Police hit back on crime target memo
Ben Kendall A Norfolk police chief has insisted “we have done nothing wrong” despite fresh claims that bobbies are being pressured into downgrading crimes to meet targets.
A Norfolk police chief has insisted “we have done nothing wrong” despite fresh claims that bobbies are being pressured into downgrading crimes to meet targets.
Deputy chief constable Ian Learmonth hit back at criticism of the force following a memo leaked to the EDP which appeared to suggest officers should reconsider whether some vandalism offences are actually crimes.
Mr Learmonth denied statistics were being manipulated to meet targets and said: “We will not tolerate any attempts to falsify crime figures”. He said the memo was clumsy but well-intentioned.
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Since the email was leaked, force insiders have contacted the EDP claiming it was not an isolated example with constables regularly being briefed to relegate crimes to less serious categories.
One source claimed that street cops are asked to class public order offences, which are counted in crimes figures, as drunk and disorderly matters, which are not recorded, and burglaries are often downgraded to “theft from property”, a less serious offence.
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“All they are interested in is increasing detections and meeting targets,” the serving officer said. “There is political pressure for them to meet targets but the targets do nothing to protect the public or actually reduce crime.”
Mr Learmonth yesterday issued a memo of his own clarifying exactly how offences should be categorised and recorded. He said the leaked memo had been intended for police officers who would understand its intentions and had been misinterpreted after entering the public domain.
He added that despite the latest examples, he is confident nothing inappropriate has taken place. The acting inspector who wrote the email will not be disciplined.
His comments were supported by police authority chairman Stephen Bett. Mr Bett said clarification is provided to officers to ensure that the force can compile an accurate picture of crime in the county.
He added: “There are times when crimes are being recorded which blatantly aren't crimes. We want an accurate picture of what's going on so we can direct resources towards the real problems and improve our service to the public.”
A statement from the force said: “Norfolk constabulary categorically refutes any suggestion that its officers are encouraged to downgrade incidents when reporting crime, particularly incidents of criminal damage.
“The allegations stem from a clumsy internal email. Well-intentioned but unfortunate, the note is misleading and its contents have been interpreted in the most damaging way to the organisation and the service.”
Mr Learmonth said Norfolk's crime recording policy is dictated by the Home Office and is “not negotiable”. The county has a team of three people whose only job is to monitor the ethical recording of crime. Crime figures have reduced in recent years and these figures have been verified both internally and externally, he added.
Addressing the latest claims, Mr Learmonth said: “I cannot categorically say that this was an isolated example and cannot account for every email sent within the force or every briefing given.
“There is often a need to clarify the way in which crimes are recorded but that is not done to manipulate figures, it is done in order to build up a true picture of where and when certain types of crime are being committed.
“I don't believe anything unethical has happened in any of these cases or that there is anything which breaches regulations.
“If you take the example of public order and drunk and disorderly offences, there are often times when an officer has to make a judgement over which category a particular incident falls into.
“But no officer can be ordered to doing anything illegal or which breaches their professional standards. If any officer feels such demands are being placed upon them there are systems in place through which they can report those fears anonymously.
“Targets are part and parcel of the way we do business. But targets do not dictate the way we do our job. We are rightly proud of what has been achieved - any suggestion that it results from malpractice does our staff a gross disservice.”
The original memo said the police were making “life difficult” for themselves by “crimeing things that aren't actually crimes”. It gave the example of a smashed car windscreen which may not be the result of criminal damage. The force has accepted that this was not an appropriate example.