Complaints, Discipline and Social Media – How Big Is The Problem?

There have been a few high-profile cases recently of officers falling foul of their Force Policies on Social Media and incurring the displeasure of PSD/DPS.  The ones that come most readily to mind are Newquay Sarge, Gary Watts, James Patrick and Tony Ryan, although in the case of the last all does not appear to be clear, RYAN was sacked by his Force for being @TheBritishCop, but he maintains it wasn’t him and that the wrong person has been sacked.

So I thought I would try to find out just how big a problem Social Media was in the world of Policing.

I sent the following Freedom of Information request to 7 jForces, of varying sizes and nature;

 

Can you please tell me, for the year 1st April 2013 to 31st March
2014, what percentage of your total Complaints or Internal
Misconduct proceedings related to the usage/misuse or abuse of
Social Media including, but not limited to, Twitter, Facebook,
Snapchat and Instagram?

Of these, how many resulted in the ‘accused’ person being dismissed
or required to resign?

Some Forces had problems working out the percentages and could only tell me total numbers and left me to work out percentages myself.  No problem, I can do that, even if they can’t (or maybe won’t).

The first to reply was South Yorkshire Police; the response to both questions was NIL.

Next came West Mercia, who provided as much information as I had hoped and asked for, just couldn’t work out the percentages.

For the year 1st April 2013 to 31st March 2014,
1. How many complaints and Internal Misconduct proceedings did you have.

REPLY:
Complaint cases – 546
Conduct cases – 91

2.How many of these Complaints or Internal Misconduct proceedings related
to the usage/misuse or abuse of Social Media including, but not limited
to, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram?

REPLY:
Complaint cases – 2  (0.4%)
Conduct cases – 7 (7.7%)

3. Of these, how many resulted in the ‘accused’ person being dismissed or
required to resign?

REPLY:
Complaint cases – 0 (0%)
Conduct cases – 1 (14.3%)

 

So, out of 637 Discipline and Misconduct matters only 9 in total involved the use and abuse of Social Media, and only one of those was bad enough to warrant Dismissal as a result.

Third to respond was amazingly Devon and Cornwall, home of Newquay Sarge and Gary Watts.  I expected them to find a reason not to respond to be honest, but respond they did, giving me all the information I asked for, although they don’t do percentages either.

They decided to refer me to an HMIC document showing that they had 359 Complaints per 1,000 employees in the year in question, a figure which I find astoundingly high, and way above the National Average (251) apparently. Last time I looked Devon and Cornwall had 3,096 Police Officers, 1,516 Police Staff, and 382 PCSOs.  Now I make that a total of 4,994, but I’ll call that 5,000. So that means that they presumably recorded 359×5,000=1,793 Complaints.

Additionally there were 28 Misconduct  matters during that time.

3 out of the 1,793 (0.15%) Complaints related to Social Media, and 1 out of the 28 (3.6%) Misconduct Matters

NONE of these 4 cases resulted in a Dismissal or a Required to Resign Finding.

Next to respond was Greater Manchester Police.  They reported a total of 2,155 Complaints or Disciplinary matters in the relevant time-scale.  Of these 22 (1%) were in relation to use and abuse of Social Media or Networking sites.  None of the 22 Complaints above resulted in a Dismissal or the officer being Required to Resign.

Next to weigh in with their response was Dorset, who gave me a very brief response, but told me all that I wanted to know.  0.2% of their Complaints and Discipline matters had related to the use or abuse of Social Media and NONE had resulted in an officer being dismissed or Required To Resign.

Dyfed Powys informed me that Use or Abuse of Social Media had taken up 3 out of 36 (8.3%) of Internal Conduct Matters and 2 out of 579 (0.35%) of Complaints.  Once again, no officers had been dismissed or Required to Resign during that period for abusing Social Media.

Unsurprisingly the Met were absolutely last to reply, granting themselves a unilateral extension on the time limits that are proscribed by law, but while I’m waiting they have sent me some interesting figures from previous years.

This table will show police officers who have been the subject of a conduct matter allegation involving misuse of social networking, by year and by rank.

Financial Year

Allegation Category

DC

INS

PC

PS

MSC

Total

10/11

Oppressive Behaviour

 

 

  3

 

  1

  4

 

Discrimination

 

 

  1

  1

  1

  3

 

Failures in Duty

  1

 

  5

  1

 

  7

 

Incivility

 

 

  1

 

 

  1

 

Other

 

 

  1

 

 

  1

10/11 Total

 

  1

 

 11

  2

  2

 16

11/12

Oppressive Behaviour

 

 

  2

 

 

  2

 

Failures in Duty

  1

  1

  7

  1

 

 10

 

Incivility

 

 

  8

 

 

  8

 

Other

 

 

  5

 

 

  5

11/12 Total

 

  1

  1

 22

  1

 

 25

12/13

Oppressive Behaviour

 

 

  2

 

  2

  4

 

Failures in Duty

 

 

  3

 

  3

  6

 

Incivility

 

 

  3

 

  1

  4

 

Other

 

 

  3

 

  2

  5

12/13 Total

 

 

 

 11

 

  8

 19

Grand Total

 

  2

  1

 44

  3

 10

 60

The following table will show the outcome of the 60 conduct matter allegations relating to misuse of social networking.

Write Off Result

 Write Off Method

10/11

11/12

12/13

Grand Total

Substantiated

Meeting/Hearing

7

10

2

19

 

Management Action

1

1

1

3

 

No Action

0

0

1

1

 

Retired/Resigned

 

3

2

5

Substantiated Total

8

14

6

28

Discontinuance / Not Informed

2

1

1

4

Unsubstantiated

6

9

7

22

Ongoing

 

1

5

6

Grand Total

16

25

19

60

 

The following table will show the outcome of the 19 police officers/special constables where the allegation was substantiated and they then attended a Meeting/Hearing. The allegations against the 19 officers were proven.

Outcome

10/11

11/12

12/13

Grand Total

Dismissal Without Notice

2

 

 

2

Final Written Warning

 

2

 

2

First Written Warning

4

4

2

10

Management Advice

1

4

 

5

Grand Total

7

10

2

19

 

The following table will show Police Staff who have been the subject of a conduct matter allegation involving misuse of social networking, by year and by grade. These cases all concluded in the financial year recorded and none are pending disciplinary investigation or action.

Proceedings concluded 2010/11 financial year: three cases (relating to three individuals)

Band

Type of Social Media

Reason for Action

Case Result

Sanction

Band E

Social media type not specified.

Misconduct –

Discreditable Conduct.

Allegation substantiated.

Final Written Warning With Management Action.

PCSO

Facebook.

Gross Misconduct –

Duties and Responsibilities.

Allegation substantiated.

Dismiss Without Notice.

PCSO

Facebook.

Gross Misconduct –

Discreditable Conduct.

Allegation substantiated.

Formal Reprimand.

Proceedings concluded 2011/12 financial year: four cases (relating to four individuals)

Band

Type of Social Media

Reason for Action

Case Result

Sanction

PCSO

Social media type not specified.

Misconduct –

Discreditable Conduct.

Allegation substantiated.

Apply or Reinstate Stage Two Warning.

PCSO

Facebook.

Misconduct –

Discreditable Conduct.

Allegation substantiated.

Final Written Warning With Management Action.

Band E

Social media type not specified.

Misconduct –

Discreditable Conduct.

Allegation substantiated.

Final Written Warning With Management Action.

Band E

Twitter.

Misconduct –

Discreditable Conduct.

Allegation substantiated.

First Written Warning.

Proceedings concluded 2012/13 financial year: two cases (relating to two individuals)

Type of Social Media

Reason for Action

Case Result

Sanction

Facebook.

Gross Misconduct –

Honesty and Integrity.

Allegation substantiated.

Dismiss Without Notice.

Facebook.

Misconduct –

Duties and Responsibilities.

Allegation substantiated.

Final Written Warning With Management Action.

The following table will show officers and police staff who are subject of a public complaint allegation involving misuse of social networking, by year and by rank. The category of police staff will include Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs)

 

Staff Type/Rank

F Year

Alleg Category

Other

Police

Staff

DC

PC

MSC

(SPECIAL)

Total

10/11

Failures in Duty

 

 

2

 

2

10/11 Total

 

 

 

2

 

2

11/12

Incivility

 

 

1

 

1

 

Other

1

 

 

 

1

11/12 Total

 

1

 

1

 

2

12/13

Oppressive Behaviour

 

 

2

 

2

 

Incivility

1

1

1

1

4

 

Other

 

 

1

 

1

12/13 Total

 

1

1

4

1

7

Grand Total

 

2

1

7

1

11

The following table will show the outcome of the 2 public complaint allegations against police staff, relating to misuse of social networking .

Write Off Result

 Write Off Method

10/11

11/12

12/13

Grand Total

Case to Answer

Meeting/Hearing

 

1

 

1

Local Resolution

Management Action

 

 

1

1

Grand Total

 

 

1

1

2

The following table will show the outcome of the 9 public complaint allegations against police officers, relating to misuse of social networking .

Write Off Result

 Write Off Method

10/11

11/12

12/13

Grand Total

Case to Answer

Management Action

 

 

1

1

Local Resolution

No Action

1

1

 

2

No Case to Answer

No Action

1

 

5

6

Grand Total

 

2

1

6

9

k

So, while we are waiting, it seems that none of the officers were subject of complaints made by a member of the public, and not very many needed to be sacked.

Well, they eventually replied by way of giving me 6 tables for 2013/14;

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So there, my faithful reader, we have it. Hardly a major problem in the greater scheme of things, and not too many, hardly any at all really, sacked for Twatting or Farcebooking. The number of complaints initiated by members of the Public almost nil, I suppose we should not be surprised that the Met leads the way. They are by far the biggest Force, and they have recently highlighted their attitude to Social Media quite unequivocally.

Two or three of our friends have suffered grievously at the hands of an over-exuberant Professional Standards Dept. The stats don’t seem to support their paranoia. It doesn’t seem to be the problem it was made out to be. But let’s be careful out there just the same.

#Justice4PCPatrick–The Update

As many of you will know Friday saw a small campaign launched, designed to raise the profile of James Patrick’s concerns about his treatment by the Met.

Within a very short space of time I managed to rustle up 50+ retired or former Met Police officers, all of whom were concerned about James’ treatment to stand up and be counted and append their names to an open letter which was sent to the media and assorted politicians. 50+ people who, a few days ago, didn’t know James or weren’t necessarily familiar with the full details of his case.

I know she’s going to kill me for this, but I really must (and want to) thank Sharon Birch for stepping in and volunteering to draft the letter, collate the addresses to send it to, send it off and monitor any replies.  She did a fantastic job and I probably couldn’t have done it without her.  Although I’ve only ‘known’ her a few days now I think I will quite happily call her ‘friend’.

Anyway, the disappointing bit is that, at the time of writing, not one of the news agencies has picked it up and run a story on it, not even James’ local rag or national papers that have shown an interest previously.  I don’t know why, maybe there were too many other more important news items to justify them publishing it. Who knows? Is it just a little bit sinister that not one of them showed any interest?

But there was some good news.  Through the strenuous efforts of a friend contact was made with Baroness Jenny Jones who picked up on it and she’s going to write/talk to Boris about James’ case and she publicly described the Met’s stance as perverse and biased. She also managed to get confirmation from the Met Fed that they will be funding his Discipline Hearing if it goes ahead, and she then put out a Tweet asking for any HR lawyers who might be willing to advise or act for James at his Tribunal. Not free of charge yet, but it’s a start.

Whether it be from Jenny Jones or our other activities some lawyers have come forward and other folk have contacted us to give us details of lawyers who might be able to assist.  This information has all been passed on to James.

My final update for today concerns donations. I’m not going to beat you round the head, doing a Geldof, I’m just going to mention one kind donor, a member of the public,  on Friday.  The identity of that person will remain confidential as will the amount, what is noteworthy is the message that came with it (yes I have got the donor’s written consent in triplicate to include it);

Hi there, massive apologies for not replying sooner. I’ve just read Alan’s blog and wanted to let you know that as much as I respect James’ wishes to not benefit by blowing the whistle, I don’t see why he and his family should be punished for it either. I want the money I have donated to go to James, to be used in any way he needs, whether that’s going towards his mortgage, food, bills, studies, fags, I don’t care. His honesty, for the sake of us the public, has cost him his job and his treatment at the hands of the MPS has been shameful. Please assure him I want him to use the money for him and his family, I give it freely to them with my undying gratitude and respect.”

I have already thanked that donor individually and it is not my intention to embarrass them, just to highlight the fantastic attitude that exists in certain quarters.

If you are reading this and you are a retired Met officer who has not already added your name and you would like to, please get in touch and we’ll add your name to any future mailshots that we might do. Nothing specific is planned at the moment but who knows what the Met might do next that we’ll want to write about. 50 is a good number but there are THOUSANDS of us out there, come and join us, or spread the word.  We are also grateful for any support from Constabulary officers, but for obvious reasons the emphasis must be on retired.

I think it is quite inconceivable that the Met SMT wouldn’t have heard about what was happening on Friday, and I’m not saying that they should have been quaking in their boots, but even Bernie the Ostrich cannot deny that there is growing support out there from people who’ve been there. done it, walked the walk, and KNOW what has been happening.  There is also incredible support from some politicians and MANY members of the public. And we don’t like the attitude that the Met is showing to one of it’s own. Sadly this seems to be the SOP now for dealing with anyone who challenges the organisation.

It needs to end.

Social Media Is Not Without Its Risks

The dust hasn’t even settled on the James Patrick situation.  We haven’t heard the last of that yet

Now we have another absolute travesty of justice (justice?) or so it would seem.

It seems as though the wrong man has been sacked for being a Twitter user.

I’m not familiar with either of the Account Holders, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored.

If the blog STOP STIGMA is to be believed, an Avon and Somerset Police Officer has been sacked for being Twitter User @TheBritishCop.

I don’t know the true identity of either person, nor if they are even known to each other, but I suspect not.

The full story, together with various links, can be found on the above blog.  The main problem, however, is that the Professional Standards Department of Avon and Somerset Police have allegedly conducted a disciplinary hearing and ignored the fact that the officer was not the correct one.

The head of A&S Professional Standards has allegedly been in communication with @TheBritishCop (who maintains that he is NEITHER this officer, nor even a member of Avon and Somerset Constabulary, but has for some reason omitted this vital piece of information from the disciplinary files.

If this is true then this is clearly an unacceptable situation.  Professional Standards Departments should behave in exactly that manner – PROFESSIONALLY.  They do nothing for the confidence of public or their officers if they, themselves, deviate from the straight and narrow.

Then today I find myself contacted by an officer from the Western bit of the UK who tells me that he’s under investigation AGAIN for his use of Twitter.  I have no idea what the specific issue is there but it’s making a bit of a nonsense of Police use of Twitter & other Social Media.  To be effective (in my opinion) a Twitter/SM account needs to be balanced between humourous and professional. If it’s too dry and stuffy people will disengage, but neither should it be discreditable in any way.

The Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police recently made much of his Force being awarded a Gold Award by Investors in People.  How does that fit with (allegedly) sacking the wrong person.  Sacking has huge repercussions for the person being sacked, even when it’s the right person.  Imagine the effect if/when it’s the wrong person.

I implore Avon and Somerset to either justify their actions and convince us that they’ve actually disciplined and sacked the right person, or re-examine this case as a matter of urgency.  One way or the other it can’t be left hanging there, and public confidence needs to be restored before too much damage is caused. It’s out there, there’s nothing you can do about that.

Finally, I do think there’s a moral obligation on @TheBritishCop to put this right, but I also understand how he/she probably fears the same fate awaits him/her if reported to his/her Force, assuming he/she really is a cop.

Listen Vairy Carefully…….I Wheel Say Thees Only Wernce

There have been those recently on Twatter who have challenged me, questioning my attitudes towards corruption and wrongdoing, particularly within the Police Service.

Those of you who have read my blogs recently should be familiar with my opinion.  Those of you who know me personally, in the real world, know exactly what my views are.  If you don’t know me but would like to get know my views over a sociable cup of coffee (latte please, no sugar) I’m here, not hiding, come and talk to me.  I do not hide behind an anonymous Twatter account like some of my critics do, so come and talk to me.

If you don’t like what I write, don’t read it, simples.

If you don’t like the tone of my Tweets, Unfollow, Block or Mute me, simples.

I have had far more experience of corruption and wrongdoing than the majority of my critics and I make no apology whatsoever for the fact that I see no reason at all why Police Officers should be subject to a lower level of proof than the General Public.  Why on earth should there be a two tier system?

Look at my bio, I was a Forensic Auditor after I left the Met. Look and see what a Forensic Auditor’s job involves (not to be confused with Forensic Accountant, a totally different job and they earn shed loads of money).  “An examination and evaluation of a firm’s or individual’s financial information for use as evidence in court. A forensic audit can be conducted in order to prosecute a party for fraud, embezzlement or other financial claims. In addition, an audit may be conducted to determine negligence” or corruption or wrongdoing/malpractice.

There’s also the thorny subject of EVIDENCE.  If Evidence exists people tend to get charged or summonsed or disciplined.  If insufficient evidence exists then it doesn’t reach the Threshold Standard and stops there, just the same as it would for you or your favourite aunt. But if the evidence is there then I fully support pursuing the offender and subjecting them to the appropriate process of the law, there should be NO favouritism pro or anti Police.

I do hope that’s cleared things up a little.  If it hasn’t, BLOCK OR BE BLOCKED, your choice, rant over.

And the Melton Mowbray For 2014 Is Awarded To……The Met

I don’t have many proud days in my life, but 3rd July 1972 was one of them, I joined the Met.  16 weeks later I passed out of Henditz Training School and that was another.  In 1995 I was presented with my Long Service and Good Conduct Medal by the Commish (it should have been 1994 but the Commish’s Researcher got the dates muddled up and the whole of my intake got our medals a year late), finally in 2002 I was not only presented with my Exemplary Service Certificate but my OCU Commander had actually had it framed for me.

They were all proud days.  There have been a few others along the way, but they’re the ones I value the most.

Fast Forward, it is now 2014 and I’m ashamed to admit that I was ever in the Met.

I haven’t got the foggiest idea what my mother, wife and children think I got up to for 30 years.  Comments from Mrs Angry suggest that she believes at least some of the vitriol that abounds at the moment, but then she is a Daily Fail reader, so I suppose I should understand that.

I am not blind, naive or stupid. I know that some bad things happened.  I do not condone them, excuse them or possibly even forgive them, but I do know the scale of these wrongdoings.  One of the Commissioners bravely (?) put a figure of 250 on the number of corrupt officers in the Met.  Was he right?  I’m not completely certain, personally I would say it was less than that, but 250 out of, let’s say, 35,000 at that time.

Less than 1%

Is that too many?  Of course it is.  Put into context (I hope, but I know that some will disagree with me), what percentage of the population at large has a criminal record, or criminal inclinations?  The most recent answer to this that I could find was ;

It is estimated that at least twenty percent of the working population has a criminal record and one in three men under 30 have criminal convictions

Much, much higher than 1%.

I then came to actually be ashamed of the Metropolitan Police Service itself, as I gradually learnt more ‘stuff’ that serving officers might not necessarily get involved in, for obvious reasons..

Here are just a few examples of the MPS Arcade of Shame.

PC Keith Wallis – lied in an attempt to discredit Andrew Mitchell in the #Plebgate saga.  The long-term effect that has had is that people remember the lies and Andrew Mitchell has gained support as a result of what was seen as his unfair and vindictive treatment at the hands of the Metropolitan Police.  It was all one big conspiracy against him.  Well hopefully the full truth will come out during the Libel actions.  I do not condone the actions of Keith Wallis, not for one second, but neither do I believe that we have heard the full, true, account of what happened from Mr Mitchell.  Time will tell.

The presentation by Tessa Munt MP – I won’t labour this, I blogged about it here, but it appears that the main witness (a Police Officer) allegedly, maybe, possibly lied on oath, or was mistaken, 25 times during his prosecution evidence.  Just as worrying (or maybe even more worrying really) Ms Munt alleged this about the MPS itself

“The MPS also tampered with personnel or staff records to produce false records for the six TSG officers. In 2013, as part of disclosure in part 20 proceedings, it came to the six TSG officers’ attention that their staff records had been tampered with. In March 2010, following their acquittal by unanimous verdict at the trial at Kingston Crown court, they were told that no internal disciplinary sanctions or actions were to be brought against any of them. They have discovered, some six years later, that a false account has been created for each of them on their personnel records, illustrating that a finding of guilt was made against each of them, that “words of advice” were given to each of them in 2009 and that the complaint was substantiated.”

If this allegation is true I would suggest that it has not been achieved without some Management involvement somewhere along the line. Or maybe it simply just isn’t true.

The Ellison Report – An enquiry into allegations of corruption and other matters pertaining to the Steven Lawrence Murder Investigation.  It appears that the Met DPS did not disclose information/evidence/intelligence  that they held when all such information had been requested. Moreover in 2003 a Mass Shredding of documents pertaining to corruption within the Met allegedly took place, with no other copies supposedly available.

The Daniel Morgan Murder – Like Steven Lawrence another MPS murder investigation littered with allegations of Police Corruption and the family insisting that successive senior officers from the Met have lied to them rather than admit to corruption being a problem.  I have to say I don’t know the truthful answer, but these allegations refuse to go away and the victim’s family and the population at large deserve to hear the truth, whatever that truth may be.

James Patrick – Three strands to this one.  Firstly I asked them how much the Discipline Enquiry had cost so far, you’ll find that story here if you haven’t read it yet.  The Met answered my Freedom of Information request by saying that they couldn’t answer it because they do not routinely cost individual enquiries.  I appealed, questioned the response and got the same answer back again.  Now I have to say that when I retired in 2002 all enquiries/investigations/operations were allocated a cost code amongst other reasons in order that Management could keep tabs of the costs and decide  whether or not it was getting more expensive than it was worth.  I have spoken with officers still serving who have told me that the situation is even worse now and one has to account for absolutely everything.  In addition the Met is able to put a cost to the #Plebgate investigation and the Madeleine McCann investigation, so why not the James Patrick investigation?

Secondly we have this that James included in his blog on 24th March;

“Throughout the misconduct process it has been denied that there were any senior level discussions about me, or policy deficiencies relevant to my case. It was discovered on the 19th of March 2014 that significant material does indeed exist. On discovering this, and immediately serving it on the misconduct meeting Chair, the reaction from the MPS has been aggressive; implying that I am the person whose integrity is in question for trying to discover the truth, and threatening me with potential discipline for defending myself.”

More lying/prevarication or Fudging, but certainly not the truth it would appear.

If we go back right to the very beginning James was disciplined for Gross Misconduct – selling a book of his blogs.  An external Force (Warwickshire I believe it was) conducted a review and determined that the case amounted to no more than simple Misconduct, James was no longer facing the sack, and his Discipline Panel would be chaired by an Inspector, not a Commander.  Much different.

Finally, James discovered that a document existed that informed DPS that no policy actually existed on the writing of blogs or books by MPS officers.  Furthermore the Director of Legal Services advised that the MPS could not prevent MPS staff from writing blogs/books merely because the content was embarrassing to the MPS.  So how is that Misconduct or Gross Misconduct?  DPS knows this now but is still continuing to discipline PC Patrick. How is that ethical?

The single word ‘Vindictive’ keeps going round in my head and I can’t make it go away.

One final thought on James:-  He has tendered his resignation, presumably the Met have accepted it.  As the proceedings against him have been downgraded to Misconduct, meaning the worst that can happen to him is a written warning, why have they not saved everybody the bother and expense and just discontinued the proceedings?  Vengeance Is Mine sayeth BHH.

Gagging Orders – Finally, last year I had reason to ask the Met about so-called Gagging Orders.  One of the questions I asked them was this;

2) How many senior officers in the Met, current or resigned/retired above
the rank of Chief Inspector are currently subject to such, similar,
‘Gagging Orders’ or similar agreements?
NB ‘Gagging Order’ any agreement voluntary or imposed by a Court not to
divulge the terms of any settlement etc.
For the avoidance of doubt I am specifically NOT requesting names or
circumstances, just a total number, broken down by rank if that is
possible.

The answer I got back was this;

Firstly:- Q2) Could you please clarify the term ‘Gagging Order’?

Then subsequently it looked like this;

Q2:  The Metropolitan Police Service neither confirms nor denies that it
holds the information you requested as the duty in Section 1(1)(a) of the
Act does not apply by virtue of the following exemption: Section 40(5) –
Personal Information / Absolute Exemption

A Freedom of Information Act request is not a private transaction. Both
the request itself and any information disclosed, are considered suitable
for open publication.

This is because under Freedom of Information any information disclosed is
released into the wider public domain, effectively to the world, not just to an individual. To confirm or deny whether personal information exists in response to your request could publicly reveal information about an individual or individuals, thereby breaching the right to privacy afforded to persons under the Data Protection Act 1998. When confirming or denying that information is held would breach an individual’s rights under the Data Protection Act 1998, Section 40(5) becomes an absolute exemption, and there is no requirement for me to provide evidence of the prejudice that would occur, or to conduct a public interest test.

Why not? What have they got to hide? Something going on or a simple denial would do the job.

I haven’t got enough years left in me to back through all of the Met’s Freedom of Information requests (between 2005 – 2010 there are over 730 PAGES of requests), but I have looked at a few, and it does seem that they either don’t answer many or sometimes don’t appear to provide a wholly accurate answer.  It is for all of the above reasons that I give them the Melton Mowbray for 2014.

Of course, if you, my reader, can think of any more reasons why the Met would qualify for this year’s Melton Mowbray please add them to the ‘Comments’ section below.  I moderate almost anything that doesn’t advertise shoes and handbags.

What is going on in the Met today is tragic, but I honestly believe that it is not too late.  This organisation I was once a proud member of can rise again, but it needs to face the truth and the reality, only then can it rebuild into its rightful place as a world leader of Police FORCES.  It really is time to stop the lying, stop avoiding the questions you really don’t want to answer and rebuild the honest and ethical way. Every time Bernard the Ostrich denies the obvious, or claims to have no knowledge, just makes that day a little bit further away.

A Sad, Sad Day

A sad day for James Patrick, his family and friends. A sad day for democracy and fairness.  A SAD DAY FOR THE TRUTH.

James, you a good, brave man and I publicly salute you. The Met is losing a true champion.

So James wrote some blogs. So what?  He amalgamated those blogs into a book that he published at his own expense. So what?  He went on to sell a few copies of the book and gave the proceeds to a Police Charity. So what? He told the world about Crime Stats being fudged. So what?

A document disclosed as a result of an FOI request reveals that the Met didn’t even have a policy to deal with serving officers who wrote blogs and books. So how the hell can they deem that to be Gross Misconduct?  An interesting concept what?

In my opinion (and that of many others) James didn’t write anything in his blogs that wasn’t the truth.  I didn’t always agree with the way he worded some things, but that doesn’t matter. He’s perfectly entitled to word things how he wants. Did he fib? No, I don’t believe he did.

He told the world about Crime Stats. Did he fib?  Again, no I don’t believe he did. I can only speak for the Met but it’s been going on for decades.  Way back in the 90s the Met conducted monthly (I think it was once per month) Ethical Audits of CRIS, the computerised Crime-Recording system.  Why would they do that if they believed that all was hunky dory?  Even Bernard Hogan-Who agreed that there was a truth that needed to be heard.

The Met is in turmoil. It needs people like James to help them get out of this self-induced mire that are sinking into.  James may ‘only’ be a Constable (no disrespect intended James) but ethics and an analytical brain like his are what the Job needs not some Direct Entry Superintendent from Aldi or Lidl telling everyone how they should be Policing.

We are currently just past the middle of March.  How many times have the Met shot themselves in the foot this year already?

We have heard about a mass shredding of information in 2003 that has only just surfaced.

We have heard about the 6 TSG officers and how they were treated by the Met DPS

We are hearing about the Lawrence murder investigation, the Daniel Morgan murder investigation and how corrupt cops might have influenced those enquiries.

Undercover cops, a necessary part of policing, but did they act unethically?  Whether they did or didn’t the Met is reeling from it.

All of these horror stories and what do the Met do? They persecute the one person displaying ethical qualities, that’s what they do. An easy target, this corruption business is way too difficult, put it back into the Too Difficult Box.

The saga of James Patrick is told admirably in his latest blog (how apt).

I tried to find out how much this sorry saga had cost the public but the Met tried to tell me that they didn’t know because they don’t record that information.  I don’t believe them, they know I don’t believe them and I have passed my concerns on to the Information Commissioner to investigate, and meanwhile submitted two more requests about this sorry tale.

So, to sum up, it’s Monday morning, the Met has apparently bullied its greatest champion for years into submission.  The Disciplinary Investigation continues because James is too honourable to resign before it concludes.  Some time ago, someone pointed the finger at James, and his like, implying that they may be Organisational Terrorists, a brutal term in any occupation, and not one that should EVER be laid at the feet of a Whistleblower.  Who are the Organisational Terrorists now?

James, you are indeed an honourable man, you certainly don’t deserve to have been treated the way you have, and if there is anything at all that I can do to help you in the final weeks and months of your career I certainly will, you know how to get hold of me.

There is also a swell of support for you and your plight within a certain Facebook group, whose name we may not mention.

Good luck, good health, I salute you.  A sad day for the Met and policing in general. The lunatics are most definitely running the asylum now.

It’s Been A Funny Old Week

Not that I’m laughing, it’s just that I can’t quite compare it to any other week, some good, some bad.

It started off on Monday with the promise that someone from the Dyfed Powys PCC’s office would phone me to discuss my disappointment at being ineligible to apply for a voluntary role with their force.  Well I waited and I waited, no phone call, so I gave up. Late on Tuesday afternoon my mobile sprang into life and lo and behold it was said PCC’s office.  I had previously voiced my disappointment at not being eligible to apply for a voluntary job as an Animal Lay Visitor (Police Dogs and Horses) on the grounds that I was a retired Police Officer.  After about 5 minutes of talking to this lady it became apparent that she was talking about a position on the Residents Panel. As I’m not a resident of Dyfed Powys it was sort of irrelevant to me, so I pointed out that she’s got the wrong job.  I pointed out to her that the job application pack stated that serving (understandable) and former Police Officers were not eligible to apply, and would not be appointed.  She explained to me that this was in order to assure the public of total Independence on the part of the Lay Visitor.  I then pointed out to her that the two Application packs for Residents Panel, and Lay Custody Visitor only excluded serving Police Officers (again understandable) and NOT former Police Officers. Surely Independence was as important re Custody Lay Visitors if not more so.  She assured me that this appeared to be a mistake and the Job Application Packs would have to be ‘tweaked’ to include former Police Officers as ineligible as well.  Needless to say by the time I got off the phone I was mighty peeved. I was actually quite offended that without seeing my CV, without the benefit of an interview, I had been stereotyped as someone who would not be seen as Independent, and presumably as being incapable of being Independent. Utilising the ancient art of rubbing salt into the wound they later recirculated the same job vacancies emphasising that they would like applications from Solicitors.  I gave up at that point and made a brew.

Then we had Mrs Theresa May’s decision/agreement not to introduce Compulsory Severance “for now“.  “I have decided to accept the Tribunal’s recommendation not to implement measures to introduce compulsory severance at this time.

“However, this remains a reform that I believe government and the police should continue to consider. I have written to the Police Negotiating Board (PNB) to explain my decision in further detail.”

Then she went on to kick the officers on Restricted Duties; the Tribunal accepted a varied definition on Winsor’s Recommendation 39 from the Official Side of the PNB. This means that officers who are unable to undertake “the full range of duties of a police officer” will be regarded as being on restricted duty.

As a result, officers on restricted duties who are not fully deployable after one year should face a pay cut of around £2,922.

But the good news is that it has been alleged that she has told Tom Winsor NOT to wear his ridiculous fancy dress outfit at the National Police Memorial Day events ever again. It remains to be seen if he he dusts it off and brings it out again for any other occasion.

Fast Forward to Friday night and a discussion about Advanced Drivers and Fast Cars.  I cannot believe what I was being told about what some Forces are doing in cutting back the number of Advanced Drivers (and cars) from their strengths.  One officer even told me that some Forces even have “No Pursuit Capability”.  What kind of nonsense is this?  I thought the Front Line was being Protected?  Is being an active Advanced Driver not Front Line Policing?  Skills will be lost, officers will be demotivated and the public will suffer. As somebody said to me last night, “it’s not about the toys, it’s about retaining skills” and hence the service to the public.  I intend to do some digging around numbers of Advanced Drivers and see what pops up.

Finally (mind you the week isn’t over yet) as I was trying to block out the noise of the wind and the rain and get some sleep, news came in that Mental Health Cop’s twitter account and Blog had been suspended, seemingly as part of an investigation by West Midlands Police about their use.  I haven’t seen every single Tweet or Blog he wrote so I can’t really comment with any authority, but the feedback coming in last night and this morning was that this was one of THE most informative and well-used Twitter accounts and blogs of them all. Serving Police Officers and Members of the Public alike hold them in high esteem, and he seems to be the “Go To Guy” for any Police related Mental Health issues.

Well, let’s see what next week holds shall we?

ADDENDUM

And I haven’t forgotten the topsy turvy world of PC James Patrick.  He was told this week that he no longer faces a charge of Gross Misconduct, ‘merely’ a charge of ‘simple’ Misconduct now.   In one way that’s good news, but it is a bit of a double-edged sword, and if you go right back to the very beginnings there remain some unanswered legal questions that make me doubt whether the Met DPS has lost its collective marbles. James knows my views and I won’t repeat them here, but it’s added to a really ‘odd’ week for us all.

How Do You Find James Patrick – Guilty or Not Guilty?

I do not know James Patrick in the traditional sense, we have never met.  We have exchanged views many times on Twitter however.

As many of you know he came to our notice with a video on YouTube called The Last Call To Attention.  It doesn’t matter what I think about this, over 14,000 have now viewed this video made by a serving officer who clearly has the utmost passion for the Police Service.

Further videos followed and then a series of blogs, at first collectively entitled “The Police Debating Directive”, and then succeeded by “The Candle Legacy”

A book was published entitled “The Rest Is Silence”. This book was nothing more than a collection of previously published blogs, nothing new. Nothing that hadn’t been seen previously. It is important to note that James did not receive a single penny in recompense for this book, all proceeds were donated to charity, Care Of Police Survivors, and that was always his stated intention.

After the book was published the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards took an interest and disciplinary proceedings followed. James found himself in the absolutely awful position of being investigated for Gross Misconduct, an allegation that could have a profound effect on his future career.

The allegations made against him were;

1. He has written and published a book about police service in contravention of MPS Policy.
2. Some of the contents of the book could be harmful to the reputation of the police service and adversely impact on public confidence.

I can’t comment on allegation 1 as I don’t know what MPS policy on this matter currently is, but I do not believe that he is the first serving Police Officer to have written a book about his/her experiences.

As far as allegation 2 is concerned I have now read this book cover-to-cover twice, and I can’t find anything in it whatsoever that would damage public confidence in the police service.

There is plenty in it that might damage public confidence in the government and other public AND private organisations but these are not James’ words.  He has merely circulated information which is already in the public domain and easily accessible to anyone who’s halfway decent in the use of Google (other search engines are also available. I honestly don’t believe that I read a single sentence that was not obtained from public domain material on the interweb.

So by collating and distributing this information does James (and I do mean James personally) damage public confidence in the police service? Or is any perceived damage caused by the authors of the documents and policies that James highlights? Personally I believe that it’s the latter, but you are obviously free to make up your own mind.

And finally, last week James appeared before the Public Administration Select Committee of Parliament chaired by Mr Bernard Jenkin, a Conservative MP.

I watched James give his evidence together with the other 3 witnesses in that session. If you haven’t already seen it, or you want to watch it again, you can find and follow it here

Personally I have a few minor issues with the manner in which James sometimes presented his evidence, but I can easily write that off to nerves.  I don’t have a single issue with WHAT he said however. He gave a full and frank statement to the committee not only highlighting what I, and numerous others, have known for years, but also things that I hadn’t previously known,  He then went on to explain how skewed crime statistics perversely influenced resource allocations across London. He was broadly supported by the three other witnesses in his session and the chairman ended up saying this “I would like to apologise on behalf of politicians of all parties”.  Mr Jenkin said politicians were responsible for “creating this atmosphere in which targets must be achieved”. He added: “I have no doubt political leadership has played a big part”.

And James Patrick still stands accused of “harming the reputation of the police service”.

A Met Commander whose name was immediately forgettable appeared on our TVs that night defending Met Crime Statistics, implying or stating that the 4 witnesses that morning had been wrong.

Only today, Policing Minister Damian Green said “Recorded crime has fallen by more than 10% since the government came to power and we have put in place long-term reforms to help the police continue that downward trend.

“We have stripped away targets and red tape to free police from desk-bound jobs; we have installed the National Crime Agency to take on organised crime; we have installed a College of Policing to professionalise policing; we have modernised outmoded pay and conditions; and we have introduced a newly-reinforced ethical framework to ensure police conduct is on an equal footing to cutting crime.”

Erm excuse me Mr Green, but aren’t those figures in severe doubt now? But you still rely on them to spout your propaganda.

Additionally much of what James told us about in his book “The Rest Is Silence” and his earlier blogs has now been endorsed by Lord Stevens, no less, in his report published today;

The review said the PCC model had “fatal systematic flaws” and “should be discontinued in its present form at the end of the term of office of the 41 serving PCCs.”

The review’s survey of officers had found that the government’s “failure to engage the service in the programme of reform” had led to a “damaging stand-off” and “plummeting morale”, Lord Stevens said.

Restrictions on the use of private companies such as G4S and Serco for policing functions

That is just some of it.

To return to the beginning, do I think that James Patrick has damaged public confidence in the Police Service? He has said many things that have made me wince, we have not always agreed on everything he has said or done, but when I strip that away I see a man who is totally dedicated to his profession/vocation. I have seen untold numbers of people on Twitter who have no direct connection with the Police Service supporting James for his stance. I don’t recall seeing anyone (apart from MPS management) condemning him. He has done nothing more than tell it like it is. Should we prevent our police officers from telling the truth? Do we want them to not tell tell the truth. Who would you trust more, someone who is demonstrably trying to get the truth across or someone who is endeavouring to fudge the issue?

Finally, unless someone can correct me, James has NEVER been instructed to remove his book from sale, or take down his blogs, thus permitting a continuance of the alleged offence.

I rest my case members of the “jury”.

Our Well-Respected Peers of the Realm

Is it just me who thinks that Peers of the Realm should be above reproach?  Should they not lead lives, personal and professional, devoid of controversy, ethical and moral. Upright citizens, a role model to us all?  Isn’t that how it should be? Except for Lord Prescott who is a roll model.

And then I saw this Tweet;

@TimesCrime  Lord Reid, former Home Sec, has joined the board of the crome and security consultancy @crestadvisory

I haven’t got a clue what crome refers to, but I know about Crest Advisory.

According to their own bio on Twitter;

Crest Advisory provides robust, independent advice to PCCs, criminal justice agencies, professionals and the security sector.

And that is the beginning of my problem.

Robust, independent advice to PCCs, that’s where it all starts to unravel in my tiny mind.

John Reid, Director, G4S Regional Management (UK & Ireland) Limited
John Reid, or Lord Reid of Cardowan, as he prefers to be known, joined G4S in 2009, having previously been Tony Blair’s Home Secretary and Secretaries of State for Health and Defence. The £50,000 a year it is giving the New Labour hard man quickly paid off for G4S as it landed a multi-million pound, four-year contract to supply private security guards for around 200 Ministry of Defence and military sites across the UK just three months after it took him on. Since then he has been diligent in ensuring the hi-tech security used by his employers is a feature of parliamentary debates whenever possible.

Also involved in G4S is one Lord Condon;

Paul Condon, Senior independent director, Non-executive director Ex-copper Condon, now Lord Condon to his friends, has earned his G4S stripes with the company’s move into policing. The former Chief Constable of Kent and Commissioner at the Metropolitan Police‘s advice and contact book will have been the subject of Buckles and co.’s attention recently. Condon has also worked at the British Security Industry Association and the International Cricket Council‘s anti-corruption unit. According to the G4S annual report, he has a “particular focus on the group’s involvement with sporting events” for the company. And if the potential for conflicts of interest weren’t already strong enough, in addition to the G4S grind, Condon currently spends his time as an advisory board member of Vidient Systems, a provider of “video analysis solutions for security, safety, and business intelligence applications” and is the Deputy Lord Lieutenant for Kent.

G4S earnings: £125,000 a year.
Shares: 2,000

So, what do you, my reader, reckon?  Are PCCs likely to get robust, independent advice from Crest Advisory?

Another, less well advertised, appointment to Crest Advisory was this one;

New Associate: Gordon Scobbie
May 3, 2013 Gavin Expert view, Policy insight, Profile raising (0)

We are delighted that Gordon Scobbie joins us as Associate today. Over the past few months clients have been asking us about how to use social media and technology to connect with the communities they serve. Gordon has joined us to bring the expertise we need to help clients make this connection. Gordon is an experienced leader and innovator with almost 33 years of experience in policing, criminal justice and partnership working.  He has a strong track record of delivering performance in operational and executive roles, supported by an academic background at Masters level and a career long commitment to continuous professional development. He has a passion for leadership, as well as a commitment to developing others through coaching, mentoring and acting as a supportive role model. He has been an innovator throughout his career, recently holding two national portfolios in policing at the executive level where innovation is pivotal to delivering successful outcomes.  Since 2009 Gordon has been the national police executive lead for social media and digital engagement as well as sitting on the ACPO ‘Policing Futures’ Board, with a particular focus on technology and innovation in policing.

Gordon Scobbie should be quite well known to most Twitter users reading this post.

Crest Advisory is the business of one Gavin Lockhart-Mirams.

Never heard of him? Neither had I.

Crest was established in 2011 by Gavin Lockhart-Mirams, who was a special adviser on home affairs to David Cameron in Downing Street for the first year of the Coalition government, though he was usually known then as plain Gavin Lockhart.

Before that, from 2009 to 2010,  Lockhart-Mirams was “the Conservative Party’s in-house expert responsible for supporting the development of the criminal justice reform programme”.

And further back, from 2006-2009, he worked for Policy Exchange, the think tank which was largely responsible for the PCC policy, where he was head of the Crime and Justice Unit.

From Policy Exchange to Conservative HQ, to Downing Street, and now private consultancy, all within four years.

I’ll ask again, Are PCCs likely to get robust, independent advice from Crest Advisory?  I have absolutely no idea. I hope they do, but fear that they might not. There are some very familiar names above, but not necessarily in the context we expect.

Room 101

Room 101 means many things to many people but normally it comes down to a choice of two common meanings;

1. Room 101 is a place introduced in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. It is a torture chamber in the Ministry of Love in which the Party attempts to subject a prisoner to his or her own worst nightmare, fear or phobia. The novel’s popularity has resulted in the term “Room 101” being used to represent a place where unpleasant things are done, like the Home Office perhaps?

2. Room 101 is a BBC comedy television series based on the radio series of the same name, in which celebrities are invited to discuss their pet hates and persuade the host to consign them to a fate worse than death in Room 101, named after the torture room in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, which is itself named after a meeting room in Broadcasting House where Orwell would sit through tedious meetings

I have to say that I quite like the TV show and was reminded of it recently by a conversation on Twitter.

So let’s play a quick game of Room 101;

“Contestant 1, what would you like to send to Room 101?”

“Police Reform. David Camoron told Theresa May who told Tom Winsor what Police Reform should look like. Tom Winsor then wrote two large books on the subject, changed absolutely everything that makes the British Police the finest in the world. Some of his research appears dubious at best, he wants officers to work longer, pay more into their pension schemes and get less out of them. He wants to be able to make them redundant but not give them the Right to Strike, for example. On top of all this he wants Inspectors and Superintendents to be ale to join the Police and take charge of their units without ever having been anywhere near a Police Force ever before. None of this makes any sense and for those reasons I want to send Police Reform to Room 101.”

“Thank you Contestant 1, now Contestant 2, what do you want to send to Room 101?”

“Thank you, Police and Crime Commissioners. What are they about? Do they work? Does anyone actually understand them and want one? They were imposed on the people by a draconian government with no explanation as to how they would work. No-one understood them, even fewer voted for them, yet we have them, how does that work? And then they all seem to appoint their chums as their ‘assistants’ at huge public expense, buy new offices, cars, chauffeurs and we’re no better off than we were with Police Authorities. For these reasons Police and Crime Commissioners should go into Room 101.”

“Thank you for that Contestant 2, a contender if ever I heard one, now Hello Contestant 3, what would you like to send into Room 101?”

“I’m obliged. I would like to send Social Media 101 into Room 101.”

“Why’s that?”

“Social Media 101 was the most recent, and last, event in a series of events organised by the College of Policing. It addressed the issue of use of Social Media and was apparently held at the Home Secretary’s fortress in London. It was organised by Nick Keane and sought to address the disparity between Forces in their Social Media policies (if they even exist). Several speakers came and went over the course of the day, some were presumably better than others, but what did the day recommend?  Where are the recommendations for our colleagues to follow? What has been decided. In my opinion a common policy covering ALL the forces in England and Wales which every single officer is aware of.  Publishing something in a few months time (or longer) is simply NOT GOOD ENOUGH. Our colleagues are dropping into the deep and murky stuff NOW. Not because they are flouting the rules but because it is as clear as fog what the rules are where. #Flumpy is alive and well, a potentially important opportunity has possibly been wasted, and for this reason I want Social Media 101 to be put into Room 101.”

“Well I’ve listened carefully and now I have to decide which, if any, of your suggestions will make it into Room 101. You’ve all made good arguments for your case, I couldn’t really disagree with any of them, and for this reason I will take the extraordinary step of allowing them ALL into Room 101. Thank you all and goodnight”