A former senior West Midlands police officer shocked MPs when he exposed the techniques allegedly used by police to distort crime figures – including offering sex to crooks to confess.
Rodger Patrick, a former Chief Inspector with the force, said officers were encouraged to manipulate figures by a system which rewarded officers who could say they contributed to a fall in crime or a high detection rate.
And giving evidence to a Commons inquiry, he set out some of the alleged methods used – which include offering criminals sex or alcohol in return to confessing to crimes they hadn’t done.
Dr Patrick, who completed out a PhD looking at the way forces are governed, said in some cases this had led to incidents of child abuse or domestic violence being ignored – which led eventually to victims being killed.
He told MPs: “The incidents weren’t investigated or recorded and subsequently this led to homicide.
“It isn’t just abut fudging the figures to keep everyone happy. There are really serious consequences.”
Dr Patrick was a serving officer with West Midlands Police for 30 years, from 1975 to 2005.
Speaking to the Commons Public Administration Committee, he set out four techniques used to manipulate crime statistics.
He said: “There are a number of techniques that come under the generic term of what police officers would call cuffing. That’s making crime figures disappear up their sleeve, in reference to the magician’s art.”
One option would be to simply not record a crime reported by a member of the public. “Say they are making it up and it’s a false report.
“Second, they may well record it as lost property.
“Another technique would be to record a sequence of crimes in the same street . . as just one crime.
“You could also massage the figures by de-recording crimes, de-categorising them. A senior officer would look at a crime report and decide that no crime has occurred.”
As well as “cuffing”, officers could use a technique called “nodding” to improve detection rates, he said.
“That’s about collusion between offenders and police officers to improve the detection rate, where a deal is reached with them to admit a number of offences, thus making the performance of the force look good in terms of detections in return for inducements.”
In return for co-operating, offenders could be charged with the less serious offences while a court is asked to “take into account” more serious offences. In practice, this leads to a shorter sentence.
Alternatively, people already in prison could be taken out in order to admit to new crimes.
“They drive round, nod at properties that they supposedly have broken into and that improves the detection rate.
“Sometimes inducement in terms of sex, alcohol, access to meals etcetera is offered.”
Another technique is “skewing”, he said. “Sometimes you will see forces moving resources out of inner city areas to more affluent areas where crime is easier to detect.”
And the final technique is “stitching”, which in the past meant “fitting somebody up, putting evidence into their mouths.”
Today, more subtle techniques are used, Dr Patrick said.
“For example, where somebody’s offered a caution where really there isn’t evidence that would lead to a conviction.”
The strong focus on statistics helped to create a culture where these techniques were used, he said.
And he suggested that Parliament should take a stronger interest in whether crime statistics were accurate, and be prepared to punish Police and Crime Commissioners if they were not.
Committee Chairman Bernard Jenkins, a former Conservative front-bencher, said he was “truly shocked” by the evidence.
He said: “I have personally no doubt that political leadership has played a big part in the decline of policing standards and standards of behaviour in the police that you’ve described and personally I would like to apologise on behalf of politicians of all parties who are responsible for creating this atmosphere in which targets must be achieved.
“Creating the perverse incentives that have created this situation.”
James Patrick, an officer with London’s Metropolitan Police, said promotion depended on being able to show an office had cut crime, and this encouraged people to “fudge” the figures.
Paul Ford, of the Police Federation, told the inquiry that there were potential whistleblowers in the force who were scared to come forward.
He said: “People are fearful of coming forward and raising concerns . . . there is a fear factor in terms of their future.”