Sunday, 6 December 2009

Bureaucracy


I have just finished reading Jan Berry’s long awaited report on reducing bureaucracy in policing; all 120 pages of it. The report starts off with a strategic view of what is required to engender a culture of change within Government and policing circles. It then gives a few examples of where bureaucracy can be reduced. It finishes with a long list of recommendations from previous authors of similar reports that have yet to be implemented.

The language of the report is, I fear, not strong enough. I don’t get the feeling that Jan has the confidence that she has the ear of the right people at the Home Office to actually get some of this implemented and make a difference. I hope she does or this report is destined to gather dust somewhere like its predecessors.

I thought I would mention one piece of bureaucratic nonsense that affects the police every day and prevents us from doing the job we wish to be doing. If you are ever suffering from insomnia have a look at the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. (RIPA) On reading it the legislation is actually quite sensible and makes the police accountable for things like surveillance and getting information from phones. It requires the police to write down and justify why they are following/watching someone or why they require data from phones etc. This needs to be signed off by a senior officer, usually a superintendent. In non emergency situations it takes about a week and 6 to 10 hours of work to get these forms completed and authorised!

The problem is that with the legislation came a Quango called the surveillance commissioners. The legislation clearly talks about directed surveillance and obtaining private information about individuals. Risk averse police managers started asking the commissioners if they required forms completed in all sorts of other situations totally outside of the legislation. Risk averse, empire building commissioners of course said yes.

Years ago I can remember my sergeant sending me out to a local street because milk was being stolen off the doorsteps. I was told to stand in a doorway and see if I could catch the thief. The first morning I was there I did. More recently at a public meeting a resident asked me why the local police officer couldn’t stand behind a fence and catch the yobs damaging it on a Friday night. Very recently one of the local villages was suffering with burglaries. We had no idea who the suspects were but I sent my officers out in plain clothes to patrol the village and see if we could identify the suspects.

In the case of milk thefts and damaged fences this now requires a RIPA. Remember that is 6 to 10 hours work and a week to get it authorised. But it won’t be authorised because the crime is regarded as too trivial and so it is not considered proportionate for the police to be hidden in a street watching for an offender. What on earth is wrong with a uniformed copper standing in some shadows watching for offenders? The public expect us to do this but the interpretation of the legislation is tying our hands. In the case of the burglary problem the plain clothes patrols came to the attention of senior managers who immediately ordered that they stop until a RIPA was done. Targeting an area with plain clothed officers is apparently directed surveillance even though we have no idea who we are looking for. So 8 hours work and a week later we continue our plain clothed patrols.

The legislators never meant for this to happen. If we are following or watching a named person I understand the accountability and checks need to be in place. Standing in a street waiting to see who might be committing offences or patrolling an area because of crime are basic policing and should never require this bureaucratic nonsense.

The problems I have highlighted above have been brought to the attention of everyone up to and including the Home Secretary. No one seems to have the balls or determination to sort this mess out and tell the commissioners to stop this nonsense

14 comments:

  1. Good grief! The mind just boggles!

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  2. Hi,

    Bureaucracy interrupts police forces from discharging their duties impartially. When one decides to become a police officer he must be aware of all the rules and regulations to deal with the bureaucracy.

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  3. I do believe you're incorrect about those affairs being directed surveillance. As there is no identifiable target of your endevours, and private information about individuals is NOT being collected, then you wouldn't need a RIPA authority.

    IF, you suspected that a certain parishioner was up to tricks and you were lurking waiting for him to come out of his bijou residence for a days hard graft then that would require RIPA. Proactive policing does not.

    I believe the differentiation would be, "I was keeping out of sight to see if anyone would commit offences." versus "I was hiding so Mr Soandso wouldn't see me when he was about to break into the car because we know he's at it."

    We do have a tendancy to over insure ourselves from critcism but in the scenarios mentioned i really can't see the need for RIPA.

    But what do i know, i'm only a PC...

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  4. The criteria that need to exist before a RIPA authorisation for directed surveillance in a public place is required are: the observations are covert, they are being conducted for a specific investigation or operation and there is a likelihood of obtaining private information. If any of the preceding don’t exist then no authorisation is required. All very well and good if you are dealing with intrusive surveillance (bugging people’s homes and cars) but absolute madness when dealing with the issues in the post.

    Who can we thank for this madness? Our old friend, the Human Rights Act, of course. RIPA was introduced to ensure, primarily, that criminals’ rights of privacy weren’t violated. So, in order to protect Billy Burglar’s feelings, it takes 5 people in my Force several hours (or days) to compile an application and get it authorised by a Super to gain information through observations that anyone could obtain whilst in a public place. As far as I’m concerned one should have no expectation of privacy when in a public place. However, that applies logic and commonsense to the issue which, as all coppers know to their despair, is not synonymous with the law.

    The OSC ( and their sister organisation, the Telecoms inspection quango) must be a colossal bureaucracy as they inspect every organisation, not just Police, allowed to use RIPA authorisations in the UK. In my Force their comments/recommendations following inspection are now reduced to banal nitpicking to justify their existence. I feel an FoI coming on!

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  5. IMHO you do not not need a directed surveillance authority in the circumstances described as there is no likelihood of obtaining private information. The Office of the Surveillance Commissioner at one point stated that "any likelihood" of obtaining private information would be enough to require an authority, but they seem to have backed away from this recently.

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  6. Agree with you about Jan Berry. She has a real uphill struggle with this shower. The Govt have been assisted by Sir Hugh and his boys club members. He comes in for some deserved stick from us today.

    Off topic, so I apologise, but one of the most emotive subjects is Alan Johnsons proposals for overtime . . . What the f*** is he playing at?

    At a time when the public want to see more coppers, he shoots himself in the foot, scuppering chances of front line support.

    When senior police pay scales, expenses and benefits are revealed, who gets paid what and what they get bonuses for, the real scandal emerges and more suitable targets for reduction jump off the page. Hard-pressed taxpayers can only gasp at the lavish secret perks paid to senior police officers.

    Crime reduction forming the basis of bonus payments to Chief Officers has been engineered by the upper ranks of policing with Government encouragement. Police forces manipulate crime figures to give a false picture of their performance.

    So what has all this secret senior officer activity to do with cutting police overtime?

    Manipulation of crime statistics forms part of a conspiracy to deceive the public that crime is decreasing. The orchestrators are the Government and Home Office, aided and abetted by senior police officers, who are obscenely rewarded for their part in the plot.

    Front line officers are unable to untangle this web, despite protestations by many officers with an informed and accurate perspective at the public facing coal face.

    "Cooking the books" has reduced fiscal and human resources, with the public being deprived of the policing it deserves. Police funds have been milked and the “con” disguised after years of distraction strategies, making the task of policing so much more difficult to deliver.

    Senior officers are paid grossly disproportionate bonuses for perpetuating the deceit of crime reduction. The honour and distinction of achieving a high rank in public service has been replaced with greed, with a convenient blindness to the immorality of their actions.

    A national enquiry is needed to force the disclosure of these illicit inducements. Among the most disturbing are the revelations about the expenses of Sir Hugh Orde, the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers. The rot is embedded within the “root and branch” culture at the highest level.

    “Cooking the books” has grave consequences that are plain for all to see. The victims are the tax payer and the front line officer who is forced into silent acceptance of a job that has become enmeshed with bureaucracy, risk averse policing and fiddled crime figures. Who could blame officers that have no faith or respect for senior officers and politicians who orchestrate a criminal deception of the highest magnitude for personal gain, and then expect the staff on the ground to do their dirty work with no resistance?

    Alan Johnsons’ proposal for cutting frontline police overtime is not in the best public interest. A more appropriate target for savings surely lies within the senior officer pay structure. There is plenty of "fat" that should be cut from that source before even considering such an essential as operational police overtime. We've just completed an analysis that reveals 218 Chief Officers' basic pay totals £24million before the perks. Do the maths, the MP's scandal pales into insignificance by comparison.

    Crime statistics should be properly independent, removing responsibility for compiling and publishing crime figures from the Home Office, who clearly cannot be trusted to be truthful with the electorate and not to apply their political spin. The responsibility should be placed with the Office for National Statistics which is totally independent.

    If Mr Johnson was sincere in his desire to rebuild public confidence, he would lay off the operational overtime and focus on the fat cat ACPO chiefs who are raping the public purse beyond all sense of decency.

    I'm ranting again, humble apologies... LAY OFF THE OVERTIME JOHNSON!

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  7. Note: it's ACPO Ltd. ACPO is just a way for the government to fund the lifestyles of the Sirs and soon-to-be-Sirs in return for them saying that everything is just peachy keen, but we need more speed cameras.

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  8. If MP9000 is correct (and it seems to make sense) then why are all these forces (sorry, I'm old fashioned - I prefer to see Police Forces or Constabularies) running around like headless chickens doing the unnecessary paperwork?

    Badly drafted law?

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  9. I think many countries need a culture of Government and policing circles change because people are fed up of the same situations. Unfortunately, it is not likely to happen.

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