Home Secretaries In Glass Houses……..

FOI

 

A while ago I wrote a blog on the irony of the Home Office’s attitude towards Freedom of Information Requests.

You can find that here if you’re interested.  I did ask the Home Office how many FOI requests they actually refused in a year, but they refused to answer that question.

In her speech to the 2015 Police Federation Conference she reminded us all that it was her intention to make the Police Federation subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (an Act that her government don’t particularly like if I recall).   So with this in mind I thought I’d take a trawl through the 2014 stats, which are the latest states on the subject that govt has released.

In 2014 the Home Office received 3041 Requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

The law allows them 20 Working Days to respond under normal circumstances.

As of 23rd April 2015 2869 Requests had been processed, with 172 still being processed. (i.e. late, out of time for whatever reason)

The 20 Working Day deadline was met in 2384 cases (78.5%)

An Extension was applied in 260 cases. (397 were late with no lawful extension applied).

87% of total number of requests were processed within 20 days OR the extended time period)

Of the 3041 Requests received, 555 (18%) were resulted Information Not Held for whatever reason.

2159 of the 3041 (71%) were potentially ‘resolvable”

Only 843 of the 3041 (28%) were answered IN FULL

A further 307 (10.1%) were answered Partially, meaning that only 38.1% requests received by the Home Office received any kind of meaningful answer at all.

A massive 837 (27.5%) were FULLY REFUSED

According to the govt stats 38% of ‘Resolvable Requests’ were answered in full.

Of the Refusals, 480 were refused for Exceeding the Cost Limit, 321 had an Exemption of some sort applied to them, 24 were deemed Vexatious and a mere 12 were Repeat Requests.

There then follows a whole load of psychobabble about which Exemptions and been applied and how often.  Bearing in mind that multiple Exemptions can (and are) applied to a single request, the most frequent Exemption applied was Law Enforcement on 189 occasions.

In 2012 23% of all Requests were Refused, in 2014 it was 28%.

In 2012 the 20 Working Day deadline was met in 80%, in 2014 78.5%

In 2012 16.6% of requests missed the 20 Day limit and an Extension, in 2014 that was only 13%

In 2012 34% of Requests were answered IN FULL, in 2014 that was 28%.

So, it would appear that between 2012 and 2014 the Home Office has got WORSE at responding to Freedom of Information Act Requests, not better, so if I was an officer of the Police Federation of England and Wales I wouldn’t be taking any lectures from Mrs May on being subject to the Freedom of Information Act, as her Department seems to do its best NOT to answer a huge percentage of Requests

Mrs May

 

 

 

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Time For Change?

A bit of banter between Twitsters yesterday gave birth to a #Hashtag.

@Roman_Viterus (yes, him again) put forward the suggestion that the Police Federation of England and Wales should be staffed not by serving officers but by retired officers.

As you can imagine, this very quickly provoked many responses.

Some were, for varied reasons, violently opposed to this suggestion.

Some were, equally vehemently, in favour.

Others were maybe non-committal but receptive to the idea, but with the exception of a small minority, most seemed to be in agreement that some form of change is needed.

One reason against retired officers running the Fed was that they’re dinosaurs and out of touch.

One of the reasons in favour was that retired officers would be far less likely to crumble under pressure from ACPO and government, precisely because they are NOT serving, and not subject to the same regime.  Like it or not, that is how many outside the Federation see it.

One concern that was voiced was that replacement of the Fed with retired officers or civvies might lead to a short-term success but then an experienced void would be left, and the Service would actually be worse off.

I’m not certain that is necessarily true, but why shy away from change because of fear of the potential consequences. Nothing will change if nothing changes.

I am one of those out of touch dinosaurs, I admit it, but as a retired officer I hear things that disturb me. I have read allegations of bullying, sexism and extravagance about the National Fed. I have no idea if they are true, but it’s out there damaging the image.

I have heard members complaining about lack of support from the Federation. Again, I have no personal knowledge, but if the officers feel betrayed and let down that’s not an image that the Federation should portray or accept.

As a retired officer I have heard that the Federation are not supporting members, like myself, whose pension commutation seems to have been reduced by the government. I paid my subs for 30 years and I would expect the Fed to represent me, and the thousands like me in the same position, on any matter in relation to my pension, not just cast us adrift as ex-members.

If these things are untrue, let’s hear the truth.

It’s not my place to dictate what should happen, nor could I, but I don’t see any problem with sparking a debate. Let’s have some ideas. Does the Federation need to change or are we happy with what we have?

Is it lawful, or desirable, for the Fed to buy in some expertise from a relevant, large Union? As far as I know that would be innovative, but would it be useful?  I previously posted a blog promoting the idea that the affected services work together in some way.  I don’t know if that’s feasible, but struggling on in isolation isn’t getting us anywhere.  Slowly, slowly the other public services are achieving small concessions from Central Govt.  What concessions have we achieved?

Is there a case for a panel of Retired Police Officers, to be consulted on matters of policy and major disputes? Would their input be desirable or of any value?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti Federation and I have absolutely no idea what goes on at Leatherhead.  The Police Federation have been brilliant in the past, and have much to be proud of, but Modern Problems require Modern Thinking, and I’m not seeing much of that come out of Leatherhead.  Again, the individual offices have been doing some sterling work, and I’m loving the series of #CutsHaveConsequences videos (which I believe the public are supportive of too) but I’m seeing no signs of co-ordination from HQ.  Am I missing something here?

What do you think? Does the Fed need to change? If so, how? As a total outsider now, I would say that some sort of change would seem appropriate, but what that change should be I’m far from clear about. I have a soft spot for the Fed, I was a Local Rep myself for a short period of time, but like other things about the Police, I don’t quite recognise everything I see now, and I’m not always happy about that.

I realise that not all of these comments can be universally popular with everyone, but if it stirs debate and leads to some kind of change for the good, then it will have been worth it.

Have your say and use the #Hashtag #FedChange.

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The Insidious Culture Of Fear

Fear is a powerful emotion. Let’s be honest, in the main, we tend to take notice of our fears, and for good, sensible reasons.

Large organisations suffer corporate fear too. They tend to have a serious fear of Whistleblowers, and any groups that are trying to assist Whistleblowers. So what do they do about it? They tend to get their retaliation in first and ‘Control’ their workforce with a Culture of Fear.

I have just been watching an article on my telly box, and it was stated, as though it were fact, that ALMOST NO Whistleblowers went on to keep their jobs. Now that’s a frightening statement for a start.

I’m not going to bore you with yet another blog about James, his story is now very well known. Although I do believe that the Met were uncomfortable with the level of support that James enjoyed and went on the offensive.

Instead, I would ask you to spend a few minutes reading the story of Dr Raj Mattu, an NHS Whistleblower, and see what comparisons you can draw from that. Is this a course of conduct that sounds familiar?

This is totally despicable behaviour and sadly just what we have come to expect.

Some of our friends and colleagues in the West of England have already experienced the Culture of Fear, first hand.

There is a Group on Facebook where members who are serving officers are constantly being reminded “don’t forget that DPS monitor this Group, don’t get caught posting something you shouldn’t “. Or “officers are being disciplined for “Liking” inappropriate posts, maybe serving officers should all leave the group rather than get themselves into trouble for ‘Liking’ someone else’s post”.

I’m absolutely certain that even the Mighty Met don’t have the resources to monitor every ‘Like’ and check out who liked it and find out if they are a serving officer, so they get the Culture of Fear to do their job for them.

Whether it was done malevolently, or with the best of intentions by former colleagues, the insidious Culture of Fear is alive and well in the Met.

It’s not my intention to encourage you all to ignore it as such, but to be aware of the tactics, acknowledge them and conduct yourselves accordingly. I also think that it’s about time that the Fed and other relevant professional bodies tackled the management that is encouraging, and using, this Culture of Fear,

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A Thought-Provoking View on Theresa May’s Speech to The Police Federation.

OK, I admit it, I’m biased, I know the author of this article personally, but I still think it’s a valid dissection of Theresa May’s vitriolic address to the Police Federation this year.

Ex DS Chris Hobbs has written a new article on Theresa May’s speech, and you can find the full article here.

Highlights of Chris’ article include;

a)  She would know only too well the results of a recent survey carried out by the University of the West of England which shows police morale to be on the floor with nearly 50% of officers stating that they would move jobs if the opportunity presented itself. She would know that police staff surveys amongst virtually every force in the UK shows widespread disillusionment that should send alarm bells ringing throughout the Home Office.

Yet despite that, like a cowardly street corner thug, she ‘stuck the boot in’ to a world renowned police service which is already on its knees.

b) It wasn’t as if the Police Federation were short of ammunition. Met police whistleblower James Patrick’s book, ‘The Rest is Silence’ forensically dissected the dubious machinations around police reform to reveal dubious practices involving conflicts of interest bordering on corruption. Sadly James’s careful research became lost in the crime figures furore that surrounded the book and his appalling treatment as a police whistleblower.

c)  From Hillsborough to Plebgate, Theresa May did not miss a trick in turning the knife in the already gaping police wounds yet, of course this ignores the fact that of the 132,000 serving officers and indeed a similar number of retired officers, only a tiny fraction of those not even numbering three figures, would be involved in the ‘transgressions’ mentioned almost jubilantly by the Home Secretary.

She accuses the police or more specifically Special Branch’s undercover SDS (Special Demonstration Squad) of ‘smearing’ the Lawrence family when the only evidence appears to some from one former disgruntled undercover officer. Of course, in the aftermath of Stephen’s death, the police had to ensure that the tragedy was not exploited by violent extremist groups and to the Lawrence family’s everlasting credit they rebuffed all advances from groups that espoused violence.

d)  Thrown into this diatribe of contempt almost inevitably was stop and search. Previously Theresa May used the term “absolutely disgraceful” when referring to the issue yet neither she, the Inspectorate of Constabulary or other critics seem to have considered the fact that front line police in inner city areas have an aversion to dealing with young people who had their whole lives in front of them, lying dead or dying having been shot or stabbed.

There are many others, I suggest you read the full article for yourselves, agree or disagree, I believe it will make you think.

I didn’t watch Cruella’s speech  live, my blood pressure wasn’t up to it and Angry Towers would have been in real need of a new TV if I had have done.  But I did watch it that afternoon, and to my simplistic view two things stood out loud and clear.

1)  This was a Home Secretary taking the opportunity of addressing the Federation to berate the entire Police Service of England and Wales for every single alleged outrage since Hillsborough, at least, and possibly earlier.  Some of the officers alleged to have done wrong at Hillsborough weren’t even Federated Ranks, SuperNintendos or ACPO.

2) The venom with which her speech was delivered.

Theresa-May-addresses-the-011   May1

Granted these two photos don’t show off her good looks to their best advantage, but do they look like someone giving a clear, well-balanced, objective speech to an attentive and supportive audience?

Apart from the onslaught at 1) above, I don’t think I can take much exception to the CONTENT of her speech but the delivery was absolutely awful, unprofessional and personal.  Well, actually, that’s not true.  Reform is working……..Is it?  Nick Herbert MP would beg to differ when he tried to rustle up some Police Officers to stop a rave in the middle of the night and there were none to send.

Crime is falling………Is it/  How can you tell, crime stats have been discredited across across England and Wales and we are still awaiting HMIC’s definitive report later this year and a new, improved model for counting them.

An Inspectorate more independent of Government……..don’t make me laugh.

More powers and resources for the Independent Police Complaints Commission…….yeah, of course, they need them don’t they.

Direct entry to inject into the senior ranks different perspectives, fresh thinking and new talent…………Brilliant idea, when will the first one go sickj with a Nervous Breakdown (or worse)?

Our reforms have been crucial in helping you to cut crime even as we have cut spending.

If we hadn’t introduced police and crime commissioners and established the College of Policing, we wouldn’t have been able to break the unaccountable ACPO monopoly at the head of policing in this country. By introducing PCCs we have made police leaders more responsive to the people they serve, and by establishing the College we are improving the professionalism of policing and giving your members a direct say in its future………Hang on, I’ll think of something to say when I stop laughing.

If we hadn’t reformed the way the inspectorate works……..Is this the Inspectorate she has just said is more independent of government?   Oh, I give up.

My quill has gone on strike, my blood pressure is rising, and the monitor is in danger of needing replacement.

If you haven’t yet read Chris’ thought–provoking article, may I recommend it to you now?

I thank you.

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Anger Is Most Definitely Blue

So, Cruella de May delivered her speech to the Police federation Conference 2014 yesterday.  I have to admit I didn’t catch it live, I couldn’t stand the prospect of throwing something hard and heavy, and the damage that might wreak.

A lot of the papers this morning have got it wrong, the Police Federation is NOT a Trade Union, never has been a Trade Union, and I seriously doubt it ever will be.  Can you imaging a government of any colour agreeing to that?

I watched her opening salvos one the 10 o’clock news last night and was seriously unimpressed with her body language.  This was a Government Minister who had come to fight, she wasn’t about to take shit from anybody.  Aggressive, cold and uncompromising.  I’m absolutely convinced that a huge percentage of that was directly attributable to her treatment at the hands of the Police Federation previously.  She waited her time then served her vengeance cold,  Predictable and perfectly understandable.

She criticised officers for, in some instances, displaying a “contempt for the public” in their handling of sensitive cases.

Citing excessive stop and search inflicted on black communities and failures in handling domestic violence cases, May said problems appeared to lie with a significant minority of officers rather than just “a few bad apples”.

I’m not getting involved in whether those examples are good or bad examples, but what the hell do they have to do with the Annual Police Federation Conference?  Just an opportunity to Bash The Police knowing it would make media headlines.

She pledged to break the powerful federation, announcing an end to its automatic right to enrol police officers as its members, in effect curtailing the closed shop in policing .  Apart from the fact I haven’t a clue what she was talking about here, membership of the Federation has always been voluntary, it’s an exceedingly aggressive stance “vowing to break the ‘powerful’ Federation”, and what’s the alternative?  Membership of the Federation or membership of NOTHING. She’ll never allow a Trade Union so what on earth is she talking about?  Who/what can you join if you don’t fancy the Federation?  If you want to stop a perceived Closed Shop you have to offer an alternative other than NOTHING.

Will Riches, one of two candidates to be the federation’s chair, said afterwards the reaction of delegates to the speech was one of “shock and bewilderment”.

Ian Pointon of Kent police branded the speech vitriolic. He said of the Home Secretary: “This morning she left as a bully.”

Cruella included  Hillsborough, the death of Ian Tomlinson and allegations of corruption in the Lawrence and Daniel Morgan murders. She also cited the Plebgate affair, which cost Andrew Mitchell his cabinet job after he allegedly swore at a member of Downing Street’s police staff which Mitchell denies., and the refusal of officers to answer questions from their own watchdog – which she said the federation encouraged.

Plebgate is probably the only one that was relevant to the Conference, the others just a bit of Bobby Bashing.

The police must change

“I can already hear some of you say, “but the opinion polls show confidence in the police hasn’t changed.” And that is indeed true. The opinion polls show consistently that about two thirds of the public trust the police to tell the truth. But that is no reason to rest on our laurels, because we should never accept a situation in which a third of people do not trust police officers to tell the truth.”

The Fed must change too

“I do not want to have to impose change on you, because I want you to show the public that you want to change. I want you to show them that you have the best interests of the police and of the public at heart. But make no mistake. If you do not make significant progress towards the implementation of the Normington reforms, if the Federation does not start to turn itself around, you must not be under the impression that the government will let things remain as they are.

The Federation was created by an Act of Parliament and it can be reformed by an Act of Parliament. If you do not change of your own accord, we will impose change on you.”

The Government must also change

Nope, never heard her say that.  The public trust politicians far less than they trust the Police but apparently they don’t need to change

This Government has already demonstrated that it is perfectly willing to change laws in order to get its own way, it has already done so on numerous occasions, making unlawful policies lawful by changing the Law.  Arrogant, childish and BULLYING in my opinion.

So all in all I’m glad I didn’t risk the integrity of my TV/Computer by watching her speech live, but now we know what colour Anger is, most definitely BLUE.

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A Very Peculiar Practice

In the early hours of this morning I read that the nice Andrew Mitchell MP  has ‘challenged’ Sir Bernard Hogan-Who to release all of the #Plebgate evidence into the public domain.

According to an article in today’s Torygraph Mitchell has written to BHH and told Sir Bernard that he must publish transcripts and records from the Met’s private hearings relating to the officers involved in the Plebgate row.

It is claimed in this Torygraph article that nice Mr Mitchell has been allowed to attend the private disciplinary hearings, and take notes of the evidence heard there.  WTF?

Following the end of the hearings, Mr Mitchell wrote to Sir Bernard challenging him to release full transcripts of all the hearings.

In his letter, Mr Mitchell said that he had heard evidence in the hearings that should be put in the public domain, including that the Met’s own investigation had established that: “one of the PCs who obstructed my exit from Downing Street on 19th September 2012 was texting [their] involvement in the affair as it became public (21st September 2012) and claiming “I can topple the Tory Government”, and that the hearings had produced evidence of exchanges between officers suggesting that they were “colluding with the Police Federation to fan the flames for political reasons”.

Mr Mitchell included in his letter  “While I wish to say that the way these hearings were run was undoubtedly fair and proper I am deeply concerned that they were held in private and were not open to public and journalistic scrutiny”, and, “I am deeply concerned that if any of the information is withheld, and any hint of a cover-up is left in the public mind, a signal will be sent that the police can get away with doing this to people who would have no chance to fight back and public confidence will be yet further undermined.”

Serious allegations Mr M, very serious indeed.

I’m not privileged to those hearings,I have no idea if Mr Mitchell’s claims float or not, but what the f*** was he doing there?  When did it become acceptable practice to have a serving (tarnished) MP sit in on Disciplinary hearings that he was involved in?

More to the point, when did it become even vaguely acceptable to have ANYBODY sit in on a Disciplinary hearing that is embroiled in unresolved legal proceedings concerning the very same issue?

‘Private Disciplinary Hearings’, there’s a clue there, PRIVATE (except to the privileged few)

I do hope that PFEW will challenge this when they’ve finished their conference.  I’m sure that the release of this new twist was entirely coincidental and NOT aimed to coincide with Conference, Mitchell wouldn’t do that, would he?

In the meantime I shall leave you with this;

 

TJF FUBAR

 

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