Top cops pocket £70,000 in private healthcare

Photo credit - Metropolitan PoliceSenior police officers are being handed thousands of pounds of private healthcare by the Scotland Yard, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.

Top officers who are already paid up to £260,000 a year are given the medical premiums – but lower-ranking officers have to pay for them themselves.

The Met spend a total of £70,000 each year on the healthcare premiums, with an average spend of £1,000 per senior officer.

An explanation of the payments stated: “The policy is in place primarily to help ensure senior officers and staff receive prompt treatment for medical conditions which might otherwise impair their ability to do their job effectively.”

Clearly, the NHS is not good enough for London’s senior cops.

Phone Hacking: will Scotland Yard ever cough up their secretive stash of emails?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ewancross/3025040152/

Nothing to hide? Scotland Yard delay the release of emails. Photo credit: Ewan Cross, CC license

The day after the revelations that Milly Dowler’s phone had been hacked, Scotland Yard announced that they could not disclose emails between police and the News of The World. They told this blog that all emails over three years old had been deleted.

But, when they were quizzed on this, they eventually admitted in September that the emails did still exist. They said the emails were “retained for business continuity purposes on tapes.”

It seems that politicians and journalists have not been able to get access to this secretive stash of emails. The constraints of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) restrict disclosure requests to ones that can be completed within 18 hours.

Particularly interesting would be Andy Hayman’s and John Yates’ correspondence while phone hacking was rife at News International. But the FOIA constraints appear to have prevented these from being scrutinised.

So, a new disclosure request to the Met was submitted for this blog. It was deliberately narrow, using the time allowances the Met themselves had stated, so that the request couldn’t be rejected. Although it would not retrieve very much, it was a test to see if the Met were really prepared to stick to information laws – and disclose any emails at all.

A day before the legal deadline for disclosure this month… the Met said they were delaying their response!

They said: “We are currently trying to establish what information the MPS holds, if any, and whether it can be retrieved within the cost threshold.” They could not provide a date when a disclosure would definitely be made.

The (tedious) saga continues…

Exclusive: Met Police website taken offline after AccessDocs exposes privacy breach

Offline: The Met website's disclosure log, after 105 files found with private data

Updated: 19/10/11

The Metropolitan Police has been forced to remove part of its website, after a mass privacy breach was exposed by this blog.

More than 100 documents had accidentally been published online containing confidential information in the files’ meta-data. This included names, email addresses and employment history of members of the public.

An “urgent investigation” has now been launched by police into the breach, and the entire section of the website has been taken down. The Information Commissioner has also launched its own investigation after receiving a number of complaints.

The documents had been online for months – free for anyone to read and find through Google. They were legitimately listed on a Freedom of Information disclosure log – but data within the files gave away people’s personal details.

The Met told AccessDocs: “The MPS has temporarily disabled the website whilst we carry out an urgent investigation. As an interim measure, we have removed all the PDFs that contain disclosure information from the server to ensure no further loss of personal information… We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause and aim to have the site restored as soon as possible.”

“NB – first indications show that email addresses may have been published.”

Police originally claimed to have “disabled” the website on Tuesday, but it later transpired that all the documents were still online. Instead of removing it, the home page of the information was simply moved. This meant that although old links to the data didn’t work, it could still be found through Google, or by editing the URL. This further error was reported on Tuesday evening, but it took around 12 hours to finally be taken offline.

Police also confirmed that one individual who had her personal details published has already registered a complaint. An email from the Met to the woman said: “It has been brought to our attention that your personal details have appeared on the Metropolitan Police Service website”.

Other people who had personal details published by the Met include an ex-policeman, a professor, a solicitor, an American student and a Daily Mirror journalist.

At least two people have now sent complaints to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). A spokesman for the commissioner said: “We will be making enquiries into the circumstances of this alleged breach of the Data Protection Act before deciding what action, if any, needs to be taken.” The ICO has the power to prosecute and impose penalties of up to £500,000 on organisations for private data breaches.

The Disclosure Log, which has been taken down as a result of the privacy breach, provides copies of the responses to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests that are sent to the Met.  Disclosure logs are a valuable and positive part of transparency – FOI campaigners will therefore be pleased that the Met have confirmed that this move is only a temporary one. A press officer for the police said that they would go through each of the hundreds of documents individually, if necessary – but that they would get the disclosure log back online as soon as possible. 

In future, Data Protection and Freedom of Information should not be an either/or. 

NB:  For all queries about this story, please contact me on mrw504@gmail.com , or see the ‘about’ page, or see my website.  

Exclusive: 100 private documents accidentally published on police website

File info showing name and email address of a member of public who had requested information from the police. (Here, the private details are blanked out, but they are still online on the Met's website).

Privacy breaches by the Metropolitan Police have left more than 100 documents online which contain confidential information.

Names, email addresses and employment details are among the private data which can still be viewed on the Met’s website.

Police publish all their responses to questions in an online disclosure log. But staff are routinely failing to remove personal information from the titles of files – leaving people’s details, and their questions, free to be found through Google and read by anyone.

The breaches include the details of an ex-policeman, a professor, a solicitor, an American student and a Daily Mirror journalist. In total, around 105 files contain privacy breaches, with a sharp increase in breaches since August.

Some of the documents also include whole paragraphs of personal information about the members of public making Freedom of Information (FOI) Requests. Police uploading responses to the internet have simply copied and pasted sections of correspondence which give personal information.

A rise in the number of privacy breaches follows record levels of FOI requests to the Met, suggesting that privacy is being overlooked. New figures show that requests rocketed this summer after the police force came under criticism over the hacking scandal and the August riots.

NB: Some people submitting FOI requests choose to make their information public by using whatdotheyknow.com, but a large number of requests are done confidentially for personal, journalistic or employment reasons. For instance, someone trying to gather information about an employer may not want to be ‘found out’ by future employers. 

See also:  ‘How police lost your personal data’ (from August 2011)

UPDATE: The Metropolitan Police have removed their entire online disclosure log as a result of this blog post. Several of the people who had personal details published have expressed their anger at the police. More updates to come. All enquiries to Martin Williams  – mrw504@gmail.com

Exclusive: Metropolitan Police “deleted” phone-hacking emails

Hayman & Fedorcio at the Home Affairs Select Committee

The Metropolitan Police have “deleted” thousands of emails that may be central to the phone-hacking scandal.

Requests were made in June for the disclosure of emails sent in 2006 by Andy Hayman and Dick Federico, who have both given evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee.  The requests asked for copies of correspondence between the two men, as well as between Hayman and News International.

But letters sent to AccessDocs have now revealed that the Met deliberately did not keep back ups of any of these emails. The Met said: “the information you have requested is not held by the MPS. Emails over three years old can not be retrieved as back ups are not held.”

When questioned about this policy, the Met took five weeks to provide an answer. Finally, in a letter sent today, the failure to keep email back-ups has been blamed on “cost management”. It explains that, although a form of back-ups are made, they are almost impossible to access – making it impossible for individual emails to be unearthed and examined in connection with phone-hacking.

The letter explains: “This is not a documented policy, it is a configuration setting for our backup software. For cost management reasons back up data is only held for a period of three years.”

“The back-ups referred to are the Exchange database back-ups which are retained for business continuity purposes on tapes – they are not directly searchable for individual e-mails. They are used to restore entire email accounts and take 7 hours. Finding specific emails in the account would then require an additional search would take 16 hours per month restored. Searching for specific key words in emails or for emails from certain named individuals would be in addition to the 23 hours. Therefore this is not something that could be completed within the time constraints of the Freedom of Information Act legislation.”

The letter also stated that “Emails that relate to a specific offence / investigation are captured and recorded on the relevant crime recording information systems.” This, however, does not seem to allow for the possibility that police officers themselves may be involved in criminal activity and cover-ups which might need investigating afterwards.

The documents:

View FOI rejection responses here.

View the MPS’s answers to questions about email back-up policies here.

See also on AccessDocs:

Metropolitan Police withheld dozens of sensitive documents

Andy Hayman’s drinking habits

Mapped: Were “racist” stop-and-search tactics a factor behind the riots?

INTERACTIVE MAP: Markers show riot incidents. The shaded areas show how much more statistically likely it is for a black person to get stopped and searched by police. Darker shades = more disproportionate. (Data: Guardian, Metropolitan Police).

Racist stop-and-search tactics by the police are widely recognised as a key factor behind the Brixton Riots, and the same has been suggested of the recent rioting in London. But is it true?

The FT recently reported that “young men from the area told the FT that if any single motivation to riot could be isolated, it was existing methods of police control – particularly the practice of stop-and-search, in which officers search people regardless of whether or not they have grounds for suspicion.” Local London papers also reported on the potential link – The Tottenham Journal wrote: “Community leaders and young people spoke of disproportionate use of stop and search powers on young black men as a cause of resentment.”

As chance would have it, at the end of August the Metropolitan Police published detailed data on stop-and-searches undertaken (available here under “Week ending 28th August”). Using data from July, it is possible to work out how racially disproportionate police stop-and-searches were just weeks before the riots started – in other words, how much more likely it is for a black person to be stopped than a white person. This has been worked out with the Met figures showing the total number of S&Ss per 1,000 white population and per 1,000 black population (the Met use 2001 Census data for this).

This data has been mapped and then merged with data from The Guardian showing the locations of the riots.

The result: (1) There doesn’t appear to be any significant correlation. It seems stop-and-search tactics may not have been such a major factor behind the riots after all. (2) The level of disproportional stop-and-search is shocking. This data on its own is not sufficient to dub the use of stop-and-search as ‘institutionally racist’, but it certainly isn’t looking too good. Whether or not it is linked to the riots, it is a serious issue and should be looked at more closely.

***The map was created exclusively for accessdocs.wordpress.com by Martin Williams with a great deal of help and data analysis from John Burn-Murdoch. Thanks also to Matt Stiles.***  

Andy Hayman’s drinking habits

ANDY HAYMAN: Didn't say 'no' to 8 bottles of wine and 3 bottles of whisky from his good friend the Israeli Ambassador

In the wake of Hackgate, the Metropolitan Police have been criticised for accepting lots of “gifts and hospitality” from News International.

Most of these details came from Freedom of Information requests. But one senior officer’s records also reveal a surprising habit of accepting alcoholic gifts from people!

During the period from March 2005 to December 2007, the gifts Andy Hayman accepted included:

  • 12 bottles of wine
  • 1 box of wine
  • 4 bottles of Malt Whisky
  • 1 bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label Whisky
  • 1 bottle of Chivas Regal Scotch Whisky
  • 1 bottle of Glenfiddick Scotch Whisky

These were given by various people and organisations, most notably, there were a lot from the Israeli Ambassador in close succession in late 2006. This followed an issue with policing at the Israeli Embassy. Seems that the dispute may have been resolved by getting drunk.

And this is not the first time Hayman’s drinking habits have been questioned. Recently, the Telegraph highlighted the amount of alcohol that he claimed on expenses (including a £50 bottle of champagne which he shared with a News Of The World journalist). Peter Tickner, the Met Police’s former Director of Internal Audit, told the Telegraph: “I was alarmed by the size of spending on Andy Hayman’s corporate credit card… I found out that a large amount was spent on alcohol on his card.”

Tickner has also said of Hayman that “In one twenty-four hour period, he had used the card on three separate occasions to buy alcohol.”

View the full document here:

http://www.met.police.uk/foi/pdfs/disclosure_2011/july/2011060000966.pdf

Police injuries in anti-cuts demo

This is interesting. A lot was made in the news about how the “anarchists” at the anti-cuts demo on 26 March 2011 caused lots of injuries to police officers. This is undeniably true, but the details are a little more complex.

The Metropolitan Police have released a full list of officer injuries and many of these are obviously pretty serious.  The Met originally said (in this press release) that 56 officers had been injured and this was duly snapped up by the media. (Although, according to this document which was released the following month, it was actually 76 officers.)

However, it is important to note two facts that the news media on the whole failed to mention.

(1) These 56 – or 76, as it now seems to be – are not confirmed injuries, they are simply cases where the officer has reported an injury. This is not to say that the figures are necessarily inaccurate but, nevertheless, this should be considered.

(2) What this document highlights is how the figures get bumped up by some incredibly minor injuries, and make the whole thing sound worse than it actually is. Again, this is not to question the serious nature of some of the injuries, but the list certainly includes a few surprising entries. These include: “No visible injury,” “Swelling to finger,” “Redness to the face,” and just: ”            “.  The figures even include one officer who simply accidentally “tripped and fell” and hurt his ankle.

View the document here:

http://www.met.police.uk/foi/pdfs/disclosure_2011/april/2011030004969.pdf

View the full online Metropolitan Police FOI disclosure log here:

http://www.met.police.uk/foi/disclosure/disclosure_log.htm

Metropolitan Police withheld dozens of sensitive documents

A document released by the Metropolitan Police, under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI), has revealed dozens of other FOI disclosures that the police illegally withheld from publication. Many of the disclosures could have been potentially damaging for the Met.

Under FOI laws, responses to information requests should be released within 20 working days. This document lists disclosures that missed the deadline.

The requests which the Metropolitan Police have breached the FOI Act over have included:

  • “Copy of guidence given to police officers relating to the student protest on 24 November 2010”
  • “Guidence issued to police officers relating to the student protest on Thursday 9th December”
  • “Questions as to whether Plain Clothes Police Officers were deployed at all Student Demonstrations in 2010”
  • “Papers relating to student riot at Millbank 10/11/2010”
  • “Plain Clothes Police Officers present at 2009 G20 Protests”
  • “Question in relation to MET investigation into wrongful telephone interceptions by News International”

The Met refused to comment on the delay of the disclosures, but said that the “vast majority” of information releases are published on time. A spokesman for the police force said: “Due to the complexity of some requests, they take longer to complete.”

So what happened with these withheld disclosures? In most cases, responses were eventually sent to the people who had requested information, after a very long wait. It seems that, in most cases, the requests only received a ‘partial disclosure’. The Met said: “There is no system in place to prioritise requests.  Requests are dealt with in the order they are received and on a strict case-by-case basis.” However, they admitted that “requests of a more “sensitive” nature will obviously take a longer time to process than those which are more straight forward.”

But the real issue here is not a conspiracy, but is to do with open access to public information about potentially important or controversial things. The Metropolitan Police only spends between £406,055 and £487,153 per annum on all of its staff for any FOI-related role in their Public Access Office. Maybe more staff are needed. Maybe they need to improve their information collation system. Or maybe they should just save everyone some time by publishing more documents online voluntarily.

View the document here:

http://www.met.police.uk/foi/pdfs/disclosure_2011/march/2011030001047.pdf

View the full online Metropolitan Police FOI disclosure log here:

http://www.met.police.uk/foi/disclosure/disclosure_log.htm