Police officers have felt pressure from senior managers to reduce crime figures, according to the chairman of the Northants Police Federation.
It comes after a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) on the force’s crime data integrity found it was failing to accurately record some offences of rape, robbery and violence and was demonstrating a ‘lack of regard’ for victims.
The report also found that ‘performance pressures’ existed in the force, influencing whether a crime should be recorded and what the classification of a crime should be.
One of the key criticisms in the report was of an ‘investigate to record’ policy issued in January 2013, in which officers and staff were advised that crimes were being recorded which, “with a little investigation”, should not be recorded as a crime.
But, in April this year, the deputy chief constable, Martin Jelley, sent out a number of messages using the force’s intranet and his blog underlining the importance of “correct practice” when recording crime, which, the report stated, “generated a large amount of confusion among frontline officers and managers”.
The inspectors said: “We found that almost universally the impact of this comment (in January 2013) was that officers thought they were being encouraged or given discretion to record crime only once an investigation confirmed that a crime had been committed.”
Gez Jackson, chairman of the Northamptonshire Police Federation, said officers were happy to carry out the instructions from their superiors and had felt the pressure of the ‘investigate to record’ policy.
He said: “The pressure has been historically an issue with a strong drive from senior managers to get crime down. With the police officers at the coalface, there is a feeling they are being pushed and pulled according to the crime figures.
“Every police officer goes out with care for the public. They are comfortable following orders and if they are told to follow certain principles of crime recording they are happy to do that.”
Inspectors viewed 106 incident records of crime reported to the force control room and found 82 crimes should have been recorded, but Northamptonshire Police only recorded 65.
Chief constable Adrian Lee said he accepted the findings and steps had already been taken to improve the force’s crime recording procedures. He added: “There are clearly areas we need to improve.
“Two years ago we found we were over-recording crime and that was unhelpful, so we changed the language so that officers who attended the scene were told to make the decision about the recording of the crime.
“We have to accept there has been some confusion and we have withdrawn that message. The message going out for many months now is that we make sure we record crime to the national crime recording standards.
“Crime recording is a very, very complicated area and the standards set are subjective.
“When we tried to stop over-recording crime, that may have led to some unevenness and we are putting that right.”