Caught red-handed: Why we can't count on Police Recorded Crime statistics - Public Administration Committee Contents

4  Police leadership, values and culture

The College of Policing Code of Ethics

66. The College of Policingwas recently established as the professional body for the police in England and Wales. It has assumed strategic responsibility for development of policy and practice, including PRC statistics. It has developed a new Code of Ethics for the police in England and Wales, based on the seven core principles developed by the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) (accountability; honesty; integrity; leadership; objectivity; openness; selflessness), with the additional principles of fairness and respect. It articulates the standards of professional behaviour expected of police officers, including a requirement to ensure accurate and honest record-keeping:

·  Under the heading 'Honesty and Integrity': "do not knowingly make false, misleading or inaccurate entries in any record or document kept or made in connection with any police activity"

·  Under the heading 'Work and responsibilities': "ensure that accurate records are kept as required by relevant legislation and force policies and procedures."

It also establishes "challenging and reporting improper conduct" as a core principle, placing on police officers "a positive obligation to report, challenge or take action against the conduct of colleagues which I believe has fallen below the Standard of Professional Behaviour set out in this Code."[55]

67. The College of Policing's Chief Executive, Chief Constable Alex Marshall, reacted to the testimony heard at PASC's first evidence session by pointing to the draft code of ethics as part of the solution:

    The College of Policings draft code of ethics, which reflects established standards in the service, is very clear that to knowingly make false, misleading or inaccurate entries in records damages our integrity. Where it has been shown that figures have been deliberately misreported, this should be looked into.

    The service has come through a period where targets were more important than outcomes and the College is working to ensure greater accuracy and consistency in recorded crime. Modern policing relies on the integrity and robustness of our data, which has huge potential to help us to cut crime further, and I am confident that better recording will benefit police officers, staff and ultimately the public.[56]

68. In its written evidence to this Committee, CSPLwelcomed the publication of the draft Code of Ethics and its adoption of the CSPL's Seven Principles of Public Life, and observed that the "Seven Principles, especially those of leadership, accountability and integrity apply to the production of crime statistics as well as to other areas of policing."[57]In a House of Lords debate in November 2013 on public trust in the police, the CSPL's chairman Lord Bew reiterated his warm welcome for the draft Code, but called for a clearer articulation of the "relationship between not living up to the code of conduct and possible issues of misconduct." He added that "the great danger is that the College of Policing statement of principles just becomes abstract and out there and is not fully operationalised in the conduct of police officers."[58]

69. The Chief Inspector of Constabulary in his first Annual Assessment of policing, published in March 2014 while we were completing this Report, emphasised the importance of "the requirement of scrupulous honesty and integrity required of all police officers" as restated in the College of Policing's Code of Ethics.[59] He added that "in every organisation, the conduct as well as the quality of leadership is a material determining factor in relation to its culture, principles and performance".[60]

70. We welcome the adoption of the new statutory Code of Ethics setting out the principles and standards of professional behaviour expected of the police in England and Wales. This is most important in respect of the training of police leadership.

71. We recommend that the Home Office and College of Policing make a more explicit statement of how the Code of Ethics' enforcement framework will impose a duty of data integrity on police officers in respect of crime recording practices, and that penalties will apply in the event of deliberate non-compliance.They must also ensure that officers are familiar with the victim-focussed principles of the National Crime Recording Standard and the distinction between recording standards and charging standards.

Target-chasing versus data integrity

72. Accurate crime recording is not merely a technical matter. Effective police recording processes require a professional ethos of data integrity, reinforced by the right set of incentives and messages from senior leadership. This in turn reflects the importance leadership attaches to the values of policing, such as openness, transparency, integrity, which are values at the core of standards in public life.

73. Data integrity in any organisation is at risk of being compromised if the people responsible for generating data are subject to performance appraisal and political pressure based on the trends shown by that data. The natural tendency is for the organisation to prioritise cosmetic improvements in the statistical indicator over the accurate measurement of the real underlying trends. This tendency can only be exacerbated if the organisation in question is required to achieve specific quantitative targets based on its own data.Even without any targets, there is a general expectation that the police should aim to cut crime. The Committee has also heard evidence that the legacy of centrally-imposed performance targets has played an unhelpful role in helping to entrench a 'target culture' within forces-and that the problem of target culture persists to this day.

74. Senior leadership is influential in shaping the institutional attitudes and behaviour of the people they lead. In the opinion of Tom Winsor, Chief Inspector of Constabulary:

    The quality of leadership in policing, as in so many other organisations, is absolutely critical.The behaviour of the man and woman, and men and women, at the very top of a police force affects the whole culture, the whole approach, and the integrity and the honesty of their operations.If they believe their leaders are misbehaving in some way, that will affect the whole performance and culture of the organisation.[61]

75. Remarks to the Association of Chief Police Officers conference by Derbyshire's Chief Constable Mick Creedon in November 2013, made immediately following this inquiry's first oral evidence session, acknowledged the responsibility of senior police leadership for reinforcing the culture of performance, with the emphasis on targets more than principles:

    My fear is that inadvertently we are all still putting pressure on officers to do all they can to manipulate and create crime reductions. [...] It is whether we have the nerve to step away from crime reductions and the obsession with crime figures and move to a real environment where we do properly record. [...] It is sadly what is told to me by many forces still is that everything people do everything they can to make sure crime is not going up. [...] The consequence is another threat to integrity. This is inadvertently caused by what we have done over the past decade. I don't think they do it because they are inherently corrupt, they are doing it because the pressure is on to reduce crime.[62]

The move away from national targets

76. In 1999, HMIC reported into Police Integrity. They identified crime recording as "perhaps the major area of malpractice connected with the performance culture".[63]Nevertheless, in the mid-2000s, police forces became subject to a centralised assessment regime based on a range of statutory numerical performance targets, of which the PRC data formed a key part. In recent years, central Government has sought to shift the emphasis away from the use of centrally-imposed targets as a means of assessing police performance, but this is not reflected in the attitudes, systems and processes of individual police forces and their governing authorities, Police and Crime Commissioners.

77. The Police Act 1996 gave the Home Secretary the power to direct police authorities to establish performance targets.[64] The Policing Act 2002 inserted a requirement for the Home Secretary to publish an annual National Policing Plan setting out strategic policing priorities and specifying the performance indicators (that is, targets) to be used for assessing each force's performance.

78. Between 2004-05 and 2007-08, police performance was assessed using the Policing Performance Assessment Framework (PPAF). Under PPAF, the Home Office graded each force's performance against a range of Statutory Performance Indicators, including crime incidence rates, detection rates and public satisfaction. PRC statistics were central to the calculation of a number of these statutory targets. At the time, concerns were expressed that the importance attached to crude detection rates were leading officers to concentrate on 'low-hanging fruit', focusing unduly on offences that were easier to clear up.[65]

79. Following the Flanagan review of policing, in July 2008 the Home Office's Policing Green Paper "From the neighbourhood to the national: policing our communities together" announced that the Home Office would no longer set or maintain any statutory top-down numerical targets for individual police forces, apart from a target to increase the level ofpublic confidence in the police. The current Government announced in July 2010 that it was scrapping the remaining Government-set target on police forces to improve public confidence, stating that "from now on it will be for communities to decide how well their force is doing".[66] As the Home Secretary remarked in March 2011: "I've scrapped the last remaining national police targets, and replaced them with a single objective: to cut crime."[67]

80. Despite this declared intention to relieve police forces of target-related burdens, the 'target culture' has remained a concern among producers and users of crime statistics. The UKSA's 2010 monitoring report "Overcoming Barriers to Trust in Crime Statistics" noted:

    In setting performance targets, much harm can be done if statistics are chosen or used inappropriately. The aspects of a service that matter most to people may not lend themselves to numerical measurement and what can be measured may be a poor substitute. The existence of a target may change the behaviour of service providers in ways that have unexpected and unwanted side effects. There may be scope for manipulation or gaming.[68]

The pernicious effects of target cultures were a recurrent theme in the evidence received by this inquiry. Notwithstanding the widespread awareness of the issue within the policing world, Paul Ford, the Secretary of the National Detectives' Forum at the Police Federation, told us that the target culture is alive and well:

    We have Police and Crime Commissioners demanding reductions in crime, and again that explanation is placing pressure on people. I think it is really important to understand. I do not think [...] that there are memos and diktats from on high, in my experience, in the organisation I represent. But there is a culture within policing of success and 'We have to do this to be successful'. It pervades every level, unfortunately.[69]

81. The second report of the Winsor Review of Policing in 2012 took on board the problem of perverse incentives and gaming in making its recommendations for police officer pay and progression. The review recommended a qualitative assessment of officers based on values and competencies rather than a quantitative performance measure, noting that:

    There is widespread concern that crude performance measures will be inappropriate, creating perverse incentives and promoting the pursuit of short-term, simple, quantitative targets. There is a lack of trust in the ability of the police service to operate a robust performance appraisal system on which to base decisions about individual officers' performance.

82. A particularly disturbing example of how target-chasing can distort the policing of serious crime and harm victims was revealed by the Independent Police Complaints Commission's February 2013 report into Southwark Sapphire Unit's handling of sexual offence investigations in 2008 and 2009, referred to earlier in this Report. The report found that the Sapphire Unit had been "under pressure to improve performance and meet targets" rather than focus on the outcome for the victim and resorted to gaming the figures by inappropriately encouraging victims to retract allegations (so that a 'no-crime', rather than an unsolved crime, was recorded), in clear defiance of the NCRS principles.[70]

83. HMIC's June 2013 inspection report on crime recording in Kent, commissioned at the initiative of Kent's Police and Crime Commissioner Ann Barnes, provided a further illuminating case study into how ingrained target cultures have continued to influence recording practices. Although HMIC found "no evidence of corrupt activity in the way in which the crimes that we looked at had been recorded or resolved", it nevertheless concluded that:

    a target-driven culture had, until recently, led to some officers in Kent pursuing crimes on the basis of how easy they were to solve, rather than on their seriousness, or their impact on victims or communities. [...] While such an approach is not unlawful, and does not contravene the letter of the HOCR, it is against the spirit of the rules, which place the needs of victims-not of meeting particular performance targets-at the centre of the crime-recording process. HMIC therefore concludes that there has, in the past, been an institutional bias in Kent towards chasing numerical targets for solving crime. This has led to some officers focusing on those categories of crime which have the best chance of a quick and easy resolution.[71]

HMIC published an interim progress report on Kent Police in January 2014 which found that the force had "responded positively" to the 2013 inspection and that there had been "considerable improvements to crime recording processes made by the force, and inspectors found substantially greater accuracy in crime recording-although HMIC found that more needs to be done on training and raising awareness of the force's new approach to managing performance."[72]

84. In his first Annual Assessment of the state of policing, published in March 2014, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary referred to the "widespread use" of performance targets, stating that"Regrettably, performance targets of this kind have in some instances become so ingrained for so long that difficulties are found in getting people to do things in a more rational and intelligent way".[73]He also highlighted the importance of strong leadership in ensuring the police do act in a "more intelligent way", stating that "it is the responsibility of police leaders to ensure that their officers and staff concentrate on what matters most, not what scores highest in the partial and impact, discredited performance measurement systems of the past."[74]

85. In relation to the legacy of the target-driven culture, HMIC found that the force had "recognised the critical importance of ensuring that its culture is consistent with working in a different way, where activity is not driven primarily by numerical targets" and that "none of the staff we spoke to had any individual numerical performance targets, nor did they feel under any pressure to concentrate on numerical performance at the expense of quality and victim care."[75]

86. The vast majority of police officers joined the police in order to serve as dedicated and courageous professionals, motivated by their vocation to protect the public. However, targets, based either on Police Recorded Crime data or on other internally-generated administrative data, set by senior police officers or Police and Crime Commissioners, tend to affect attitudes, erode data quality and to distort individual and institutional behaviour and priorities.

87. HM Inspectorate of Constabulary's inspection in 2013 into the Kent Police found clear evidence that targets are detrimental to the integrity of crime data. We are pleased to note that when they returned to Kent in January 2014, they found that good progress had been made in tackling this issue. HMIC's findings in Kent are a promising indication of how a rigorous and sustained audit regime, combined with a clear prioritisation of data integrity by senior leadership, can contribute to bringing about positive change.

88. The attitudes and behaviours which lead to the misrecording of crime have become ingrained, including within senior leadership, leading to the subordination of data integrity to target-chasing. This can present officers with a conflict between achievement of targets and core policing values. HMIC recognises this in their first Annual Assessment of the state of policing, but we are disappointed that this vital issue received only cursory attention in over 200 pages.

89. Senior police leaders and HMIC must ensure that emphasis is placed on data integrity and accuracy, not on the direction of recorded crime trends. Formal performance appraisal should be based upon these core policing values and not based on targets derived from Police Recorded Crime data or other administrative data on their own. We are convinced that this requires leadership in many police forces to place new emphasis on values and ethics, especially in the Metropolitan Police Service. We expect HMIC to lay much stronger emphasis on this aspect of police behaviour in future Annual Assessments.

Broader concerns about police values

90. The doubts relating to police recording practices are just one of a range of serious concerns about values and ethical standards within the police. The Home Affairs Committee's 2013 report on Leadership and standards in the police highlighted how a "concatenation of crises risks damaging the quality of law enforcement: public faith in policing has been tested by episodes such as the findings of the Hillsborough Panel Report, the 'plebgate' incident, and the first dismissal of a chief constable in 30 years."[76]More recently,there have been the Operation Elveden investigation into allegations that police officers accepted money for supplying information to journalists, and the recent revelations about undercover policing in the Stephen Lawrence case.[77]

91. The issues raised in this Report concerning the integrity of Police Recorded Crime statistics demonstrate the subordination of core policing values to the 'target culture'. This reflects broader concerns about policing values. We recommend that the Committee of Standards in Public Life conducts a wide-ranging inquiry into the police's compliance with the new Code of Ethics; in particular the role of leadership in promoting and sustaining these values in the face of all the other pressures on the force.


92. We are grateful to PC James Patrick, a serving police officer with the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), for his courage in coming forward to voice his concerns. This was instrumental in prompting this inquiry. PC Patrick became a police officer in 2004, joining Derbyshire Police, and moved to the MPS in 2009. At the MPS, he had a growing number of concerns, some of which related to the manipulating of crime data by police officers in order to improve the crime statistics. For example, he told us that robbery offences were sometimes downgraded to 'theft-snatch' and burglaries to 'criminal damage', or that incidents were logged as 'crime-related incidents' until there was a detection, in which case the incident would then be logged as a crime.[78]He also believes that the misrecording of crime led to the misallocation of resources in the MPS, which in turn helped to leave the MPC ill-prepared for the summer riots in London in 2012.[79]PC Patrick's evidence stated that he went public with his concerns as a 'whistleblower' only after encountering resistance and obstructiveness within his force.[80]In 2012, he started to blog and tweet about some of his concerns (which were wider than the issue of crime statistics). Many of his blog posts were self-published in a book, "The Rest is Silence", in 2013.[81] In November 2012, the Metropolitan Police started to investigate him for alleged gross misconduct and he was placed on restricted duties. According to his solicitors, this was in relation to the publication of his book.[82]In February 2014, following a "management review" of the case by another force, at the invitation of the MPS, the charges of "gross misconduct" were dropped. Nevertheless, the MPS continued to pursue charges of "misconduct".[83]In March 2014, PC Patrick resigned with effect from June 2014, stating that "this resignation arises directly from my treatment [by the Metropolitan Police Service] as a result of making disclosures in good faith and in the public interest".[84] PC Patrick claims that he has been subject to bullying and intimidation over a long period, which has affected his physical and mental wellbeing and his family life.[85]

93. It would not be appropriate for us to comment on PC Patrick's disciplinary proceedings in any detail. However, there are some wider lessons to be learnt from PC Patrick's experiences. The new police code of ethics places a duty on officers to report misconduct among their peers. Norman Baker MP, Minister of State at the Home Office, also expressed his desire that officers "exercise their duty and report any conduct they believe to be inappropriate."[86]However, officers need to feel safe and confident that they can raise their genuine concerns without adverse repercussions. Paul Ford of the Police Federation told us that his organisation was "dealing with a lot of stifled whistleblowers", and added:

    We have lots of anecdotal information but, unfortunately, people are fearful of coming forward and raising concerns. That comes down to the whistleblowing aspect of the lack of protection for people, the peer pressure and the fear factor in terms of their future.[87]

94. The National Audit Office recently looked at whistleblowing in their report "Making a whistleblowing policy work".[88] In that report, they found that:

    The departments we examined are effective at promoting internal routes to blow the whistle, but external routes for employees are less clear. We found departments offer a range of appropriate contacts internal to an organisation, but were less consistent in explaining how an individual could raise their concerns externally, and still be protected under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998.[89]

95. During the course of our inquiry we encountered some uncertainty as to which external avenues a police officer may use to make a complaint, if dissatisfied with the response after raising his or her concerns within his or her force. In particular, it is unclear whether an officer may approach the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPPC). The Police Reform Act 2002 states that police officers cannot make a complaint to the IPPC, but IPPC's guidance adds that:

    This does not mean that a person serving with the police cannot raise concerns about the conduct of other people serving within their own force. However, the person serving with the police who raises the concern does not have any of the statutory rights of a complainant. Police forces and local policing bodies should ensure that there are adequate systems in place to support and protect people serving with the police who want to raise concerns about the conduct of their colleagues. This might include extending confidentiality to anyone raising such a concern, as far as this is possible and appropriate.[90]

96. We wrote on 27 January 2014 to the Home Office Minister, Norman Baker MP, to ask for further clarity on the avenues open to police whistleblowers who are not satisfied with the response received if they raise their concerns within their forces. Despite our chasing the minister and his private office, we have still not received a reply.

97. We recommend that the Home Office clarify the current position about the external bodies a police officer may approach once internal procedures have been exhausted. We deplore the failure of the Home Office to send us a reply in time for this Report. As soon as we receive a reply, we will publish it on our website.

98. We recommend that the Home Office clarifies the route open to police whistleblowers who have exhausted internal channels within their police forces. Police whistleblowers should be free to refer their allegations to the IPCC, and should, while those concerns are pending formal investigation, enjoy immunity from disciplinary proceedings in relation to actions taken in order to raise those concerns.

99. We recommend that Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary should investigate the Metropolitan Police Service in respect of the treatment of PC Patrick and review the internal processes and procedures of the police for dealing with whistleblowers, in order to ensure that they are treated fairly and compassionately. We further recommend that the Home Affairs Committee should inquire into these matters to ensure that whistleblowers in any police force are treated fairly and with respect and care. We have grave doubts that the Metropolitan Police Service has treated PC Patrick fairly or with respect and care.

55   College of Policing, Draft Code of Ethics: public consultation, October 2013 Back

56   College of Policing press release, College of Police comments on recording of crime figures, 20 Nov 2013 Back

57   CST06 Back

58   HL Deb, 28 November 2013, col 1593 Back

59   Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, State of policing: the annual assessment of policing in England and Wales 2012/13, March 2014, para 83 Back

60   HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, State of policing: the annual assessment of policing in England and Wales 2012/13, March 2014, para 89 Back

61   Q420 Back

62   As reportedby BBC, Telegraph, Daily Mail, 20 November 2013 Back

63   HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, Police Integrity England, Wales and Northern Ireland: securing and maintaining public confidence, June 1999 Back

64   Police Act 1996, sections 36A -38 Back

65   See, for example, Police 'target culture' hurting crime victims, Daily Mail, 19 September 2006 and Police criminalising young to hit targets, says charity, Guardian, 3 April 2008, andPolice condemn 'target culture'BBC, 15 May 2007  Back

66   Home Office, Cm 7925, Policing in the 21st Century: Reconnecting police and the people, July 2010, para 3.5 Back

67   Home Secretary, Speech on police reform, 2 March 2011 Back

68   UK Statistics Authority, Overcoming Barriers to Trust in Crime Statistics: England and Wales, May 2010 Back

69   Q24 Back

70   Independent Police Complaints Commission, Southwark Sapphire Unit's local practices for the reporting and investigation of sexual offences July 2008-Septemeber 2009, Independent Investigation Learning Report, February 2013


71   HM Inspectorate of Constabulary,Crime recording in Kent, 2013, p22 Back

72   HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, Crime recording in Kent - An interim progress report, 31 January 2014, p10 Back

73   HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, State of policing: the annual assessment of policing in England and Wales 2012/13, March 2014, para 95 Back

74   HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, State of policing: the annual assessment of policing in England and Wales 2012/13, March 2014, para 97 Back

75   As above, p8 Back

76   Home Affairs Committee, Third Report of Session 2013-14, Leadership and standards in the police, HC 67-I, para 4 Back

77   Stephen Lawrence Independent Review, HC 1094, March 2014 Back

78   Q6, Q9, Q10 Back

79   CST02, CST34 Back

80   CST02 Back

81   James Patrick, The Police Debating Directive blog and James Patrick, The Rest is Silence, published April 2013  Back

82   Kaim Todner solicitors, Media statement - PC James Patrick, 4 December 2012 Back

83   Kaim Todner solicitors, Media statement - PC James Patrick, 11 February 2014 Back

84   James Patrick, Statement on resignation, blog post on The Candle Legacy blog, 24 March 2014 Back

85   As above Back

86   Q595 Back

87   Q47 Back

88   National Audit Office, Making a whistleblowing policy work, March 2014 Back

89   As above, para 8 Back

90   Independent Police Complaints Commission, Statutory Guidance to the police service on the handling of complaints, 2013


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Prepared 9 April 2014