Can the Commissioner explain to the Panel how he ensures that the Chief Constable is not retaining digital photographs of individuals who are not convicted of a crime?
1. The Commissioner responded, explaining that digital imaging was a fast moving technology and there was no doubt that it had the potential to offer great benefits to the police, but full consideration must be given to how the resultant images will be handled. As a result, the Home Secretary issued a code of practice on the Management of Police Information in 2005, with guidance on how it should be applied to custody photographs coming into effect in 2006, and a second edition in 2010.
2. In 2012, the High Court ruled that the Metropolitan Police Service had breached the human rights of a woman and boy they arrested, by keeping their custody pictures after taking no further action against them. In light of this ruling, in 2017 the Home Secretary ordered police forces to delete on request millions of images of innocent people unlawfully retained on the Police National Database. It was acknowledged that to insist police forces assess all 19 million custody images and delete those who have not been convicted of an offence was impractical.
3. The Chief Constable had assured the Commissioner that all information, including digital images of people, was managed in accordance with the Management of Police Information Guidance. In addition, in terms of evidential imagery, such as BWV footage, that all persons not involved in an incident were edited in order to protect their identity.
4. Of course, as well as the Management of Police Information Guidance, digital photographs fall within the scope of Data Protection legislation and the remit of the Information Commissioner’s Office.
5. To date, the Commissioner had not had concerns expressed to his Office, but the issue has been raised with the Chief Constable who had provided assurances that Kent Police operate within the guidance. However, should an issue arise, the Commissioner had the ability to raise matters with the Chief Constable directly at their weekly one-to-one meetings, or in public at the Performance and Delivery Board.
6. In response to the Vice-Chair’s supplementary question, the Commissioner confirmed the policy was that relevant images would be deleted upon request.
In a recent visit to Swale to share with the Leader and Chief Executive the vision and practical realities of the New Horizons Project the Chief Constable took time to explain in detail his continued support for CCTV across the County, in particular, as an investigative tool. With Council budgets ever more under pressure, many Local Authorities are considering significant cut backs in their CCTV capability. This year the PCC has withdrawn financial support for CCTV, yet it clearly remains a priority for the public of Kent and also the Chief Constable, given that he appears to be at odds with public opinion will the PCC reconsider his funding decision, even if only in allowing Local Authorities to allocate some of his Crime Prevention Grant to this purpose?
7. The Commissioner explained that Councils could use community safety funding provided by his Office for CCTV, but with it not being a core function of the police, no additional funding would be provided. He advised that it was for each local authority to review and assess its own CCTV needs and fund accordingly.
8. Responding to Mr Horton’s supplementary question regarding appropriate strategic options to make best use of CCTV footage, the Commissioner explained that Kent Police was in the process of developing Digital Asset Management services that will enable the public to upload digital evidence and make life a little easier all round.
With mounting pressure on the police to stop potentially radicalised persons from carrying out attacks, and requirements to provide more firearms officers, would it not be prudent to bolster the number of local officers in order to build a better picture, gather more community intelligence and possibly prevent a person from carrying out such attacks? In short, would it not be better to place more resources at the lower end of the scale to address prevention, than at the expensive end and paying for more firearms officers?
9. The Commissioner advised that there were elements of the question that he agreed with and parts that he disagreed with. He advised that the national threat assessment had highlighted the need for additional firearms officers, relevant direction had come from the Home Office and the Precept increase had been permitted to fund this. However, he recognised that community policing did represent a very important way to tackle radicalisation and contribute towards preventing terrorism related incidents from occurring. The Commissioner advised the Panel that the New Horizon Policing model being rolled out in Kent Police, which was focused on protecting vulnerable people, was the right approach to support the type of community policing being suggested and he would continue to hold the Chief Constable to account for visible neighbourhood policing.
RESOLVED that the Panel note the Commissioner’s responses to questions.