Friday, 30 May 2008

Daily Telegraph: 'Rude' police punishing middle classes to hit Home Office targets

Police are targeting the law-abiding middle classes over minor misdemeanours so they can meet government targets, a report claims.

Officers are having to put Home Office targets before serving the public and are becoming increasingly alienated from ordinary people as a result.

Members of the public find officers to be "rude" and accuse them of neglecting their duties and failing to respond to reports of crime.

The report, by the think-tank Civitas, said political interference meant incidents that might previously have been regarded as innocuous were now treated as crimes.

Police performance is measured in "sanction detections" which means officers have detected or cleared a case by charging someone, issuing a penalty notice or giving a caution. Many officers are expected to complete a certain number each month.

Arresting or fining a normally law-abiding person for a trivial offence is a good way of achieving the target and pleasing the Home Office.

"The police seem intent on criminalising those whose offences, if they can be regarded as offences at all, are trivial," the report said.

"They are accused of concentrating on easy-to-deal with offending like speeding, while the real criminals seem to be getting away with it."

One case was highlighted in which a 19-year-old foreign student was arrested, detained for five hours and cautioned for holding open the door of a lift in a London Underground station.

The report said: "In a city where knife crime is exploding and the public are crying out for more police on the streets three officers are tied up for half the night arresting a young man for holding a lift door open with his foot."

Harriet Sergeant, the journalist who wrote the report, said the target culture meant police were less likely to concentrate on complex crimes.

It also meant officers exercised less discretion when dealing with a member of the public.

Performance-related pay bonuses of between £10,000 and £15,000 a year for commanders who manage frontline officers partly depend on reaching targets for sanction detections.

The report said: "In order to meet targets police are now classifying incidents as crimes that would previously have been dealt with informally, classified differently or ignored."

One officer interviewed for the study said he warned his own teenage son to take extra care at the end of the month when police are looking to fill their detection quota. Read more
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