1. The Chairman outlined the key issues in relation to HMIC rating Kent Police as inadequate in crime recording accuracy, highlighting that it represented a significant concern. He also noted that historically, Ann Barnes, the previous Commissioner, had taken appropriate steps to address the crime recording issue.
2. The Commissioner recognised the significance of this issue and welcomed the challenge from the Panel. He noted that the HMIC report had shown the Force to be inadequate in this regard, with an accuracy level of just below 84%. The Commissioner explained that following the recent HMIC report, he had challenged the Chief Constable on what actions had been taken and was demanding that improvements be made.
3. He noted the previous work undertaken following Ann Barnes’ invitation to HMIC to review Kent Police’s crime recording processes following revelations about poor practice, which the Commissioner stated he believed to be related to a now expunged police culture of suppressing crime numbers due to the historic numerical targets applied in most Forces. New leadership and a change in culture led to the follow up review by HMIC finding that Kent Police had swiftly improved up to a 96% level of accuracy which was then the best in the country. However, he advised the Panel that it was not clear what had happened following 2014 that had led to the significant drop in accuracy to the current level. The Commissioner explained that he believed that once the new culture was embedded, it was likely that the process issues had not been sufficiently addressed and because of this, the relevant audit and monitoring processes were not appropriately updated and improved to ensure that a reduction in accuracy did not take place in the future. The Commissioner reassured the Panel that the Chief Constable had taken action to address this, including delivering improvements to the audit and monitoring process and had advised that current accuracy levels had risen to 94% since the issue began being addressed in March 2017.
4. However, the Commissioner highlighted that despite the results of the inspection showing crime data inaccuracy, he had been reassured that the Force’s focus on victims and their vulnerability meant that victims had still received a good service and appropriate support in terms of safeguarding. He commented that he was confident that the historic culture of suppressing crime figures was not present and that this had been a matter of poor process, which had been addressed swiftly.
5. Responding to questions, Adrian Harper, OPCC Chief of Staff, explained that crimes were recorded within 24 hours of reporting and were based on the account provided by the victim. He advised that when further information came to light, in some instances it would be appropriate to ‘cancel’ the recording of the crime but he reassured the Panel that there were safeguards and processes in place to ensure this could not be misused, for instance only the Deputy Chief Constable could authorise the cancelling of a crime report of rape.
6. Responding to questions, the Commissioner reiterated the point that it appeared that the failure to update internal audit processes within the Force had allowed the slip in crime accuracy to go unnoticed. He confirmed that this would be taken into account in future work on data integrity. The Commissioner also agreed to report back on diversity data collected as per the recommendations from HMIC.
7. The Commissioner agreed with the Panel that the issue was important and needed to be addressed, reassuring them that this would be done. He also commented that both he and the Chief Constable had been frustrated when the issue came to light as it was unfortunate that issues arising from poor process would damage public confidence in the police despite a lack of intentional bad practice. The Commissioner did highlight to the Panel that despite the data integrity problem, the overall PEEL assessment of Kent Police had been very positive. This was noted and recognised by the Panel.
RESOLVED that the Commissioner’s update on the crime data integrity issues be noted and that the Commissioner report back further on diversity data