January 17th, 2010

Police make it up – fact!

Posted in The Job - General by 200

The chiefs at Hertfordshire won’t be pleased with some of their officers today; the Independent on Sunday reports that officers have contacted them to blow the gaff on the force’s use of ANPR.

I have reported previously on how ANPR is the new god in policing, often to the extent of other services.

ANPR is basically a camera system linked to a police & DVLA databases. They have been used in police cars for a while & major cities & towns have them stuck on poles on major roads. They film all the cars passing & within a second or two check the  number plate against various databases. They can tell whether the car has tax, is insured (possibly) or is suspected of being driven by a wanted person. If they get a ‘hit’ an alarm flashes up in the police control room & the vehicle can be stopped & dealt with.

This was lauded as a vital tool in the fight against crime. Now, instead of doing all the manual work involved in tracking someone down, we can just wait until his vehicle drives past an ANPR equipped police car or static point.

The Independent’s slant on the use or misuse, as it says, of ANPR is that it is not targetting the people it was designed to target, hardened criminals, it’s “penalising the mostly law-abiding middle class, while diverting enforcement resources from more serious, but hard-to-prosecute criminals.

The paper alleges that ANPR is being used in a “burgeoning target culture among enforcement agencies and local authorities seeking to bolster figures and income with so-called soft arrests and fines on otherwise law-abiding members of the public”.

Apparently, officers have contacted the paper to warn that up to 30% of the information held on ANPR databases is either incorrect or out of date which has lead to the incorrect arrest & siezing of vehicles. Further, they say that they are under  pressure to hit targets, “So fixated had officers become on their pursuit of arrests and ticket quotas that, until recently, the most successful vied for a prize known as the Bang It Out Cup. The officer with fewest results received the booby prize of an Underperforming Pig.

The paper alleges that officers or so led by the target culture that they sieize vehicles & issue tickets first & ask questions later. This is alienating huge swathes of otherwise law-abiding motorists. It further says that officers are making up reasons to arrest or ticket people just to keep up with quotas.

I’m not sure how many wrongly uninsured vehicles get siezed where I work. Officers know the databases can be incorrect or out of date & some insurance companies are quicker than others in getting insured vehicles onto the database, usually, if there is some issue of whether a car is insured or not, we give the officers the 24-hour telephone number for the insurance company & they can check with the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

I do know that road traffic policing is suffering as a result of the target culture (which the government says, incidentally, it has done away with – chief constables might think somewhat differently). I spoke with an old mate last week & asked how he was getting on in the traffic department. He’s been in it for 6 or 7 years. He says he hates it & can’t wait to leave the department. He  spends more time trying to keep up with his ticket & arrest figures that he is doing non-traffic related arrest warrants & being sent by the traffic sergeant to shoplifters. While he’s doing this he’s not sorting out dangerous drivers.

It really does seem like the government & chief constables are handing over the polcing of the roads & the education of motorists to a few thousand camera lenses & I’m not sure that will add anything to the improvement in road safety throughout the UK.

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