UK mass screening of police employees has led to nine criminal inquiries, chiefs say | Police


Records of 307,000 officers, staff and volunteers checked against national intelligence database after recent scandals

Tue 23 Jan 2024 13.00 CET

Police chiefs have said a mass screening of more than 300,000 UK police officers, staff and volunteers has led to nine criminal investigations.

The records of 307,000 police employees were checked against a national intelligence database in an exercise after the cases of Wayne Couzens, the officer who kidnapped, raped and murdered Sarah Everard, and David Carrick, who became one of Britain’s worst convicted serial rapists, despite repeated concerns being raised about him.

Police gave very little detail about the alleged wrongdoing unearthed by the exercise, citing privacy concerns, but said sexual assault was among the allegations.

The exercise was overseen by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) during which the records of everyone working in policing were checked against the police national database, which holds details of intelligence, convictions, crime reports and other details.

Of the more than 300,000 people checked, the review unearthed 88 cases where discipline investigations were needed, and a further 139 where vetting needed to be reviewed, as well as the nine criminal cases. Police said another 128 required “management intervention”.

The figures are lower than expected. For instance the Metropolitan police said last year it was re-examining 1,131 past allegations against officers or staff merely in the category of alleged wrongdoing against women.

In 2022, a report by the policing inspectorate lambasted vetting in law enforcement and warned of concerns about “hundreds if not low thousands” of officers.

A review by Louise Casey into the Met found that since 2013, 1,809 officers and staff had more than one allegation against them. A 2022 freedom of information request found 284 police employees with criminal convictions.

Harriet Wistrich the founder of the Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ), which has been at the forefront of trying to stop police covering up their own wrongdoing, said: “The outcome that only a tiny number of police officers from across the country have been found to require further investigation simply does not accord with the recent findings in the Met police alone as revealed in the Lady Casey report and Operation Onyx [Met police re-examination of complaints].

“Neither does it accord with the evidence we have collected from women who have come forward to CWJ following our police super complaint submitted in March 2020.”

She said her organisation had received claims that complaints reported to police against their officers were not recorded: “Victims of police perpetrated domestic abuse have been told that the incident they have reported is a ‘civil matter’ and so doesn’t need to be recorded as a crime. If the information isn’t being recorded in the first place, then it isn’t going to show up.”

Defending their findings, the NPCC said anything already being examined or investigated was not included in the counts released to the public on Tuesday.

Hailing what is believed to be the biggest exercise of its type in the UK, the NPCC chair, Gavin Stephens, said: “I hope that it gives further reassurance to communities, and to colleagues in policing, that the overwhelming majority of the workforce can be trusted, and that if you are involved in wrongdoing, there is no place to hide.”

The Home Office will provide fundings so the scouring of the intelligence and data about police employees is continuous.

The policing minister, Chris Philp, said: “Public confidence in police has been damaged by a number of truly shocking cases, and we must take action to root out any officer not fit to serve.

“While we know that the vast majority of officers and police staff – over 99% – are brave, hard-working and dedicated to protecting the public, new serious concerns have been raised in a small number of cases as a result of this work.

“The police are now carefully scrutinising these cases, and we will continue to work with the police to remove those who fall short of the standards we expect.”

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