that policing cannot be immune from changes taking place across the public sector. In West Midlands we calculate that we must lose about 2,250 posts over the four years. In painful and difficult circumstances we have already lost about approx 1,000 of these, allowing vacancies to fall predominantly in corporate functions. We are absolutely clear that to protect the policing outcomes that are precious to us and to the people we serve; we will have to in fast time transform the whole organisation. We will need to challenge how we operate and the scope of what we do. An early, perhaps trivial, example is that this week West Midlands Police have announced that we will no longer accept reports of lost property, a largely ineffective but still longstanding police role which costs around £300,000 per year.
Despite the view presented by the inspectorate, that police are largely invisible, most of my officers work in uniform from local police stations. But this part of the police force cannot be immune from cuts of this depth and we have already gathered enough evidence to show that careful attention to process, structure and technology will allow us to deliver more with less.
Staff numbers do matter, of course, but I believe that it is not impossible to continue to aim at service improvement while making the reduction in numbers required. A smaller but reshaped uniform contingent can deliver the visibility and engagement the public wants.
Going forward, I have absolute confidence that we can serve and protect the people of the West Midlands. My greater concerns are about the impact of the cuts on the agencies we work closely with, e.g. in housing, health, social services and education, and, in the longer term, about the impact of the recruitment freeze.
Over the past months I have been presenting this picture to my staff and to the communities of the West Midlands. They may not like it, but they understand and trust the strength and resilience of West Midlands Police and the Police Authority to make the right choices.
Yet at a national level, despite the will of ministers, the debate remains less sophisticated. The ‘protect the front line’ mantra and the political obsession with police numbers remains potent – almost medieval. For the sake of the public this clamour must not be allowed to frustrate our efforts to transform policing.
A version of this article first appeared in The Times on 11 April 2011.
Graeme Gerrard: CCTV surveillance, 3 March 2011
Graeme Gerrard is Deputy Chief Constable of Cheshire Constabulary and ACPO lead on CCTV. Following work carried out by Cheshire Constabulary, here Graeme challenges some common misconceptions about the extent of CCTV usage in the UK.
4.2 million cameras? That’s what we’ve been told, but new research paints a different picture
There is no doubt that we have a lot of CCTV cameras in the UK. Indeed, if you pay much notice of the media, we have more cameras per head of population than any other country! This number is a matter of both interest and concern to the public - if we have more cameras, then it follows that we are being ‘watched’ more frequently - and if we are being watched more frequently, then we have the basis for describing the UK as a ‘Surveillance Society’.
Of course, the components of a ‘surveillance society’ include far more than just CCTV cameras: loyalty cards, communication records, automatic number plate recognition systems (ANPR), coded entry systems, keystroke monitoring of work stations and GPS monitoring of vehicle movements to name but a few. However, it is the image of a CCTV camera that is frequently used by the media to illustrate ‘surveillance society’ related stories – even if the surveillance is not image based.
To claim that we have more CCTV cameras than any other country assumes that we not only know how many cameras there are in the UK but also how many there are in every other country – a questionable assertion because, as I will explain, until now we didn’t even have a reliable estimate of camera numbers in this country.
The supposed Orwellian society that we live in makes an interesting story, so it’s unsurprising then that media continue to use what has actually been shown to be an outdated and discredited figure of 4.2 million without question.
Now, in an attempt to inject more rigorous figures into the debate, we introduce a more reliable number.
4.2 million...or less!
The most quoted figure for the number of cameras in the UK is that produced by Michael McCahill and Clive Norris in 2003. Their estimate of 4.2 million cameras is widely reported both in the UK and abroad. Indeed, so pervasive has the McCahill and Norris figure become that a search of Google identifies over 2400 references and many journalists, some leading academics and until recently, even senior politicians have used the 4.2 million estimate as if it were incontrovertible fact.
But what does the McCahill and Norris figure relate to? Many of those that use the figure have no idea how it was calculated or what type of cameras were counted. Does the figure include all cameras or just those that cover public space? Does it include cameras on private property that you have no access to? Does it include private domestic cameras? What about speed cameras?
Since the UK was one of the first countries to deploy cameras on the street, some commentators have assumed that the 4.2 million figure relates to public space cameras. It doesn’t, but little wonder then that we get headlines such as, “We are the most are spied upon nation in the world.’’
The reality is that the McCahill and Norris figure (4,285,000 to be precise) as based on counting the number of cameras along a road in a busy shopping district. They started by counted the number of publicly accessible premises and established the average number of cameras per location, then added the number of open-street CCTV cameras operated by the Borough Council together with an estimate of those operating in public institutions such as transport, hospitals and schools. This figure was then extrapolated across the whole of London (population 7.2 million residents). They estimated that there were at least 500,000 CCTV cameras in London, or one camera for every 14 residents. Extrapolating this figure across the UK (population of 60 million) gave them the 4.285 million – the number that is quoted by so many to this day.
Those of us who do not live in a highly urbanised area may question the accuracy of extrapolating the number of cameras found in a busy London street across the whole of the UK.
Another statement frequently quoted in conjunction with the 4.28 million figure is that ‘the average Briton is caught on security cameras some 300 times a day’. This figure was produced by Garry Armstrong and Clive Norris in 1999 and is based on the fictional journey of a fictional character as he travels around London on one day.
The character, Thomas Reams, had a busy day indeed. He travelled through his housing estate (which had a drugs problem), visited two schools, a hospital maternity wing, his workplace, a number of shops, several car parks, a railway crossing, Heathrow Airport, a football stadium and a red-light district. As well as using his car (during which his speed was monitored by speed cameras), he also used public transport.
While fictional journeys can be used to illustrate a point, I think it’s questionable whether this particular day is typical of those undertaken by the majority of the UK population! In fact, short of being a cab driver who moonlights as a hospital porter and a train driver, it’s difficult to see how anyone could clock up this many cameras in a day.
In fairness to Armstrong and Norris, they clearly made the point that this was a fictional construction. Indeed, Norris in his evidence before the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution Surveillance and Data Collection Inquiry accepted that the journey had been constructed so that it ‘intersected with known CCTV systems’ and that the overall figure was a ‘guestimate’.
Nonetheless, it is another statistic that has entered public consciousness and is regularly quoted – as if it were fact – by newspapers, the BBC and even the Surveillance Studies Network Report for the Information Commissioner on the Surveillance Society. If you check the 300 a day figure on Google, you get nearly 1300 references.
CCTV camera challenge
In the absence of an alternative estimate of the number of cameras in the UK, it is not surprising that the 4.2 million and 300-a-day figures are still being quoted. Developing a more accurate estimate is not easy, particularly as there is no requirement for the owner of a camera to give notification that they have installed one. The only way of establishing the number of cameras in any given area is to visit all the premises and ask the owners how many cameras they have. This is exactly what has happened in Cheshire, not because we wanted to know how many cameras there are but to map their location for policing purposes.
The mapping project involves visiting premises and recording details of the location of each camera, image quality, recording format, retention period and field of view. This information is then mapped onto a computer-based mapping system that is accessible by officers investigating crimes and incidents.
For example, in the case of a shop, are the cameras covering areas that the public can access or are they covering areas such as the storeroom or warehouse? Likewise, if a camera is externally located, is it watching over private space such as an enclosed yard or does it have a view of the street or space where you will find members of the public? A total of 9,766 cameras provided images, either extensively or fleetingly, of space to which the public (in most cases customers) have access.
These figures do not include those cameras operated by our Unitary Authorities that are located on the streets of our communities and monitor our town centres and other public areas. It is these cameras that generate significant debate and interest both here and abroad.
The Cheshire mapping project is ongoing and in reality is likely to be a never-ending task unless, of course, Parliament were to introduce a requirement for all users of CCTV cameras to give notification as to the number and location of their cameras.
Extrapolating from the data
To establish a total for the UK, we could adopt the methodology used by McCahill and Norris and extrapolate the Cheshire figure across the whole of the UK. However, we want to ensure that we reflect the differences in camera concentrations that occur between urban and rural areas, something that they failed to do.
National Statistics data indicates that 64 per cent of the UK population resides in urban areas with the rest living in rural areas. We identified which of our local authority wards were urban and rural and then selected the most extensively mapped wards at a ratio that reflects the urban/rural split in the UK population.
Camera concentrations in the urban areas of Cheshire range from 0.6 to 25.4 cameras per 100 population with a mean average of 3.6. Concentrations in rural areas range from 0.3 to 7.7 cameras per 100 population with a mean average of 0.9. An overall average, using a ratio of urban and rural areas that matches the national position, gives us 2.805 cameras per 100 population. On this basis, extrapolating the Cheshire findings across the UK population (60,776,238) gives us a figure of 1,704,238 cameras.
To this figure we need to add the public space CCTV cameras operated by local authorities. The CCTV User Group published figures in January 2009 following a survey of Local Authorities. They identified 29,703 public space cameras in England and Wales. If we extrapolate this figure to give us a UK-wide figure then we end up with 33,443 cameras. Interestingly, extrapolating Cheshire’s 504 public space cameras to give a UK figure gives us a figure of 30,631 cameras which is within 10 per cent of the CCTV User Group’s estimate.
Combining the premises CCTV with the public space CCTV gives us a figure of 1,737,681 cameras. In the original McCahill and Norris estimate, they added a sum of cameras to account for street CCTV cameras operated by the Borough Council together with an estimate of those operating in public institutions such as transport, hospitals and schools. Cheshire’s mapping project captured the public institutions, while the open street cameras were counted by the CCTV User Group. That leaves us with ‘transport’. Assessing these numbers is difficult as there are cameras on trains, railway stations and the London Underground, not to mention some in buses.
Here our figures become less precise and we have to rely on the estimates of others. Estimates in London indicate that 2000 cameras watch over London’s over-ground railway stations and a further 11,000 operate on the London Underground system. We know that London has a particularly high concentration of cameras covering its transport infrastructure and so extrapolating the London numbers across the UK would give an unrealistically high figure.
What of the 300-a-day figure? Well, we tested that as well. Instead of using a mythical character who undertook a journey to all the local CCTV hotspots, we used real people undertaking real journeys. Using the mapping information and their own observations, we listed all the ANPR, traffic light, and speed cameras that they passed, together with those business premises cameras that may have captured a fleeting glance of their vehicle as it passed by. We added the local authority cameras plus those in the various shops and leisure centres that they visited as they went about their normal activities. Finally, we added those cameras at their workplace. The figures ranged from 42 cameras to 101 with the mean average of 68. This is a far cry from the 300 a day that the media regularly use.
The mapping project in Cheshire has provided us with an opportunity to re-assess the number of cameras within the UK. What we have attempted to do is count the same type of surveillance cameras that McCahill and Norris counted but with a methodology that we felt would provide a more accurate estimate.
Only half the cameras
Eight years after the 4.2 million figure was first published, we now have research that indicates that the figure is less than half this.
If anyone asks us for a figure for the number of CCTV cameras in the UK, we will tell them that the best research we have to date says it is approximately 1.85 million. And the real figure for the number of times the average person is likely to be ‘caught’ on CCTV in a day is less than 70 – and most of these will be at your workplace or fleeting glimpses by cameras located in shops.
Are we still the most watched nation of earth? Since we have yet to see estimates from other countries it is impossible to say, but hopefully those that claim that we are will now have the opportunity to revise their figures.
Garry Shewan: Stalking and harassment, 10 February 2011
Panorama’s recently aired “Stop stalking me” (January 31st, 2011) was a good insight into what has historically been an overlooked and misunderstood issue – it really captured the essence of what it is like to be a victim of long term stalking.
The most important thing I can say is that those who feel vulnerable should be in no doubt that stalking and harassment is taken extremely seriously by the police service and its chief officers.
That point is vital because if we are to continue improving the response to this crime the first thing we need is victims to come forward to the police. They have to have the confidence to do so.
We are all too aware that the experience of being stalked can destroy the lives of victims, and tragically, in some cases, may end in violence or murder.
The police service is in many ways unique in the public sector – openly acknowledging mistakes is part of our culture. And it’s fair to say there have been cases where things have gone wrong, where it can rightly be said that victims have been let down. Such cases have raised the need for what could perhaps be described as a fundamental change in attitude to stalking across the service as a whole. We might not have achieved that just yet – but we’re getting there.
The problem is complex - caused in part by the lack of a legal definition of what constitutes stalking. Stalking is commonly made up of a variety of behaviours, which in themselves, aren’t criminal. A series of incidents that when taken in isolation can appear trivial, however, when put together, become far more sinister. In the past, a lack of understanding around the risks associated with stalking has led to some officers not recognising the cumulative effect of such behaviours, and crucially, the harm this causes to the victim.
It’s important that any victim of stalking should be sure that when they make a report to the police, they are receiving the same high standard of service – regardless of where they are in the country. The way the service has dealt with stalking has historically been fragmented, so it is critical - through ACPO - to encourage forces to adopt a standard approach all such cases.
We’ve achieved a lot in recent years. Effective guidance, encouraging forces to adopt a dedicated stalking and harassment policy, and a standard approach to training is integral to what we’ve been doing. The challenge, of course, is making sure all 43 forces use them!
So a massive part of this is actually about raising the profile of this really horrific crime, ensuring it’s taken seriously. It’s also about recognising the effect the behaviour of stalkers has on victims (the service has, in my opinion, led the criminal justice system in recognising the harm that stalking causes) and ensuring that officers have the right understanding of the issues so they can identify, and ultimately protect, victims.
We believe that working with the charity sector (and victims), is crucial to a better understanding of how we can improve the service we provide. With the support of ACPO, a National Stalking Helpline was launched in April last year, in collaboration with victim’s charities. We’ve also established one contact in each force whose job it is to work closely with the helpline, taking referrals where appropriate, and who has a key role in raising force-wide awareness of stalking issues.
It has to be said that the issue is undoubtedly one for the criminal justice system as whole, however. At a time when public sector budgets are under pressure, finding ways to share good practice and improve our response is absolutely essential.
Last year, the CPS produced guidelines on prosecuting stalking at the request of the police service, which highlighted the need for agencies to work together to ensure that the best evidence is gathered and presented to the court, as well as emphasising the importance of providing support to victims through access to support groups. The Association, alongside the Home Office also hosted a stalking and harassment conference in December, with the aim of sharing good practice, promoting guidance, and imparting victim experiences across all 43 forces and other criminal justice agencies.
While I’m truly encouraged by the good work that is being carried out across the CJS, there is always more can always be done. The challenge for the future will be to continue in our commitment to raise awareness of this awful crime, and ensure that all 43 forces are using the tools and guidance available to them.
Sir Hugh Orde: A new direction, 26 January 2011When I was elected by police chiefs as President of the Association of Chief Police Officers a year and a half ago, I began by noting the opportunity to set a new direction for ACPO that ensures it continues to respond to the changing world of policing, supporting the police service and the men and women on the frontline whom Chief Officers command. My words were 'our standards and principles must be clear and the need for our existence unambiguous'.
In the particular world of policing, with 44 Chief Constables covering territory side by side across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, other operational agencies such as the Serious Organised Crime Agency hovering above, and some non operational bodies such as councils and other partners working alongside us, setting and meeting standards that deliver the best possible policing to protect the public is quite a challenge. There is a strong case - chief officers believe - to look at reconfiguring those structures to match evolving threats and risk to the public in the 21st century. But we should not forget that it is a structure which has led to a style of policing - locally focussed, operationally independent and accountable - that is recognised as world class.
It is also a style that requires a forum where, after debate, a corporate approach to the overarching standards that guide our profession is established. As police leaders it has to be our role in ACPO to maintain and develop those standards and ensure that they are clearly understood by all those who should know them.
All this is worth re-visiting after an extremely difficult couple of weeks for policing, in the face of media and parliamentary scrutiny surrounding both the status of ACPO and the use of undercover officers. It is worth reminding ourselves that the direction of travel, towards an Association firmly focussed on the role of professional body as I have outlined above, is one chief officers themselves choose and embrace. It is also strongly reflected in the Government's consultation document Policing in the 21st Century.
Over its history the Association has, time and again, been required to fill the gap where there has been a requirement for an effective, co-ordinated policing response. As a body composed of the police service's chief officers, it is uniquely placed to do so – providing a pragmatic solution where no national agency or alternative structure exists. We have, over the years, provided a de facto framework to house a number of tasks, carried out on behalf of the service through a pooled effort rather than individually in 44 separate organisations.
As an organisation that profoundly impacts upon public life, it is absolutely right that we should be subject to a clear accountability structure. Indeed, since becoming president, I have been vocal on my desire to move ACPO away from limited company status – a step we are wholly committed to, but which, it must be said, also requires impetus from Government to be achieved.
It is heartening then that we have a real opportunity to drive forward this agenda in 2011, a year that will undoubtedly hold great changes for both ACPO and the service as a whole. We have already secured inclusion for the Association under the Freedom of Information Act and await with great interest the publication of Peter Neyroud’s report on leadership and training, an important piece of work - currently with the Home Secretary - which I hope will be a catalyst to move on the debate and bring meaningful changes to the way we operate.
A word on undercover policing. The small community of officers tasked to carry out this exceptionally challenging job place themselves in real danger, day in, day out, dealing overwhelmingly with dangerous individuals in the higher echelons of criminality. It should also be stressed that those officers I have known in this area are remarkably brave people - dedicated professionals - who would not dream of working beyond their authorisation or in a way that might be of detriment to the service or their investigation.
It is through their work that critical intelligence is gathered, enabling us to detect and prevent serious crime, and ultimately, to keep the public safe from harm.
Questions of accountability have of course been raised as a result of the intense media interest surrounding undercover policing. However, I think we now have a proper approach with reviews into the individual conduct and the strategic issues that have emerged from the cases in the press. Policing in our tradition has always sought accountability, because it is from accountability that springs legitimacy and consent. I am confident that, as ever, the service will respond positively to scrutiny and that the lessons learnt will be of benefit to policing moving forward.