Checks and Balances.
Roles and Responsibilities.
The diagram below is a guide to some of the roles and responsibilities of the various individuals who play a part at different stages of the proceedings, together with the challenges they face; from the point a crime is recorded, through to being classified, quality checking detections and finally being included in performance measures and performance related bonusâ€™s.
Custody Sergeants. Responsible for the care and welfare of prisoners and evaluating the evidence for low-level offences e.g. drunk and disorderly.
Crime Management Unit Sergeants. Often responsible for ensuring crimes are recorded in accordance with HOCR but are sometimes influenced by the need to reduce certain crime types and increase detections.
As you will note from the generalised and simplified table above â€“ the police is a very hierarchical organisation â€“ and sometimes that is exactly what you need to ensure certain tasks are completed. However, you will also note that whilst there are a number of roles responsible for checking the quality of investigations â€“ and detections â€“ there may not be the appetite or capacity there should be.
Imagine this if you will; you are a Sergeant employed on a â€˜Crime Management Unitâ€™ â€“ or similar. Your role includes reviewing those crimes recorded by Constables. Whilst you want to â€˜do the right thingâ€™ and confirm that crimes are recorded correctly â€“ you are also aware that you are ambitious and want to be an Inspector. You will get no thanks for calling something a Burglary rather than Criminal Damage (because that will increase the numbers of priority crimes on your OCU) and you know that the people who sign off your promotion application are those who may receive a bonus for reducing priority crime and increasing detections â€“ they are the last people you want to upset! You are aware that nobody gets paid a bonus for producing information that is reliable but at the same time demonstrates a rise in crime and/or a drop in detections!
This really is a case of â€˜What gets measured â€“ gets done!â€™
Force Crime Registrars
All forces have a Force Crime Registrar (FCR). They can be either police officers or police staff (civilians) and are appointed by the Chief Officer to be responsible for the forceâ€™s application of the Home Office Counting Rules (HOCR) and the National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS).
Some FCRs conduct their own internal audits â€“ many will be available to you via FOIA requests â€“ either to the force or the Police and Crime Commissioner. They may reveal irregularities relating to the recording of crimes (see the Burglary/Criminal Damage example above) or the safety and sustainability of detections. What (if any) action is taken as a result of these findings is a matter for the Chief Officer. Given the implications that unsafe detections could have on your private life â€“ I would sincerely hope that those that are found to be unsafe are cancelled and the records adjusted accordingly â€“ although I know for a fact that this is rarely the case!
At a national level, forces were regularly inspected by the Audit Commission, Her Majestyâ€™s Inspectorate of Constabularies (HMIC) and the National Police Improvement Agency (NPIA) although only HMIC appear to currently perform that function. Their findings are shared with Chief Officers and the PCC. None of these bodies can prescribe how the force responds and so can provide no real guarantee that systems are put in place to remedy identified failings â€“ or more importantly â€“ that unreliable information is removed so that it cannot disadvantage you when disclosed to others.
Whilst the Home Office previously introduced the overall measure of â€˜Confidenceâ€™ to replace a myriad of other performance indicators â€“ many forces still have internal performance targets agreed between their ACPO team and their PCC. Some of these obviously relate to reducing crimes and increasing detections. If these are done ethically â€“ they can be useful indicators. The opposite is also true â€“ if they are not done ethically they provide a completely false picture of how well a force is performing and may unnecessarily criminalise large sections of the community.
The Public Administration Select Committee on Crime Statistics (Nov 2013) highlighted the lack of confidence in police recorded crime and the UK Statistics Authority withdrew its seal of approval.
Since then the HMIC have conducted their Crime Data Audit that examined the integrity of the systems & processes employed. It was a useful exercise, but curiously did not look under some potentially interesting stones; including those incidents that never manifested themselves as recorded crimes. I can only imagine that was an innocent oversight rather than a glaring error designed to prevent further embarassing the government furtherâ€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦.