Statistics are distorted by police

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A POLICE force has been caught distorting their crime figures by exaggerating the number of offences they solved while down-playing the total committed.

The Independent understands that Nottinghamshire Constabulary is to be censured for "cooking" their books following a police investigation. Some of the force's divisions have been bending rules to reduce the number of recorded crimes, particularly burglaries, attempted break-ins, car thefts and domestic violence, the inquiry found. This is believed to be the first time a force has been found to have exaggerated their crime fighting record.

In a separate development Nottinghamshire police are to be accused of discriminating against black officers. Black and Asian officers with the force say there is a 50 per cent chance of them being investigated or disciplined, in contrast to white officers have only a 5 per cent chance.

Bedfordshire Police, which discovered the distortion of crime figures, has urged the Home Office to introduce a uniform counting system.

The report, which was overseen by the Police Complaints Authority, found that in an attempt to improve Nottinghamshire's crime record - it has the second highest number of recorded crimes per head of population in Britain - it had bent the rules in some divisions.

This included recording a series of similar offences, such as burglaries along a row of houses, as one offence, and attempted house and vehicle break-ins as "criminal damage". Offences of criminal damage involving loss of less than pounds 20 are not recorded.

The report is understood to have said officers were "actively discouraged" from exposing questionable practices, which were "allowed to continue and were not condemned".

The investigation, however, found that there was no evidence that officers acted in a corrupt manner or that police chiefs attempted to cover up complaints or wrong doing.

Peter McKay, the clerk of the Police Authority, said: "There are issues to consider about the way in which Nottinghamshire, as well as the whole country, records crime."

"Perhaps it has resulted in under-reporting crime and over-reporting detected crime."

Colin Bailey, Nottinghamshire's Chief Constable said: "We have ... ensured that our practices and procedures stand up to scrutiny. This has particularly been addressed through a new crime-recording policy and the creation of an internal inspectorate to oversee quality management."

Complaints that black police officers in Nottinghamshire are being discriminated against will be made at the first meeting between Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, and the Black Police Association in the next few weeks.

Inspector Paul Wilson, the chairman of the BPA, is due to tell Mr Straw that despite the high numbers of investigations in Nottinghamshire only one non-white officer, an Asian police constable in 1981, has ever been convicted of a crime.

The Nottinghamshire force has more than 2,354 officers, only about 30 of them are black or Asian.

Between 13 and 15 of the non-white officers have been investigated or disciplined. Others, who have now left the force, also came under suspicion while they were serving.

An Asian detective recently registered his intention to start industrial tribunal proceedings for racism after being accused of misconduct. Four weeks ago he was cleared of the charge.