09 February 2010

The UK Police State's Perfect Storm

I missed this story when it first came out, which is a shame, because it's an important revelation of what the current mad mix of surveillance, authoritarianism and target-driven management is doing to civil liberties in the UK:

Police are using controversial car-surveillance technology aimed at catching criminals and terrorists to target members of the public in order to meet government performance targets and raise revenue, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

Police whistleblowers also claim that intelligence stored on the national Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) database is "at least 30 per cent inaccurate", which has led to the wrongful arrest of innocent motorists and the seizure of their cars.

The revelations highlight growing concerns about a burgeoning target culture among enforcement agencies and local authorities seeking to bolster figures and income with so-called soft arrests and fines on otherwise law-abiding members of the public.

Now, it seems, the target cart is driving the horse of policing:

This target culture has allegedly led to unethical practices during roadside stops, according to concerned police sources. Some officers, they say, trawl through drivers' personal data on police databases to find any reason to arrest. Alternatively, they "wind up" motorists who, in their frustration, become abusive and are then arrested for a public-order offence.


Whistleblowers also expressed concern that managers are "engineering" arrests to meet targets. Officers have been sent to re-arrest drivers fined for driving without insurance. Before cars can be released from the pound the driver has to apply for insurance. "[Officers were] checking with insurers if Mr Smith had declared his recent penalty," said one officer. "If the answer was 'no' they arrested him for obtaining insurance fraudulently."

If this carries on, or is extended, it will destroy the public's faith in the UK police: is that what the government really wants? (Via Techdirt.)

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