A law unto themselves: Evidence that police are under-reporting crimes to meet performance targets only adds to the case for radical reform

 

Share

Trust in the integrity of the police is already at an unacceptable low. Yet the rate at which evidence of poor judgement, skewed priorities and institutional self-interest continues to pile up shows little sign of diminishing.

The latest criticisms come from MPs. Indeed, the conclusions of a parliamentary investigation into UK crime figures, published today, could hardly be more damning. Not only does the House of Commons Public Administration Committee commend our official statistics agency for stripping the gold-standard “national statistics” designation from the police-produced contribution to crime figures (leaving only Crime Survey information from the public); it goes further in explicitly accusing forces of deliberately misrecording data.

The central culprit here is the top-down performance target, which presents officers with “a conflict between achievement of targets and core policing values”. Too often, it seems, they choose the former – rendering the PRC’s contribution to the crime figures downright misleading and putting the core role of protecting the public second to an easy life. It is very alarming that the figures for sexual offences appear particularly open to manipulation, as officers with one eye on their targets pressurise victims into withdrawing their claims. Hardly less so is the notion that senior managers were either not aware of the problem or complicit in it.

The implications could hardly be more serious. First, there are practicalities to consider: if forces’ internal crime data is unreliable, resources cannot be effectively deployed and services efficiently delivered. Far worse, though, is the suggestion that law enforcement may be, once again, putting the job of policing second to the institution of the police.

The good news is that, when it comes to cleaning up the crime statistics, there are some obvious solutions at hand. As the Public Administration Committee recommends, all numerical targets should be scrapped; measures to penalise officers who record inaccurate data must be swiftly established; and a Home Office investigation into forces’ disparate “no-crime” rates for sexual offences must be instigated forthwith.

But the problems run deeper than bad management and perverse incentives. Misreported statistics may seem a far cry from the persistent accusations of gross impropriety– from the Hillsborough cover-up, to the death of Ian Tomlinson, to the Plebgate affair (to name but three) – that have worn public confidence so thin. But the central issue is the same. While the majority of officers continue to merit our utmost respect and gratitude, the culture of the service as a whole has become prejudicially inward-looking, obfuscatory and a law unto itself.

Although the Coalition has started to shake-up the police, there is still a long way to go, not least in beefing up independent complaints procedures. Ultimately, however, the cultural overhaul will need to come from within as well as without. As is clear from the latest ructions at the Police Federation – where both the chairman and general secretary are stepping down amid internal rows over reform – change will not be easy. But forces need to understand that there is no alternative. Britain deserves better than this.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal  

What is 4Chan? And why does it threaten women like Emma Watson?

Memphis Barker
Chuka Umunna was elected MP for Streatham in 2010  

Could flirty Chuka Umunna be worth a punt for Labour’s top job?

Matthew Norman
Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world