Ex-Gwent PC claims crime figures were fiddled
Updated 10:45am Thursday 30th January 2014 in News
A FORMER policeman has alleged that a senior Gwent Police officer asked PCs to reclassify offences amid pressure over crime figures.
He claims that PCs were asked to deal with categorise people involved in fights involving alcohol as drunk and disorderly cases, rather than a different public order offence.
He also said they had been told to classify harassment cases differently.
The former Gwent PC, who does not want to be identified but is understood to have served in the force for some 30 years, said he and others were briefed in Newport Central Police Station around a year ago.
Nick Smith, MP for Blaenau Gwent, said the allegations were credible and it was troubling if officers ever reclassified crimes in such a way.
In 2013, Police and Crime Commissioner Ian Johnston alleged that officers were recording offences as less serious crimes in a bid to cut official offending rates.
The claim led to a row with the then chief constable Carmel Napier, who was later forced to retire from her post after a dispute with Mr Johnston.
The former officer told the Argus: “It’s not a disgruntled PC that is speaking here.
“I’m speaking as a member of the public who sees the wrong in what was going on.”
He claimed that in early 2013 a shift was briefed in Newport Central Police Station by a senior officer, who said that if officers were dealing with a fight that involved alcohol they should class it as a drunk and disorderly case, instead of a public order offence.
The former PC also claimed officers were told that, in harassment cases, if the nature of the harassment it was a matter of continuous telephone calls, they should be dealt with in a way that meant it wasn’t classed as a crime.
“Every time you go in for a shift you get a briefing off your sergeants,” said the former PC.
“On this occasion we had a visit from an inspector sent to discuss crime figures.
“We were on an afternoon shift.
“We were told in no uncertain terms these were matters to be implemented. It was getting to the stage that we were saying, ‘no that’s not right’.”
He said that if officers didn’t do this, they would be ‘spoken to’.
The former PC also claimed that some officers had been admonished in one case for arresting people under a public order offence instead of categorising it as a drunk and disorderly.
Mr Smith said he had discussed the officer’s concerns with deputy police and crime commissioner Paul Harris.
He said of the harassment and public order concerns: “If either of these events happened even once, it is troubling.
“When services are statistic-based and target-based, as they now seem to have been previously, the service suffers.
“I have repeatedly called for confidence in our crime figures to be more reliable, and these events cannot be ignored for the future,” he said.
Mr Smith said he had previously asked the Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary to look at what had taken place under the previous regime at Gwent Police.
“They are credible allegations from a long serving police officer. It’s important that they are heard,” he added.
'Accurate statistics key to public confidence'
THE chief constable of Gwent Police said the force is to look into the full details of the allegations which will be investigated thoroughly.
Jeff Farrar said: “This is the first I have seen of the allegations raised by MP Nick Smith and I take them extremely seriously.
“Mr Smith’s office will be contacted as soon as possible to establish the full details of these allegations, which will be investigated thoroughly.
“Whilst extremely concerning the allegations do appear to be historic and not reflective of my commitment to record crime in an ethical way.”
The police and crime commissioner for Gwent, Ian Johnston, said he agreed with Nick Smith and had his views on the impact arbitrary targets can have on crime recording clear on numerous occasions."
He said that following an internal review of crime recording steps were taken to address issues around the concerns he raised and about some areas highlighted in the review.
“The chief constable has also made it perfectly clear to everyone in the force that ethical and accurate crime recording is essential to provide the public with confidence in the service,” he said.
"I’m happy with the direction the force is now taking.”
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