Tuesday, 6 April 2010

ACPO: What Country Am I Living In?

Or perhaps better put, where have I been living?

To be perfectly honest this is all new to me, and being equally honest, I'm struggling to get my head round it all.

Here we have the Association of Chief Police Officers Of England, Wales and Northern Ireland (ACPO) a private limited company no less, that operates in the following manner.

.....despite its important role in drafting and implementing policies that affect the fundamental freedoms of this country, ACPO is protected from freedom of information requests and its proceedings remain largely hidden from public view. In reality ACPO is no more troubled by public scrutiny than the freemasons. (1)

Update: Having completed the article, I think I must have been in a coma where this lot are concerned.

I'll bet they're not, troubled that is, they must wield enough collective power as to make the Freemasons look like the Brownies. But don't ask any questions because ACPO is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, how nice for them.

ACPO is not an organisation that is ancillary to the policy agenda of the democratically controlled Home Office. It has its own policy agenda, and that process is separate from the one operated by the Home Office or local police authorities. (2)

Am I to take it that, its own policy agenda is in part a polite way of saying that it runs it's own intelligence gathering units, yes units, not one but three, and all subject to the same accountability as the parent company?

The National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit (NETCU)

NETCU is not a public body or a formal police service – it's a private organisation that (like WECTU and NPOIU) is a functional subsidiary of ACPO. As a private company ACPO is not subject to a defined system of legislative oversight like that usually applied to organisations discharging public functions on behalf of the Government. For example, it is not covered by the Freedom of Information Act, but instead voluntarily releases information to the public as it sees fit. For NETCU there is no such formal accommodation on issues such as access to information, and in fact if you view NETCU's Policing Protest Pocket Legislation Guide it states –

NETCU is not a public authority as defined by Schedule 1 and therefore there are no obligations on NETCU to disclose information under the Act. Police forces are advised not to release this guide following freedom of information requests.

NETCU web site logos Despite this, if you view the NETCU web site what you see are the ACPO and government logos side-by-side (as shown here on the right) as if they were all part of the same national public administration system. (2)

The Welsh Extremism and Counter-Terrorism Unit (WECTU)

Formally established on 1st April 2009, WECTU is the Welsh equivalent to NETCU and it liaises between police forces and the Welsh Assembly Government. Before this date WECTU was run informally from within South Wales Police.

WECTU's role in Wales is subtly different to that of NECTU; it was set up to counter terrorism and extremism. In England the terrorism role belongs to the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) who also report to ACPO in their role of implementing the Home Office's CONTEST counter terrorism strategy (referenced earlier). Looking at the Government's terrorism agenda we might assume that the terrorism role is more important, and that WECTU is less involved with the policing of protest – but this isn't the case. (2)

The National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU)

The National Public Order Intelligence Unit was set up by ACPO in 1999, and again it is outside of the ordinary legislative oversight that such a body would be subject to if operating within the mainstream police force. It is possible that a large part of its role evolved out of the Metropolitan Police's Public Order Intelligence Unit which, although initially being set up to counter football hooliganism in the 1980s, was often seen at the policing of environmental protests through the 1990s – especially in relation to Reclaim the Street demonstrations and some of the major anti-roads protests. There have, since the inception of the NPOIU in 1999, been a number of news stories that continue to document the overtly political nature of the NPOIU's work: (2)

By showing that it can write a story when it wants, and thus making itself even more disagreeable to us as a newspaper, this from the McMail.

Britain's most powerful police body is being run as a private business with an annual income of around £18million.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), which oversees everything from anti-terrorism policy to speed cameras, was last night facing demands that it be disbanded, following a Mail on Sunday investigation into its activities which include:

* Selling information from the Police National Computer for up to £70 – even though it pays just 60 pence to access those details.

* Marketing ‘police approval’ logos to firms selling anti-theft devices.

* Operating a separate private firm offering training to speed camera operators, which is run by a senior officer who was banned from driving.

* Advising the Government and police forces – earning £32million of taxpayers’ money in the process.

* Employing retired senior officers on lucrative salaries. (3)

And of course it's all jobs for the boys, who are all linked, and a little more research would uncover far more no doubt, and as always we have the North of Ireland in the equation.

And there is much more than meets the eye where this bunch are concerned, standing ovations apart.

Links to sources and more.

1. spinprofiles.org

2. fraw.org.uk

3. The Mail

Association of Chief Police Officers. Wiki

Further reading highlighting the perils of uncountable police powers.

ACPO plods squander our tax for secret shag-pads

Controversial domestic extremists units make desperate raids to justify existence.

ACPO chiefs should be jailed.

Hat tip and lots more British Blogs - ACPO