Shouldn’t The College of Policing Be Better Behaved?

I thought that Policing was much about Right and Wrong, making sure people do things right and prosecuting (other methods of Disposal are also available) the ones who didn’t.  Am I very wide of the mark there?  Simplistic I know, but I find it’s best to keep things simple where the College is involved.

Then, if this is right, shouldn’t the College of Policing be teaching the Police the best ways to uphold the Law and make sure everybody knows their Rights from their Wrongs?  Surely they should be a Law-Abiding Limited Company, shouldn’t they?

So, on the 15th March when I sent them a Freedom of Information request in relation to their National Undercover Policing Scrutiny Panel, they had BY LAW until 15th April to reply.  I had a response from Steven, Ethics, Integrity and Public Interest Co-ordinator acknowledging my request, and the attached letter (which actually had Steven’s full name on it, unlike his casual response) said “Your request will be considered in accordance with the legislation and you will receive a
response within the statutory timescale of 20 working days, subject to the provisions of the Act.  In the unlikely event that the College of Policing is unable to meet the 20 working day deadline, you will be informed as soon as possible and given a revised time-scale for response.

Well, as they haven’t contacted me in any way since their original acknowledgement, even though I’m expecting a Refusal Notice, I can only assume that they are flouting the law by not replying within 20 working days, or offering me an explanation as to why they can’t comply.

Have they EVER replied to anybody about anything?  I don’t see any evidence of a willingness to engage on Twitter, so why do they have an account?  Just to self-publicise without the willingness to interact?

Having perused previous FOI requests made of them they do like to try and find an Exemption to claim, anything tricky and they play the Exemption Card. So we shall see.

I would have thought that an ethical organisation would comply with the spirit of the Act and supply the information when they could, but I have to say that some of the Exemptions they have applied seem spurious at best.

Of the 26 FOI Requests made via the website I use 4 have been REFUSED, 4 are OVERDUE, and a further 4 they claim not to hold the information that was requested.  So requesters’ success rates are not very high with the College, although nowhere near as bad as the Home Office, the College could learn something there.

Law-Abiding?  Not where the Freedom of Information Act is concerned, no.

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Is The College Of Policing Selective With Its Communications?

I guess we’re all coming to terms with the College of Policing, and frankly I’m glad that I don’t have to concern myself with it unduly.

We recently (12th March)  heard about their National Scrutiny of Undercover Policing, but in reality that panel had their first meeting in July 2014. Had anybody heard about this controversial panel before March 2015?  Not exactly timely communication from the College.

On 20th March the College published their Interim Review of Leadership which contained a recommendation that Specials could be promoted to Sergeant ( or above) if they met the National Criteria and give Operational Directions to Regular officers. This was not reported by Police Oracle until 10th April, and I for one haven’t seen it reported in the Traditional national Press at all.  Officers who have given up many hours of their own time to study for promotion to Sergeant are understandably not best pleased.

Is this a case of the College not pushing some of the more controversial parts of their Review, or is it the National Media choosing not to report it?

On 31st March they published information that as of April(!) PCSOs would be given new powers.

Changes to the powers of police community support officers (PCSOs) have been outlined in a new booklet going out to forces across England and Wales in April.

The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 created additional powers for PCSOs and chief officers should decide which they will grant to PCSOs in their force areas.

These include
• seizing property
• to confirm the identity of a charity collector
• issuing fixed penalty notices for parking in a restricted area outside schools; causing unnecessary noise; cycling without lights and carrying a passenger on a cycle.

The same Act has created a number of offences relating specifically to PCSOs, namely;
• assaulting a PCSO in the execution of their duty;
• resisting or wilfully obstructing a PCSO in the execution of their duty
• impersonating, or falsely claiming to be, a PCSO with intent to deceive
• being a PCSO and making a false suggestion that one possesses powers that exceed those designated by the chief officer.

Local Policing lead at the College of Policing, Chief Superintendent Paul Phillips, said:

“Police community support officers help to reduce crime and antisocial behaviour. They make people feel safer in their communities and are closing the gap between crime and the fear of crime.

This is obviously not a College Initiative, it most likely forms part of #MaysMayhem, but the College did choose to publicise it right at the very last minute.  I hadn’t previously heard of this, and if I hadn’t been rummaging around the College website I would probably still be unaware.

So I dare say the government should take a share of the blame for this one, but has anybody seen the ‘booklet’ yet? Had anybody heard of this decision before 31st March?  Once they’d taken the decision to publish, should the College have publicised it sooner?

All I know is that things are pretty rotten in the world of Policing at the moment and I don’t see the College doing a single thing to improve conditions on the Front Line or improve that all-important element MORALE.

Glad I’m out.

Policing Under Theresa May – Some Undeniable Truths

While I sit and ponder my future I found myself thinking about a couple of ‘Improvements’ that Theresa May has made to Policing.  My experience and knowledge is really linked to the Met, so if I say something which does not extend to your Force please forgive me, unlike Ms Khan, any unfair generalisations are not intention.

Back in 2011 she promised to cut Red Tape, whilst at the same time blaming Police Chiefs for that very same Red Tape

Just two months ago, she stated in the House that she had “cut red tape and freed the Police from Central Government control”  Is that what she calls it?

But, getting down to the Nitty Gritty, one of the most profound statements that she has made on practical policing was in relation to Stop and Search.

Firstly, the changes restrict the controversial “no suspicion” powers, which allow officers to stop and search members of the public even when they do not suspect a crime has been committed. This refers to s60 Stops, which in my experience were seldom used, and then mainly at Public Disorder, or occasionally sporting events. I’m not sure that is going to make a huge difference, but does shine a light on to Imelda’s way of thinking.

In the second measure forces will have to record the outcome of searches in more detail. 

Officers who carry out a stop and search will have to make a note of the outcome– such as whether it led to an arrest, a caution or no further action. 

The Home Office has previously reduced the complexity of paperwork required by stop and search after criticisms that it was overly bureaucratic and officers were being tied up with red tape.

Alex Marshall, chief constable of the College of Policing, said: “Stop and search powers are necessary to help us tackle crime and keep people safe but it is clear that they are being misused too often. 

“Under this scheme search outcomes will be recorded in more detail so we have a greater understanding of how the powers are being used.

Well, in my humble opinion this is just the College and the rest of AVPO (or whatever they’re called today) rolling over to have their bellies rubbed.

There is no doubt that Stop and Search is Intrusive, no doubt whatsoever! but unless someone has rewritten PACE while I’ve been asleep it has always contained the following;

1 Power of constable to stop and search persons, vehicles etc.

(1) A constable may exercise any power conferred by this section—

(a) in any place to which at the time when he proposes to exercise the power the public or any section of the public has access, on payment or otherwise, as of right or by virtue of express or implied permission; or

(b)in any other place to which people have ready access at the time when he proposes to exercise the power but which is not a dwelling.

(2) Subject to subsection (3) to (5) below, a constable—

(a) may search—

(i) any person or vehicle;

(ii) anything which is in or on a vehicle,

for stolen or prohibited articles [F1, any article to which subsection (8A) below applies or any firework to which subsection (8B) below applies; and

(b) may detain a person or vehicle for the purpose of such a search.

(3) This section does not give a constable power to search a person or vehicle or anything in or on a vehicle unless he has reasonable grounds for suspecting that he will find stolen or prohibited articles [F2, any article to which subsection (8A) below applies or any firework to which subsection (8B) below applies

2   Provisions relating to search under section 1 and other powers.

(1) A constable who detains a person or vehicle in the exercise—

(a) of the power conferred by section 1 above; or

(b) of any other power—

(i) to search a person without first arresting him; or

(ii) to search a vehicle without making an arrest,

need not conduct a search if it appears to him subsequently

(i) that no search is required; or

(ii) that a search is impracticable.

3  Duty to make records concerning searches.

(1) Where a constable has carried out a search in the exercise of any such power as is mentioned in section 2(1) above, other than a search—

(a) under section 6 below; or

(b)under section 27(2) of the M1Aviation Security Act 1982, he shall make a record of it in writing unless it is not practicable to do so.

(2) If—

(a) a constable is required by subsection (1) above to make a record of a search; but

(b )it is not practicable to make the record on the spot,

he shall make it as soon as practicable after the completion of the search.

(3) The record of a search of a person shall include a note of his name, if the constable knows it, but a constable may not detain a person to find out his name.

(4) If a constable does not know the name of a person whom he has searched, the record of the search shall include a note otherwise describing that person.

(5) The record of a search of a vehicle shall include a note describing the vehicle.

(6) The record of a search of a person or a vehicle—

(a) shall state—

(i) the object of the search;

(ii) the grounds for making it;

(iii) the date and time when it was made;

(iv) the place where it was made;

(v) whether anything, and if so what, was found;

(vi) whether any, and if so what, injury to a person or damage to property appears to the constable to have resulted from the search; and

(b) shall identify the constable making it.

(7) If a constable who conducted a search of a person made a record of it, the person who was searched shall be entitled to a copy of the record if he asks for one before the end of the period specified in subsection (9) below.

(8) If—

(a) the owner of a vehicle which has been searched or the person who was in charge of the vehicle at the time when it was searched asked for a copy of the record of the search before the end of the period specified in subsection (9) below; and

(b) the constable who conducted the search made a record of it,

the person who made the request shall be entitled to a copy.

There’s a whole load more to PACE than that, but in my submission, that is our first Undeniable Truth, Stop and Search under s1 PACE is already regulated sufficiently by statute and if the perception is that this power is being abused then this is surely a Supervision or Training issue, not something for Politicians to meddle in.

My second concern, to the best of my knowledge, only concerns the Met, but if the same practice has happened in the County Forces please let me know, as we would all need t know.

When I last worked on a Borough, I worked in an Intelligence Unit, and it was an important part of my job to produce briefings 5 days out of 7 for the 3 main shifts, Early, Lates and Nights.  These briefings would contain details of recent crimes of note, any Crime Patterns that had been identified by the Analyst, names and/or descriptions of any suspects for those crimes including photos if applicable, and recommendations for where any ‘spare’ officers could be posted to Prevent or Detect Crime (I know there aren’t any Spare officers any more).  It was on the basis of these briefings that many s1 Stop and Searches may have been conducted in ‘Hotspot’ areas.

Word has now reached my ears that these Intelligence Units at Divisional and Borough level have gone, been Winsor’d, labelled as Back Office functions and dissolved.  There is a Service Intelligence Unit staffed by some faceless warriors in Central London, but how effective can they be at preparing meaningful and timely briefings for troops in Croydon, or Barnet?

Time spent chatting with the old ‘Collator’ was seldom wasted for a good Thief-Taker, chats in a cosy over office over a brew were often productive, and, within limits, to be encouraged.  Even the next generation following on from Collators had crowds of enthusiastic young bucks picking brains in the quest for their next ‘body’. I don’t see anything wrong with that, as long as the privilege isn’t abused, but again, Post May/Winsor there probably isn’t the time left for such luxuries.

So, in the era of Smaller, Smarter Policing, how exactly are we supposed to function more Smartly when May and Winsor have taken away our Intelligence Units.  If this is not true PLEASE let me know, it’s important to me to know.

Intelligence-Led Policing With No Intelligence Unit – that would work every time.  Bloody good job Crime Is Down is all I can say.

Our Second Undeniable Truth?  The absence of Intelligence Units at a local level adversely impacts upon our ability to fight crime in an efficient and timely manner?

Lastly, I need to go back to Stop and Search again.  I often hear rumours that Sergeants and Inspectors in the Met (not necessarily only the Met) set their troops numerical targets as a Performance Indicator for their Appraisals.  How can this be right?

As we have seen above before a Stop/Search be conducted there has to be Suspicion and Grounds. I’ve scoured PACE thoroughly but I can’t find performance Indicators listed as suitable grounds to conduct a Stop/Search.

Stop/Search is clearly a very emotive subject and if there are abuses of the powers then these need to be addressed, but NOT by watering down the powers, of course Turkeys are not going to vote for Christmas but I truly believe that if Mr or Mrs Average is subjected to a Stop/Search by an officer who was polite, explained their actions and complied with the provisions above, then they would neither Complain nor Need to Complain.  Do we need to pay undue heed to the Turkeys complaining that Christmas is coming and they don’t want to be slaughtered?

My 3rd and last Undeniable Truth is that Numerical targets have no place in Stop/Search in particular, and quite possibly Front Line Policing in general, it breeds bad habits.  Any Stop/Search conducted in pursuit of such Targets is, at best, Unethical, and at most, arguably Unlawful.

CofP National UC Scrutiny Panel – Sophie Fights Back

As most of us are #BlockedBySophie I’m guessing that most of you won’t have seen Sophie Khan’s quite reasonable defence as to why she’s on the UC Scrutiny Panel.

To avoid claims of bias, I won’t twist it, I’ll let you just read it in Sophie’s own words – enjoy.

So, there you have it, in the lady’s own words. She’s hardly got the wrong end of the stick at all and is defending completely the wrong criticism, no change there then.

 

Sue & Sophie – What Have We Learnt?

Sorry to keep banging on about it, but I happen to think it’s important. We’ve now had about 48 hours since the news broke that Sue Mountstevens and Sophie Khan are part of the panel looking at Undercover Policing.

Now that the initial hullabaloo has almost died down, what have we actually learnt?

Firstly, we have learnt that I have now been #BlockedBySophieKhan.

Secondly, we have learnt that this panel has been in existence since July 2014 but we are only being told about it now.

We have learnt that the full makeup of the panel is this;

1. Alex Marshall (Chair) College of Policing
2. Stephen Otter HMIC
3. Sophie Khan People Action Centre
4. Sue Mountstevens Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner
5. Richard Martin Metropolitan Police
6. Christopher Nathan University of Warwick
7. Jon Boutcher Bedfordshire Police
8. David Tucker College of Policing
9. Gordon Ryan College of Policing
10. Kerry Robinson College of Policing
11. Rob Beckley College of Policing
12. Joe McGuigan HMRC
13. David Carrigan Independent Advisory Group
14. Dr Chris Nathan Warwick Interdisciplinary Ethics Research Group *Duplicate by CofP
15. Bob Satchwell Society of Editors
16. Prof Ben Bowling Dickson Poon School of Law
17. Peter Jukes Media consultant
18. Tom Gash Institute for Government
19. Chris Green Merseyside Police
20. Mick Creedon National Lead Organised Crime
21. John Dilworth Crown Prosecution Services
22. Dr Bethan Lofthouse Centre for Criminology
23. Shaun Sawyer Devon and Cornwall Police

We have learnt that The members of the panel are unpaid volunteers and are not part of the formal Governance structures of the College of Policing.

We now know the Terms of Reference of the panel;

This group will review, challenge and provide feedback on the standards for undercover policing. It will also consider the leadership, management and supervisory frameworks and the way undercover policing is presented to the wider public. It will identify what evidence might assist in developing future practice. Members will support each other in the challenge process.

It will aim to

• Improve public confidence in the use of undercover policing tactics.
• Identify lessons from operations (not live ones), public inquiries or reviews, and make recommendations to the police service on how they should be addressed.
• Review and assess new and emerging undercover policing standards against tests of proportionality and necessity as well as wider judgements of social acceptability and practical applicability.
• Review the evidence base for good and effective practice in undercover policing including cost/benefit analysis.
• Advise on such issues as the ‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny’ policy, Agent Provocateur, Intelligence Deployments and other potentially sensitive or contentious areas.
• Make suggestions about the areas of undercover policing that merit deeper research or analysis.
• Assist in, and guide, the way undercover policing is described and presented to the wider public and consider how wider views and feedback might be gathered from victims of crime, practitioners and those affected by undercover policing.
We have now seen their first set of Minutes, please note this are not the Minutes of their first meeting, but their SECOND.
We have learnt that they had a third meeting in February, but we have not seen any Minutes for that meeting yet.
Most worryingly, we have had it confirmed that all Non-Police members of the Scrutiny Panel will not be subject to the Code of Ethics.
College screengrab 1Reinforced by
College screengrab 2
Most amusingly we have learnt that somebody has attempted to launch a government e-petition in an attempt to get Sophie’s appointment to the panel reversed, but it was rejected due to the inclusion of the word ‘Appointment‘.
We have learnt that the appointment of Sue Mounstevens to the panel was made at exactly the same time that she was being investigated for her ‘serious error of judgement‘ in telling Nick Gargan the identity of the person(s) who had made allegations against him.  We know that she did this because an enquiry has subsequently found that she did and she has apologised for it.
We have also learnt that the Right Honourable Theresa May MP has also commissioned an enquiry looking into the area of Undercover Policing, and that the College Panel are aware of this as it’s referred to in the Minutes of their October meeting.
We know that the College are not awfully keen to answer questions put to them about the appointment of Sophie Khan in particular, and eventually went completely silent on the matter.

So, all in all, I think it’s safe to say that we have learnt that the College are either naive in extremis, or simply arrogant and don’t give a stuff for the morale of the Front Line, Public Expenditure (duplication of effort?) and the vetting (or lack of) participants on their panel, who I assume will have access to some sensitive information at some time (not a live op I realise that, but damage can still be done), bearing in mind that Sophie Khan’s Raison d’etre is to sue the Police. “Good Night all. I’m off to bed. Will be dreaming about suing the police as always. Sweet dreams to you all. I love my job so much :)

I’ll leave you to decide which it is, but suffice to say I’m glad it doesn’t involve me directly, and I can only imagine the thoughts of those officers expected to subscribe to this nonsense.

College Chaos And A Safer London

No, the two aren’t necessarily connected, just two items of insanity floating around Twitter last night.

Firstly the College of Policing (CoP) has announced a national scrutiny into undercover policing;

http://www.college.police.uk/News/College-news/Pages/National-undercover-scrutiny-.aspx

Included in the panel are the Police Action Centre aka Sophie Khan and PCC Sue Mountstevens.

Can CoP really be that naive or are they merely flexing their muscles with an opening kick in the nads for the troops on the (shrinking) Front Line?

Where do I begin? Sophie Khan? Why on earth would any right-minded person or organisation include Sophie Khan on any scrutiny panel into such a vital part of modern day Policing? She is prone to gross over-generalisations and exaggerations, on an almost daily basis.

I fully accept that I’m talking about a couple of years ago but her historical Twitter T/L does not make comfortable reading for CoP surely;

She seems very anti-police, one of her old tweets was “Good Night all. I’m off to bed. Will be dreaming about suing the police as always. Sweet dreams to you all. I love my job so much :) ”

On the 7th of April 2012 she posted the following comment on Twatter: “Met Police aren’t just racist while on duty, they are racist off duty. They’re members of BNP scum. Well done on being the most hated.

This is a suitable person to be engaged by CoP for such an important piece of work? Many of us who have dared to disagree with her and challenge her extreme views merely get ‘blocked’ as she seems unwilling to engage with her critics. This has directly led to the Twitter #hashtag #BlockedBySophieKhan. CoP really believe that this is a suitable person for their panel?

That leads me to Sue Mountstevens, Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon and Somerset Police.

She is not without controversy either;

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-29838505 after a Disciplinary Hearing found that she had committed a Serious Error of Judgement.

In May 2014, Avon and Somerset’s Chief Constable Nick Gargan was suspended over allegations he made inappropriate advances to female staff.

The Police and Crime Panel found Sue Mountstevens breached her own code of conduct by telling Mr Gargan who had made the allegations.

Engaging Ms Mountstevens on such a high-profile panel as this, so soon after her gross faux pas sends a terrible message to Police ‘Whistleblowers’ and the like. Not only are they treated appallingly but those that betray them are seemingly only guilty of an error of judgement, and then deemed worthy to sit on a panel passing scrutiny on Undercover Policing.

Exactly what kind of vetting has/is being conducted on these people? Does anybody at CoP even care?

Fortunately I got out before the inception of CoP, but many of my friends remain and I can only despair, as far as I’m concerned this is the end of the road for any slight credibility that CoP had. For me that has died completely after this charade.


Then we have the nonsense that is Bernie Hogan-Who claiming to be a Can Do Leader and that London will be a safer place with a smaller, reduced Met.

http://content.met.police.uk/News/Commissioner-Transform-British-policing-to-keep-the-public-safe/1400030449171/1257246745756

Sir Bernard said: “If you had any doubt, if my officers had any doubt, then let’s be clear – the Met is a ‘can-do’ organisation, and I am a ‘can-do’ leader. A smaller Met can make London safer.”

“But we need to spell out, like the military has, that we can’t promise to tackle everything the world throws up within a shrinking budget. If we try to fight on all fronts, we’ll fail on some. If we’re not clear what’s beyond our reach, how can others take responsibility?”

I can only agree with a lot of what he said, but make London safer with a smaller Met? Really? I guess we’ll all have our views on that, but I don’t see how that’s doable with the scale of further cuts still to come. His reference to the Armed Forces is valid, they also have been slashed to the point where I fail to see how they could be effective if the wheel truly came off. Not because they are incompetent, I have the highest respect and regard for them, there just aren’t enough of them. The outbreak of war would not be the finest hour to recommence recruiting.

IMG_0220

Or maybe



Another #Donut For Tom Winsor Please

So, the first (or the first that I have seen anyway) results of Mr Tom Winsor’s famous Police Fitness Tests have been released by the College of Policing.

Out of 30,000 officers from 39 Forces, sorry, Services, only 851 ‘failed’ although the tests do not become compulsory until next year.  The national police lead for fitness testing, ACC Rob Price, said the results showed the vast majority of officers tested were fit.  No shit Sherlock, even I can work that one out.

The only thing about these test results that bothers me is that there seems to be a slight disparity in Male vs Female that I have not yet seen addressed.  Of those who failed the test, 253 were male and 598 female.  After taking part in the 15-metre “bleep” shuttle run test, about 253 of the 22,078 male officers who took part (an average of 1%) and 598 of 7,969 female officers (an average of 8%) were unsuccessful.

I’m nowhere near brave enough to suggest that our female officers are not fit, so I will suggest that maybe the tests as they currently stand, disadvantage the female officers.  After all it was EIGHT TIMES as many that failed.

There are no figures yet available for the Metropolitan Police, the country’s largest force, or for Lancashire, Gloucestershire and Cumbria.

Humberside and Northumbria Police were the only two forces that boasted a 100% pass rate for both male and female officers.

The worst failure rates were seen in by police forces in Suffolk (7%), the West Midlands (5.8%), West Mercia and Warwickshire (5.6%), and Gwent (5.5%).

Winsor also recommended that from 2018 the tests should be made harder, using challenges based on the type of things an officer might face on duty, but this is being considered by the College of Policing in case it negatively impacts on women.  I would suggest that it already is, but Winsor wouldn’t take any notice of that would he?

He likes to wear a fancy uniform from time to time maybe he could do one of his fitness tests, just a thought.