Sunday, 15 February 2009
ACPO - The Real Mafia
Image - ACPO = Mobsters With Machine Guns
ACPO is the mafia of the police.
Under the Labour Government it has become the para-military wing of the Labour Party and the enforcement arm of political correctness.
Body in charge of UK policing policy is now an £18m-a-year brand charging the public £70 for a 60p criminal records check
By Jason Lewis
Last updated at 8:21 AM on 15th February 2009
* Comments (124)
* Add to My Stories
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.
The boss: Ken Jones, President of ACPO, has £140,000 a year plus a police pension
* Advising the Government and police forces – earning £32million of taxpayers’ money in the process.
* Employing retired senior officers on lucrative salaries.
Until now, ACPO’s central role in policing has not been questioned as it is seen as an essential, if sometimes controversial, public body writing the rules on police operations as well as campaigning on key issues such as the proposed 90-day detention for terror suspects and the DNA database.
But the organisation is not a public body, nor is it a police trade union or even a campaign group. It is a private company – a self-styled ‘global brand name’ – paid millions of pounds a year by the taxpayer to effectively run the nation’s police forces.
Because ACPO is a private company, members of the public cannot use the Freedom of Information Act to scrutinise its operations. Last night it came under fire from politicians and human rights lawyers, who called for its immediate reform.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of the civil rights group Liberty, questioned whether ACPO’s role as a company with increasing national powers was ‘legal’. She said: ‘They need to be stopped in their tracks.’
At the centre of the controversy are the services ‘sold’ by ACPO and over which it has a monopoly.
The association is headed by former Sussex Chief Constable Sir Ken Jones, who earns £138,702 a year and receives a further £30,000 in pension contributions on top of his existing police pension.
Its unpaid board includes Sir Hugh Orde, Chief Constable of Northern Ireland, Sir Paul Scott-Lee, West Midlands Chief Constable, and Tim Hollis, Chief Constable of Humberside.
It also employs a number of former high-ranking police officers on lucrative short-term contracts.
Its staff bill is £1.4million a year – which averages out at £66,000 for each of its 21 employees, although that figure also includes pension contributions and retainers paid to former members of staff acting as consultants.
Chief Constable Meredydd Hughes
Chairman of RSS Meredydd Hughes claims all speed cameras should be hidden and mobile
ACPO was set up in 1997, replacing an informal network of police chiefs who decided national policies. It was established as a formal body ‘to deal with growing budgets, the need to sign leases [and] the need to directly employ people’.
In the past two years its influence and public role has expanded to playing a major role in formulating national police policy, advising Ministers and overseeing the development of the National Police Improvement Agency, which runs the controversial DNA database and Police National Computer.
Its annual income from ‘project’ work for the police and Home Office has risen to £15million, from just £1.3million in 2005.
But its growth has taken place without any parliamentary debate and without being subject to public scrutiny, and its decisions are largely taken in secret.
According to its accounts, it earned money from the taxpayer for ‘co-ordination of the national police response to terrorism, organised crime [and] large operations such
as the Suffolk prostitute murders’.
It also says it was paid for its involvement in arranging the ‘use of police cells across the country to house prisoners’.
In 2007 ACPO rewrote its statement of purpose adopting ‘a new, more responsive business structure’.
The new document included the assertion that it would ‘continue to develop our business activities to ensure that the ACPO brand name is recognised globally as a mark of excellence in policing’.
It is unclear who decides how much ACPO charges the Home Office and police forces for its activities. Its board members can claim expenses but their salaries are paid by their individual police forces.
As a ‘not for profit’ company it does not pay dividends to its shareholders, but its accounts show a significant annual surplus, which has led to ACPO having £15.8million in assets, including £9.2million ‘cash at bank and in hand’.
ACPO's Central London base, close to Scotland Yard
Corporate HQ: ACPO's Central London base, close to Scotland Yard
ACPO says this money is to fund future projects, but the accounts show its cash account grew from £6million in 2007 to £9million this year and earned interest of nearly £1.4million over the period.
Boosting this annual surplus are a number of ACPO subsidiaries which sell ‘police’ services. It recently set up ACRO – the ACPO Criminal Records Office – which sells so-called police certificates which reveal whether someone has a criminal record.
Headed by retired Hampshire Deputy Chief Constable Ian Readhead, who has a £50,000 contract with ACPO, it provides the documents required by people applying for visas to work or live in the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
Until now visa applicants could obtain these details by making what was known as a ‘subject access request’ to the police. The maximum charge for these requests was £10.
But according to the US Embassy, ACPO approached them and offered to provide their own criminal record certificates. These are now the only documents acceptable for visa applications.
Under the new system, applicants fill out an online form and receive a statement about whether or not they have a criminal record.
According to the National Police Improvement Agency, which runs the Police National Computer, ACPO is charged 60p for each search.
However, ACPO charges the public up to £70 for its ‘premium service’, while its standard service – which takes ten days – costs £35.
Last year ACPO received an income of £197,633 from the service, which is not available from any other agency. It says its charges are reasonable because the service involves ‘additional processing elements including photography processing and a full report prepared for each application’.
Another lucrative ACPO offshoot is ACPO Crime Prevention Initiatives Ltd. The company, which charges manufacturers to approve their crime-prevention products such as burglar alarms and blast doors, had a turnover of £981,500 last year.
The firm’s accounts show that it made a healthy surplus of £225,000 on that income and paid its directors £107,000.
The firm issues Secured by Design licences and advertises the approved firms’ telephone numbers and other contact details on the ACPO website.
The website says: ‘The company is funded through partnership with companies whose products meet technical standards identified by ACPO.’
Products that meet that standard can display the Secured by Design logo with the wording ‘Police Preferred Specification’.
Richard Childs, former Chief Constable of Lincolnshire, is managing director of ACPO Crime Prevention Initiatives and earns £42,500 a year.
ACPO is also involved with Road Safety Support Ltd. According to documents at Companies House, RSS was established last year to ‘provide secretarial support to the ACPO Road Policing Enforcement Technology Committee and the Chair of the ACPO Safety Camera Administration Group’.
An independent affiliate of ACPO, the firm also provides expert witnesses to combat ‘loophole’ lawyers attempting to beat speeding offences. It also provides training to speed camera operators.
The chairman of RSS is Meredydd Hughes, Chief Constable of South Yorkshire. He was formerly the chairman of ACPO’s roads policing group but stood down following a driving ban after being caught on camera speeding at 90mph.
Mr Hughes, who has claimed that all speed cameras should be hidden and mobile, is not paid by the company.
ACPO said RSS is a non-profit-making private limited company set up to provide support to both Safety Camera Partnerships, which install speed cameras across the country, and the Highways Authorities on ‘a variety of legal and technical issues of road safety’.
Conservative Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling last night questioned ACPO’s role, and called for its reform. He said: ‘Is it an external reference group for Home Office Ministers or a professional association protecting senior officers’ interests?
Is it a national policing agency? Is it a pressure group arguing for greater police powers? I am planning to have serious discussions about their role.
‘I was particularly concerned by the Government’s decision to give them a statutory role in senior police appointments. There are real questions to be asked about whether they can carry out all of these roles and I think change might very well be necessary.’
Shami Chakrabarti, of Liberty, questioned whether ACPO’s role as a company with increasing national powers was legal. She said: ‘It is legally questionable for senior police officers to be running this sort of business.’
She added that police officers’ powers were limited by statute and any increase in those powers had to be approved by Parliament. By increasing its national role and engaging in commercial activities, ACPO could be breaking the law, she said.
Ms Chakrabarti added: ‘ACPO is many things. It advises Government, it sets policing policy, it campaigns for increased police powers, and now we learn it is engaged in commercial activities – all with a rather shady lack of accountability.
‘When they take positions on issues, it is very unclear who is deciding to do so. Our Parliament decided that we do not have a national police force
in this country. It is considered anti-democratic to put so much power
in one place. This is why we have regional police forces.
‘But ACPO is morphing into a national police force where they all take a single line on holding terror suspects for 42 days or ID cards and individual chief constables aren’t supposed to speak out. None of this should be happening without an Act of Parliament.
‘They need to be stopped in their tracks and there should be a fundamental review of ACPO and all its functions.’
An ACPO spokesman defended the organisation’s activities. He said: ‘ACPO is an independent, professionally led strategic body. In the public interest, ACPO leads and co-ordinates the direction and development of the police service nationally.
‘In times of national need ACPO, on behalf of all chief officers, co-ordinates the strategic policing response.
‘ACPO is funded in part by the Government in order to collectively develop advice for them. Project work which ACPO undertakes on behalf of the police service is at the request of the Home Office and goes towards public protection against serious and strategic threats that can only be tackled above force level.
'All funds to ACPO are employed in the interests of public safety and the police service.’
He denied that the organisation was keeping huge amounts of money from public funds in cash in its bank accounts.
He said: ‘All funds from the Home Office are tied to projects to tackle serious and strategic threats on behalf of the police service. As projects can be delivered across a number of years, it follows [our year] end accounts may show a surplus.’