Posts Tagged ‘police’


IMPACT reoffending scheme

January 3, 2012

IMPACT Minister InterviewAvon and Somerset Police is the first in the country to use a method of dealing with prolific acquisitive criminals known as IMPACT. I describe it as being a carrot and stick approach. The stick is that the offenders are regularly drug tested and kept under much closer supervision by the police and probation service. The carrot is that they are given whatever help and advice they need to turn their lives around, whether that is rehab, housing advice, job help, psychiatry or whatever. It’s also been seen as controversial because of the sympathetic relationship that seems to develop between the police/probation officers and the offenders. Advocates say that is irrelevant because it works, and reduces crime. I set out to find the truth behind the scheme.

Here is a link to the BBC news story I wrote.

Here is my radio report:

Here is an interview with one of the offenders on the scheme:

The scheme is jointly managed by the probation service and the police. Here is a probation officer’s take on it.

We also asked a government minister what he thought of the scheme.

Channel 4’s Dispatches Programme has also covered this. Here’s a link to their film.


Avon and Somerset Assaults FOI

November 1, 2011

I discovered there is a big difference between the number of police officers in Avon and Somerset accused of assault and the number who are disciplined as a result.

This stemmed from a Freedom of Information request I submitted to Avon and Somerset police. I asked for a comparison between a) the number of complaints of assault received by A&S between 2007 and 2009 and b) the number of officers facing disciplinary action.

The resulting figures were that just over 1,200 officers had been named in around 600 complaints of assault during that time. However, of these, only yhree had faced verbal warnings, with none facing written warnings or criminal charges.

What I wanted to discover was: why? Two possible causes suggest themselves. The first is that accusations of assault against officers are routinely frivolous, or done out of a desire for revenge. The second, that accusations of assault are not taken seriously. I set out to ask whether either of these was the case, or whether there was another explanation.

Here is a link to a version of the story written for the BBC web site.

Here is the report I produced for radio:

Here is an interview I conducted with a woman who claimed she had been assaulted by an Avon and Somerset Officer:

Here is the response of the Police Federation:


Bristol police criticised for increased Taser training

July 13, 2009

Avon and Somerset police have been criticised by human rights campaigners after announcing plans to double the number of officers trained to use TASER stun guns.

Police plan to train an extra 150 officers to use the weapons, bringing the total number carrying them to 300.

The force claims the guns are a safe way to defuse violent incidents on the street and have led to a reduction in the number of officers injured.

Taser training criticised

Taser training criticised

Somerset East chief inspector Paul Richards said: “Tasers have proved a useful tactical option for officers faced with threats of violence of such severity that they would need to use force to protect the public, themselves or the offender.

“In many cases, the presence alone of a Taser can act as a deterrent to offenders, and so it is hoped that many future situations will be resolved without conflict.”

But human rights group Amnesty International says Tasers should only be used in very limited circumstances and having 300 officers carrying them suggests their use will be more widespread.

The group’s media director Mike Blakemore told #SITE_NAME#: “You have to question why having 300 officers trained to use Tasers is necessary, if they are only to be used in very limited circumstances. Does it mean that the force intends to use them in a wider range of circumstances?

“In the UK the police are very proud of policing by consent and we do not have a police force that is routinely armed.

“The wider rollout of Tasers means we are fundamentally changing the nature of UK policing by arming a wide variety of officers.”

A Taser works by firing two barbs which penetrate the skin and discharge 50,000 volts along two copper wires attached to the gun. It can also be held against a person and fired to temporarily incapacitate.

Despite the high voltage, police claim a Taser bolt is safe because of its low amperage. Police say it has no side effects and can even be used on people who have a pacemaker.

Yet Amnesty says the guns have been linked to the deaths of over 360 people in North America.

Mike Blakemore said: “Anyone who has been Tasered will tell you it is the most pain they have ever felt. It usually sends people to the floor, they lose control of their bodily functions and it is a horrible experience.

“We are now having officers walking around capable of deploying that amount of pain to someone. There is a risk that we are creating a divide between police and public.

“Police are effectively saying, ‘Do what I tell you or I will inflict this amount of pain upon you.’

“A simple YouTube search will show you the way these have been used in the US.”


Stokes Croft street drinking needs “radical solution”

May 13, 2009

A community activist from Stokes Croft has attacked current police and council policy on street drinking as a “merry go round”.

Jamie Pike manages Hamilton House, one of the main buildings on Stokes Croft and the former Lloyds-Bowmaker building. He has called for an end to the current policy of moving alcoholics on, calling for a wider-reaching solution.

Avon and Somerset Police last week complained they were unable to move street drinkers on from the steps of Hamilton House because they were there with permission.

They said in a statement: “Concern has been expressed by people who live, work and commute through Stokes Croft regarding the street drinkers congregating on the steps of Hamilton House which is in a non drinking zone.

“Unfortunately the police have not been able to enforce the zone as this area is private land and they were there with permission.”

However, Jamie Pike has defended his policy, saying: “[The police] usually confiscate their alcohol and ask them to move. They tend to just wander up the street and sit down somewhere else and carry on drinking. It just moves the problem somewhere else.

“That was one of the reasons we said unless you are going to give them a better solution or find a real way to tackle this problem, just leave them there.”

He wants to see a ‘wet house’ in the area, where drinkers are allowed to drink but also have access to health and detoxification services if they want them. Most hostels do not allow alcoholics to drink, forcing them out on to the streets.

He said: “There are ideas in the pipeline but it’s a very slow-moving and ineffective beast, Bristol City Council. I don’t hold outmuch hope. The merry-go-round will continue in Stokes Croft.”

Original contacted Safer Bristol Partnership, the umbrella organisation for the police and council, but they declined to comment.

Coexist is holding a meeting with Safer Bristol Partnership next week to discuss solutions.

The front of Hamilton House will be boarded up next week while renovation work on the building takes place.

Audio: Martin Jones talks to Jamie Pike from Coexist


Archive – Anti-Social Behaviour

May 4, 2009

It’s not often as a news journalist that I get to report on something factual and get to say what I really think about it. But this is one piece in which I did.

I went out on a patrol with police in Staple Hill, Bristol in January. They were very keen to show off their ‘carrot and stick’ approach to tackling anti-social behaviour in the area. On the carrot side, the police were supporting a new friday night boxing club and a youth club. On the stick side, they responded quickly to reports from people who called in to complain.

In this context, ‘anti-social behaviour’ really meant just kids drinking in the park. Frankly, I don’t really believe this is the great social plague that some people make it out to be. I did it when I was a teenager and I don’t think I’m a bad ‘un.

The only thing that frustrated me was that the payoff line I used in the report, that one of the kids said to me, “The reason I’m here right now is because my parents go out drinking every friday and I don’t see why I shouldn’t be allowed to as well” was said to me off-mic. But them’s the breaks…

My report:


FOI Appeal Update

April 14, 2009

I got a letter this morning from Avon and Somerset saying they will review my appeal into their refusal to answer my FOI request. I guess it’s a standard reply, but at least it looks like they’re taking it seriously.


Freedom of Information Appeal

April 9, 2009

I am attempting to challenge Avon and Somerset Police’s refusal to answer a freedom of information request. I’ll post updates here.

Here’s my letter:

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing to you to request an appeal into your response to my recent freedom of information request.

I asked the following question,

ACPO recently stated UK police forces have used hacking techniques (aka “remote searching”) to access information held on personal computers. ACPO states these powers have been used 200 times since they were granted. How many times – if any – have Avon and Somerset used such powers?

I consider the response from the force inadequate as in essence it was a refusal to disclose information on operational grounds.

Given that ACPO itself sees fit to disclose the information, for Avon and Somerset to refuse seems illogical and even perverse. If the body representing chief police officers does not believe that disclosing this information can be to the detriment of its operations, then it is unreasonable for Avon and Somerset to claim the same.

Avon and Somerset even states in its response that to disclose the information might be in breach of the law. If this is the case then one can only presume a warrant could be issued against ACPO. Of course, it can’t; but I think it shows the absurdity of Avon and Somerset’s response.

My request was clear enough. But, to clarify further, I am not asking for operational details, simply whether or not these techniques have ever been used by Avon and Somerset, and if so how many times.

There could be no imaginable detriment to the force’s operations by releasing this information. In fact, the force is usually happy to publicise its crime-fighting techniques on the grounds that publicity acts as a deterrent to potential criminals.

I include the original request and a copy of the response I received.

I hope you will be able to conduct this review within the recommended 20 day period. If you have any queries, please contact me.