The Daily Express: Police 'fining children to meet targets'

Wednesday, 6 February, 2008

Police are "criminalising" children who build snowmen by the side of the road or chalk on pavements in a bid to hit targets, a leaked Government report reveals.

Sir Ronnie Flanagan, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, warns that officers are "encouraged to criminalise people" because of "poor professional judgement, combined with performance management arrangements."

His long-anticipated report on how to slash police red tape and improve performance, due out tomorrow, was leaked to the Daily Express and reveals a "risk averse" police force in a chaotic state.

He warns that the modern police service has become a "slave to doctrine and straitjacketed by process" with officers now spending a fifth of their time buried in paperwork.

But one bizarre recommendation in the report to reduce form-filling after a suspect is stopped in the street is for officers to hand over their "business card" so the officer can still be called to account later if necessary.

Sir Ronnie also proposes no significant changes to the more controversial stopand-search form, other than encouraging greater use of hand-held technology to record the details.

The Conservatives have promised to rip up beat officers' foot-long reports and allow them to radio the details through to the station for a civilian to fill in.

Sir Ronnie's 106-page report also signals another step towards the "robo-cop" era with greater use of body cameras to record evidence and hand-held computers.

Sir Ronnie claims reforms will free up to 3,000 extra police officers for the frontline by slashing up to six million hours of bureaucracy.

But the Tories last night accused him of not going far enough and said he had shied away from key areas that would unchain police from their desks.

Shadow Minister for Police Reform, David Ruffley , said: "This review simply does not go far enough in cutting red tape and risk aversion in the police force.

"After five Labour red tape reviews in 10 years, this latest review lags way behind already announced Conservative plans for tougher law and order." The Police Federation warned last year that officers are criminalising youths for throwing eggs or cream buns because of the out-of-control target culture. Sir Ronnie has revealed the farcical situation has become even worse with the service displaying "poor professional judgement and a lack of discretion in applying the crime recording standards".

His report adds: "Anecdotally, I have come across some extreme examples of this.

"These include people being given penalty notices for chalking a pavement and also for building snowmen by the side of a road, which apparently caused harassment, alarm or distress to passers-by." Mr Ruffley said: "We have proposed that the Home Secretary use statutory powers to impose on every force a national set of slimmeddown forms which will save millions of police man hours.

"For some reason the review shies away from this tough measure."