Police forces discipline 237 officers and staff over computer misuse

Cyber crime fears as over 230 police officers are caught misusing the national crime computer system, according to data from the Parliament Street think tank

by Patrick Sullivan, Political Editor on 8 November 2019 13:50

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UK police forces have launched disciplinary proceedings against 237 serving officers and members of staff in the last two financial years, according to official figures. The data, which was obtained via the Parliament Street think tank through the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act will raise fresh fears around privacy and security standards at the 23 forces which responded to the request.

The Police force which reported the highest number of IT misuse incidents was Surrey Police, which recorded 50 individual cases, 35 of which were misuse of niche or email. The second highest was Metropolitan Police, whereby 18 were disciplined in total – one staffer was sacked for misusing the Crime Reporting Information System, and four were disciplined for misusing social media. Greater Manchester Police launched 17 disciplinary investigations, all cases were recorded as ‘misuse of force systems’.

A further 16 cases were recorded by both Cumbria and Hertfordshire Constabulary respectively. All 16 of the cases from Cumbria were for accessing police systems without a policing purpose. Interestingly, two of the cases from Hertfordshire involved staffers taking a photograph of a police IT system screen and sharing on social media. Gwent Police sacked three staffers for three separate reasons; researching the crime database for named person, disclosing confidential information, unlawful access to information. Wiltshire Police also fired three staff for misuse of the crime database.

Over 70 of these cases involved misuse of the police database – for example, nine staffers from West Yorkshire Police received a misconduct meeting for viewing their family record without a policing purpose. In Nottinghamshire, there was one case where a staffer searched the police systems for a civil dispute, they were involved in.

Sheila Flavell, COO, FDM Group said, “Instilling the highest standards of IT best practice in serving officers and operational staff is critical for maintaining the integrity our police forces. All too often these incidents arise due to a lack of training or understanding about the need for correctly handling sensitive information. With cyber crime on the rise, it’s vital that those tasked with keeping us safe are proficient with technology and acutely aware of the importance of data protection rules.”

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