Page To Screen, Times Are Changing

Page To Screen, Times Are Changing

Hello all.

It turns out the pickle we are in, internationally, is unlikely to end well.

Worse still, it turns out the written word isn’t having the impact it needs to. Because people are turning off to it.

This is, sadly, part of what the disinformation barrage which is integral to the world’s ongoing hybrid war is for. Fighting disinformation with information in the same format just creates a tornado of white noise, rather than one triumphing over the other.

I still believe the traditional structures of news delivery are failing us and I still believe there is a better way, in spite of everything.

Subsequently, for me it’s time to try something different. So, I’m making my first feature length documentary. It’s not going to be rushed, not going to be bodged, and the intention is it will be the first of many – which will become self-funding.

The script is written, the production company has a name (Bedsit Genius), and the equipment is all in place. What I need to do now is make the film, working title “Malware For Humans.”

To do this, and do it properly, there are a few things which need to be paid out up front – such as location fees (for disused bunkers, etc) and weapons hire (because bringing this topic to life in a way people will “get it” is quite a challenge).

The budget for this is £5,000 and I’m trying a new way of raising this: through cups of coffee…

You can visit my Ko-Fi page here and contribute to this project through cups of coffee rather than fixed amounts. It’s fast, secure, and doesn’t charge any fees so everything goes to the budget.

Unlike any of the other crowdfunders I’ve done, there’s no time pressure or all or nothing, but without the funds I have to adjust the end product down and the topic deserves the best shot I can give it.

I aim to be shooting in September/October and working on post production through the winter. I’d like to be able to have it released in February, ahead of the UK’s looming destruction. But this depends largely on you.

In terms of how people can watch the film when it’s done, I’m leaning towards distribution through Prime for international streaming and downloads, with an option for DVD’s here in the UK. Mainly because it appears to be the easiest route to the largest audience, without having to unleash YouTube’s adverts on the finished film.

I intend to give 10% of any net proceeds to charity, and will pick one when the time comes with the help of the good people of Twitter.

I hope you can see some potential good in this project and can throw a coffee at it.

Much love,

James.

The Plan…

The Plan…

As I said on the Twitters:

Okay, here’s the plan, neatly contained in a thread, which I will also put on my blog to make things easier for those off Twitter too…

A few months back I hit on the big data story and began writing for You can catch up here: https://www.commonspace.scot/authors/jj-patrick

This has led me into so interesting territory, which led me to a crowdfunded fight with the Alt-right: http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/damages-action-against-prison-planet

In the wake of the Stockholm attack, I travelled to Malmö to investigate crime and immigration in Sweden. To uncover the truth…The first article in the series is now published by with many more to come. Read it here: https://www.byline.com/column/67/article/1583

Working as a journalist with Byline, I am signed up to comply with the new Impress regulations on journalistic conduct. The platform is also designed to fund its investigative journalists directly from public donations, to preserve impartiality. I’m currently working on a hard hitting exclusive on hidden crime in Mexico, which you can find out about here: https://www.byline.com/project/69

The Mexico story is a world exclusive based on unprecedented access to state level Mexican data, now hugely relevant given US rhetoric.

The series itself forms part of my column which you can read up on here:

As a result of my rock-kicking so far, starting with and moving on to Malmö, I’ve uncovered something pretty grim. Behind all the right wing parties, the hacking, the psychometrics, and the fake news stands an enemy. Supported by a tangled web. And I want to chase them down. Hunt them out. I used to be a good cop, and it’s still in my blood. But I can’t do this alone. Nor can I do this from behind a computer screen. That will only take me so far. Not far enough. Boots on the ground is the only way.

Using the platform I want to fund this fight in the and start fighting back with the truth. The only way I can do this full time is with the financial support of you. Doesn’t matter if it’s £1 or £1000. This is too important.

The leads I’ve picked up as a result of mean I need to head to France, before the elections and kick the rock over on Le Pen…There is something very wrong there, and even the latest polls are saying so. And it’s almost too late. Without you, it’s all footnotes.

From France it’s going to be Germany, then who knows? I’ve leads to follow everywhere and this puzzle is one worth unpicking. All I know is that Byline provides an opportunity for all of us to get to the bottom of this. To get out in harm’s way and do some good.

I know it’s a lot to ask, especially given the state of Brexit Britain, but, if you can, please head over to my Byline pages and pledge.

Alternatively, I have also added a direct way to support my independent journalism with a Paypal button which you can get to by scrolling down here.

Thanks for listening and best wishes to all of you, James.

Before Dawn Breaks

Before Dawn Breaks

This piece formed my contribution as curator of the Audacity eZine published by Cynefin Road last month. To read Hope, by a variety of great new writers, look here

Hope is a dangerous thing. Not because it exists when all other light fails, and not because it’s infinite. Nor because it truly can shape a future. But because it can be sold, dealt in, just as falsely as fear. 

It’s a feeling of trust, of faith, of expectation or desire and, because of its construction, hope is pliable. 

The world has taken bleak hue, wrestling itself backwards on the words of hate. Seeking a better time which doesn’t exist, other than by construct and running full tilt into a disaster of bigotry, racism. Misogyny. Manufactured not to bring about the decline of elitism, but to preserve elites by placing them on a pedestal.
The short memory of our world is its curse, fuelled by a generation without struggle. Without war. 

A sense of entitlement has risen in this climate as fears have shrunk and become broadly petty for the masses, fed by the reality culture. Given legs and wings by the false elevation of equality through decree, leaving people blind to it. 

This is the great failure of democracy, both the left and right. Creating false impressions of liberal society through law and policy, without in fact addressing inequality itself. Rather, a dirty wedge has been driven into the problem and the fallacy of it all has created a virus. A push back against forced sentiments in which resentment — and the failure to achieve the dreams sold as available to all — has spread. 

In little England this overspilled into Brexit, a quiet rebellion of thought in which people were subtly nudged into believing they had become oppressed by equality. By Human Rights. With the aid of irresponsible tabloids, xenophobic politicians, and the soothing cajole of the Alternative Right movements, the simmering sense of unfairness was steered into a predefined course of action. 

There was no protest vote, just the exposure of an underlying problem which pressure cures had failed to heal. 

This was mirrored in the United States with the election of a man who is the embodiment of the swamp inhabiting elite. 

Hope has shown itself to be a dangerous thing, no better displayed by these two events, because that’s what they softly made the white middle classes buy. 

I can’t sell you hope, not now, because it would be as false as what led us all here. There is a great darkness settling upon us all, a long night we face until dawn breaks. And it will be darkest before the light rises once again. 

So it’s here that we must make our stand with the clamouring of shadows all around us. Not for ideology, not left nor right, but for decency. For each other. A good which is greater than the sum of ourselves. 

I see a lesson in the past, and not the expected, recent sting. Rather than looking to thirties Europe, I see the answer much further back in the teachings we’ve been left to hear yet often ignore. 

Once upon a time, beaten and bitter people marched from hard country to consume lands of which they were jealous. To take prizes of control. And they weren’t met by armies. They were confronted by a handful of free people who fought hopeless odds and died in the effort. 

The Spartans became the symbol democracy needed to balance itself once again. They became true hope, which can’t be mis-sold. Inspiration. Legend. 

My contribution to hope? Sacrifice. The acorn to future’s oak. Before dawn breaks some of us will need to “learn to love death’s ink-black shadow as much as the light of dawn”. 

Speech to PF Asuntos Internos Permanent Congress

Speech to PF Asuntos Internos Permanent Congress

This speech was delivered without notes to the international PF Asuntos Internos Permanent Congress on 23/10/2014 at the Policia Federal, Paseo de la Reforma, Mexico City. The text is taken direct from the transcript.
 

Good afternoon everyone, I’m just going to settle my nerves down. Well, I’m fairly sure it’s afternoon, but I’ve got jet lag…

I wanted to start by saying a huge thankyou to my hosts Luis and Anna, their boss and everyone else involved in making this seminar possible, and for organising the excellent tours that started this morning at the operational command centre, and concluded at the President’s bunker.

What struck me, in the bunker, was the superb access to data, on mixed platforms, which can be used to guide police response, decisions on resource deployments, everything in real time.

What really struck me was this fantastic system relies absolutely, and I mean absolutely, upon the data being reliable. Imagine what would happen if the air traffic data was wrong and was used to guide planes across Mexico…it would be a disaster. Imagine if the crime data was wrong, and that was used to guide policing and resource deployments across Mexico…

There’s an excellent commitment here, to getting policing right, and I see nothing in this room but dedicated people who want to make things better…and the truth is: they want to do this in one of the toughest policing environments in the world, and that is to be commended.

It’s further to be commended because the latest victimisation survey in Mexico, which I was sent last night, indicates that 93% of crime goes unreported, because people don’t trust the police. That’s almost all of your crime and you don’t know about it…now think again, about what I just said about air traffic control…

If the data is wrong, the planes will crash. At the moment, you have the facilities to guide your policing deployments, but you don’t have the data to make sure that you are doing it properly.

I’m incredibly humbled to have been asked here, and you should all be properly proud of the people that have made this happen so, if it’s alright with you, can we have a quick round of applause for our hosts…
…thank you.

And I would like to say, that I’m more nervous stood here, than I was when I stood before my own government and told them that our biggest police force was fiddling the crime figures.

I want to tell you a little bit about the job, policing. Because it is The Job, not a job…it sort of consumes you, and it is very easy for people to fall into a pattern where they play the games which exist…and those games would be: fitting in with your friends, fiddling the crime figures, and not recording crime, because it’s easier. That was what I found in London, that was the experience that I had.

What I’m here to talk about is the dangers of incentive based police response, corruption risks, performance indicators and the linked misconduct…but: who am I?

Very briefly, I started in Derbyshire Constabulary in 2004 and transferred to the Metropolitan Police in 2009. My background, really, was combating organised crime, in particular Crack Houses…we have a large crack cocaine problem in the UK, and what that does is drives acquisitive crime…what I worked out very quickly is that you can swiftly identify crime patterns which are linked to other types of crime, and – if you do that properly – you can come up with proper strategies to combat it…but it goes back to correct data, because, if your are not getting the information that you need, you are not – by any means – going to be able to do anything about it.

Now…the international failures in crime data are pretty well known. They weren’t previously but they are now. In the US, in New York, there were significant problems uncovered with CompStat -the system developed to monitor statistics and drive the zero tolerance approach to policing. They would have monthly and weekly meetings and look at their priority crime types, focusing their efforts on reducing, for example, robbery…or stop and frisk:they would want to see a larger proportion of people being searched in the streets.
What actually happened in New York, Chicago and – it transpires – LA was that people were being driven to reduce these crime types, but they weren’t reducing crime, there were no less victims….what they were doing was getting a report of crime, doing their duty and writing it down, but effectively screwing it up, and throwing it away; the reason being that it then didn’t appear on their books…so, you’ve got a bin, full of crimes that nobody is investigating, you have victims who haven’t received the service they deserve from their police force, and you have, fundamentally, a bunch of people in public office saying that crime has come down, when it hasn’t: it’s just been hidden.

It’s absolutely and utterly pointless, a discredited approach.

Some of the work that I did, resulted in a Parliamentary Inquiry into crime statistics. We have have two measures in the UK, Police Recorded Crime (PRC) and the British Crime Survey (BCS).

PRC is what police forces would record themselves, which is as worthless as that piece of paper that I just threw over there. The BCS is very much like the survey you guys have here, it’s the public view of crime, so fundamentally more accurate. In England, it’s approximately twice the amount of recorded crime that the police have ever displayed, so you can see the immediate disparity…

In the wake of the Parliamentary Inquiry, PRC is, now, no longer a valid national statistic…it’s been screwed up into a ball and thrown into the bin: a huge irony, as it’s exactly what they were doing with people’s crime for years.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), is the independent organisation appointed to review police forces in the UK. They’d never really looked at crime data before, it was boring – not a sexy topic…they’ve looked now and they’ve found out is that crime in the UK, and the UK is widely regarded as having a decent police force, were lying about criminal offences to the tune of 25%.

In the latest set of figures, which has come out since PRC was scrapped, and since the Inquiry, some PRC has increased by 25%…I’m no one really, in the grand scheme of things, but I estimated, based on the figures, that crime was under-recorded by around 25%…it’s no coincidence that crime has now gone up…

Crime hasn’t actually gone up, it’s just that, instead of being in the bin, it’s on the books.

There’s a Borough in London, called Southwark, in 2009 it was was uncovered that the specialist sexual offences command had been throwing rape crimes in the bin…they been visiting victims, vulnerable people who’d been subjected to horrific ordeal, and were effectively telling them: you don’t want to go to court, it won’t be very nice; the jury won’t believe you, because you were drunk, because you wore a short skirt; because you have mental health issues. “Nobody wants this rape on our books, because it makes us look bad”…seriously? If it makes you look bad, and that’s what you’re worried about…any police officer who says that, is in the wrong job.

Rotheram…the latest in a long line of sex scandals in the UK. For years, children were sexually abused, they went to the police, reported the abuse, but they were dismissed for years – no one will believe you, nobody wants to investigate this, it will make our figures look bad.

The result of gaming the crime figures is that you have a generation of children and their abuse was permitted.

All of the things that I’ve just described, that is, academically, what they would call ‘gaming the system’. People misunderstood this for years, they thought it was just a bit of fun, get crime down, make people happy…but what actually drives it didn’t get uncovered until the 2000’s…

[Brief description of the academic work of De Bruujin and Dr Rodger Patrick]

They found, in policing, this system of perverse incentives, where people could be offered promotions if they could show crime reductions…

What this meant is the people who were, fundamentally, a little bit power hungry, would go and say to their junior officers “I want you to make robbery/rape/ burglary look better” and what developed was this way of making the system work for them, this fashion of screwing up offences and throwing them in the bin, of reclassifying a robbery as theft, a rape as a no crime…

…and the scale…and the type of thing…told us, for the first time, that it’s not just front line officers who are the corrupt ones – that’s the general view, I suppose, even the view that I had – that it’s the cop who has contact with the criminal who has access to the envelope full of cash…what policing had in fact done, was find a way of offering ranking officers a financial incentive to act in a way that wasn’t correct.

So, what does this actually mean? Well, we’ll go through it….

The first thing is failing victims…you guys, you already have 93% of people that don’t trust you…7% are the people that are coming to you and you are begging for that investment of trust, and you need that trust, because without even that: you might as well pack up your shop; you might as well not be here at all.

Failing those victims, when they do have their crime reported, or recorded, erodes what trust is left…victims rightly have an expectation that when they suffer an offence the police will do what they are trained to do, treat them properly, with respect and dignity.

Every single one of us has a duty – and we all make a promise when we start in the police that we’ll behave in a certain way – did we ever promise that we’d talk victims out of the crime that they’ve reported? No.

Jorge [previous speaker] talked about evidential burdens, and the presumption is that the police investigate the crime and establish whether or not one has occurred. We don’t just make an arbitrary decision, based upon a statistical target, to not record the crime or make it disappear…that just means you’re letting down the people you’re there to serve in the first place.

On the back of the police trucks, it says ‘protect and serve the community’, it doesn’t say ‘lie your way to better crime figures’…it doesn’t say ‘we don’t feel like doing that today’…it says ‘protect and serve the community’.

So, protect and serve them, by doing it properly.

Your government, the same as mine, relies on you for accurate data. The President’s bunker relies on you for accurate data…because, in critical situations, they need to make decisions about where you need to be; how many bullets, how many blackhawks, how many Dodge Chargers…if everything they are making those decisions upon is wrong, then you are lying to them, you are deceiving them…and they are going to make bad decisions.

I’d say more about deceiving the public, if we were in England, but I think the 93% vote of no confidence makes that discussion irrelevant.

For me, the next thing is, there’s a phrase which involves swearing so I’ll just say it makes me very annoyed, leaving offenders to offend. As police officer’s, our job is to catch criminals, and put them in prison so they can’t do it again…when you are keeping crimes off your books, with named suspects on them – and they do do this in London by the way – you are leaving the criminal on the street to go out and rob the next person, commit the next burglary, steal the next car, kidnap the next person…rape the next child….and you’re leaving them to it for years.

Again, this comes down to the crime statistics.

Crime pattern analysis, the next thing on the list, is really, really simple: type of crime, modus operandi, when, where, who lives nearby, who does that type of crime…it’s incredibly basic policing…yet…it relies upon a pattern of crimes to analyse and, if there isn’t one, all of your…Platform Mexico, all of your analysis and research, all of your intelligence briefings…they’re worthless. Not worth the paper they’re written on…you’re investing in the numbers and not the crimes.

When they set targets in London, it transpires that they had no idea what types of crime were the most frequently committed, which were the most serious to the public…and the reason they didn’t know was because, for years, they’d been lying to themselves fore years…and I do say years.

After I gave evidence to Parliament, Lord something of Kirkwelpington, who used to be the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police – who rose through the ranks, his entire service thirty years, ten years in the House of Lords guiding policy on policing…after me, a PC, went to Parliament said this was wrong, he said “Oh yeah, we’ve done this since I was a probationer”…Well, that’s great Sir, thanks for confirming that you’ve risen through the rank structure and, the entire time, turned a blind eye to what is, fundamentally, the manipulation of the crime statistics; to misconducting yourself in a public office.

What this also means, is that the entire target structure that has been set up is known to be based on fallacy. If the Mayor’s office wants to reduce seven types of crime, do they know it’s the right seven types? The answer’s no, they’re looking in the wrong areas, the wrong types of offenders…the impact of it so deep and so broad, that to try and capture it in a brief presentation like this, is tragically difficult.

Those offenders that are left to offend…will they ever get to court? Will we ever to get put the evidence before a judge and ensure that they go to prison, not just for that crime, but for every crime they’ve committed? The answer is no…because the crimes are in the bin, that person is never going to stand before a judge, there will never be the evidence gathered….and what that means is that the entire criminal justice system is being let down.

I’ve mentioned the bunker a few times, on allocation of resource, do you want to know what happened in London? They used a set of data, which they knew to be incorrect, to redesign the shift patterns for uniform police officers across the capital…that’s from a police force of 32,000 people, which serves nine million people.

Didn’t any of you hear about the London Riots in 2011? No? Basically, London was on fire for several days, there were gangs of marauding criminals smashing their way into shops, burning down people’s houses, people died…the police lost control of a city the size of London, and the reason they did is because, on a Saturday night, there were 3,200 out of 32,000 police officers on duty. 10% of a workforce, on what is well known to be the busiest policing day of the week, in the busiest policing period of the year, the summer….but because they based their restructuring on manipulated data, data they knew to be inaccurate, it cost the city lives, £270 million in damage and it cost the police force £100 million in overtime, to correct their mistake.

Because of the system that people rise through, by turning a blind eye, that was buried at page 108 of a report written much later. Because admitting the mistake would mean admitting a personal error…and that’s when we get to the crux of the matter: who’s going to stand there and say “Yes, Sir, it was me, I made people die, I cost London £370 million”.

No one’s going to say that, realistically speaking…so, you then get into this second realm of perverse incentives, where people who have invested in that system have to protect themselves from their own errors.

So how do you get to the bottom of manipulated data? It is incredibly straight forward, but I’m not going to go into the nerdy side of it, because you’ll probably fall asleep…

So I’ll keep it brief and say, if the data looks to good to be true, it is. If you see a year on year reduction in a certain type of crime, say in England where they’ve seen 20 years of reducing street robbery and every year it miraculously reduced by 8% – 8 the magic number, lucky in China, luckier in London…if it looks too good to be true, then it is.

There is no way you can look at a crime reduction of anything more 12 months and sit on your laurels, because you’re then into the realms of offender releases, new drug market mapping, anything that can comes out of your imagination….anything more than twelve months crime reduction should be immediately ringing your alarm bells.

That brings us onto the second thing: if it looks bad, it’s true. Human nature is really, really simple….for years, ever since we clambered out of the caves, we have gone around and done two things. Number one is kill other things, and number two is kill each other – or hurt each other, or get in disputes with each other over property, territory, relationships….it’s a part of human nature: accept it…

…but, from the policing point of view: if it looks bad, that is people being people, and it means you know that you are doing job right, because you know how many people are being people.

I don’t know what the term is for you, for a disposal – where you record and offence and get to the point where it may go to court, where you decide to close the crime on lack of evidence, or decide to prosecute…when you are looking at these, you can see intertwined patterns.

What you could see in the London figures, was that they were workload managing…basically, if you were to see recorded rape increasing over three years, you would see the number of detections rise and fall in proportion, say 25%…what you would then see is the number of no crimes…and that no crime and detected crime would run point for point across the three year chart.

You could see, post Southwark – when it was declared that no crime was an unacceptable approach to Rape, and it dropped almost to zero – that they started to use Crime Related Incident, a thing that they invented so still they had a bin…That is gaming the system.

That’s precisely what it is: the system allowed them to no crime for years, until they got caught, then the system changed the rules, so they came up with an alternative version which allowed them to continue in the same way.

Identifying statistical deviance sounds a right mouthful, but all it means is establishing, across the board, what your statistical norms are, for recorded crime, convictions, disposals…then map it out, ignoring your crime types…this then gives you a baseline, a median line…some up, some down but that’s fine…anything within a couple of percent is your norm. Then break down your crime types of interest, the international money being on robbery, burglary, rape, assault, and overlay them. You will then see some areas standing out significantly.

This allows you to ask yourself: are we gaming the system? And have an investigation from the internal affairs side, in those areas. It’s not rocket science, it’s a really basic, simple way of finding out if your crime figures are being fiddled and it’s worth twenty-four hours of your time.

Along with that, you need to speak to your front-line coppers, the ones who are out there recording crime, out there investigating your low level offences…because they will tell you, straight away…on one condition: that you don’t sit them down in a room and, there’s a phrase in English, “Give it Big’uns”, which is to say: “You’re down there, I’m up here, tell me what I want to hear”…all you will get is sheep, saying “Baaaa!”, that’s all that will happen.

If you want to listen, take your pips off, take them for a coffee, go for a beer, do the hard work for a shift; roll around on the floor with a criminal, chase someone down an alleyway. You will get the truth, because they will respect the way that you’ve approached them…and if you say to them, we were having a think at HQ and wondering if this was happening, they will give you a straight yes or no, and not only that, but – if it is – they will tell you where, how and who is responsible for it…in part that is because every copper – and this is international – loves to do one thing better than everyone else: moan about their superiors.

Go to the person with the biggest mouth, who moans the loudest and they will tell you…they won’t expect you to like it, don’t expect to hear anything you want to hear in a conversation like that, but they will tell you the truth.

The next crucial thing is whistleblowers…they are inherently awkward, anti-hierarchical, with marginal anarchist tendencies…like me…you might not like them, but they will tell you the truth…because they are awkward, not the kind of people you want to promote; they are not very likeable; they won’t say Yes Sir, they probably won’t respect your authority and you won’t like what they say…but they will tell you the truth.

There is a caveat, a warning with this though, you have to treat whistleblowers properly, because they are doing you a service that a myriad of others will not. They are putting themselves on the line, stepping outside of the boy’s club that policing can be…mistreat them at your peril, because if you don’t listen to them and they are telling you the truth, they will go above your head and above theirs too…and what you could end up with, if you continue to ignore the problem, is a Parliamentary Inquiry…that’s what happened in England because I’m awkward and I won’t say yes.

These people are an asset to your organisation, because they want you to know that something is wrong, why it is wrong but, most importantly of all: they want to help you fix it.

So…if your crime figures are being fiddled the only people that will tell you the truth are these people, and the only way you can identify where to look for them is starting to identify your statistical deviance…it couldn’t be any easier.

The last thing, this horrendous barrier to police improvement – and I said at the beginning that you guys are really dedicated to changing it, to challenging the norms, to stepping away from the traditional way of doing things – is reputation management…there are actually policies for this: who can talk to the media, what to do with bad news…trust your instincts instead.

If you’ve been wearing that uniform long enough, your instinct will tell you what’s right and what’s wrong…ignore your reputation management policy, ignore the superior officer who may have gone through thirty years of turning a blind eye to this…ignore reputation managers because policing isn’t a PR stunt, it isn’t a game…it certainly isn’t a tickling competition…

Ignore reputation and do what it says on the back of the trucks: serve and protect your community first and foremost…everything else is irrelevant.

Turning to misconduct and investigation….Bribery? What is bribery? Jorge mentioned it: it’s giving a police officer something to make them look one way, or another way…is it any different with an incentive? Is it any different if I stand here and say “Anna, here’s ten US dollars…don’t record any robbery for a week”…

It’s not, there’s no difference, it’s bribery….and you will have been in that situation, in order to rise to your position…you know how it works, what the system is, what will happen by making the very suggestion to your junior colleague that they should behave in a certain way in exchange for an incentive…and that’s the crucial thing: people need to stop thinking ‘it’s only data’ or ‘we’ll give you a bit of cash to do this, instead of that’.

The implication of every decision like that – as backed up by academic studies, as backed by anecdotal data, as backed up by the stories about police forces across the world – is that police forces have been bribing themselves to look the other way.

That is the nuts and bolts of what we’ve been talking about

[Overview of misconduct offences in the UK and the principle of regulatory dismissal if found guilty of operational dishonesty].

Did you lie about the number of robberies in Wandsworth last week? If the answer is yes, that’s your job finished. I don’t know what the offences are here, but I’d suggest that applying operational dishonesty is a sensible approach.

Is it criminality? For every offender left free, because you fiddled the crime figures, you have helped them commit more offences…

It’s a hard line…but one that should be taken. There’s no point dressing it up as a harmless mistake – a mistake is putting a frozen dinner in the microwave for a minute less than it says on the packet – a mistake is not under-recording thousands of crimes a year.

You have to find those involved and those accountable..to do that you have to look for them, look for the people that I’ve told you about…those who will help you…but once you find them, who is accountable?

They are, their manager is and their manager…then you just have to keep digging, because you will find the true scale of it and – if you put your hand on your heart – you will know if something is happening across the police service too…and ultimately, the day you carry on turning a blind to it, you are accountable too.

I was reading, on the plane, a book by Irvine Welsh, called Filth – an old derogatory term for the police in England – the opening lines struck me like hammer blow…because I was coming here to talk about policing, not just a job, but The Job…you risk your life daily to protect the people that you serve – or you should do, if you’re doing it properly…and I just wanted to finish by reading you this quote, from the start of the book…and it will make sense…

“The job. It holds you. It’s all around you; a constant, enclosing absorbing gel. And when you’re in the job, you look out at life through that distorted lens. Sometimes, aye, you get your wee zones of relative freedom to retreat into, those light, delicate spaces where new things, different, better things can be perceived of as possibles. Then it stops. Suddenly you see that those zones aren’t there any more. They were getting smaller, you knew that. You knew that some day you’d have to get round to doing something about it. When did this happen? The realisation came some time after. It doesn’t really matter how long it took: two years, three, five or ten. The zones got smaller and smaller until they didn’t exist, and all that’s left behind is the residue. That’s the games. The games are the only way you can survive the job”.

You have a real opportunity here, to do something different, and take the games out of the job.

Thank you.

Public Concern At Work – Speech, Nov. 2014

Public Concern At Work – Speech, Nov. 2014

These words were delivered at the Roxy Bar and Screen, Borough High Street, London on the 12th November 2014. It was an introductory speech to a special screening of the whistle-blowing classic Serpico, fundraising for the fantastic whistleblowing charity Public Concern At Work:

“The fight for justice against corruption is never easy. It never has been and never will be. It exacts a toll on our self, our families, our friends, and especially our children. In the end, I believe, as in my case, the price we pay is well worth holding on to our dignity”.

Frank Serpico said that, the man whose film we are all here to watch – and it is his film, not Pacino’s. Frank is a real person; a stand up guy, as they’d say in New York, who – and I see the attraction – lives in the woods.

Years before any of us sat here, blowing our whistles, or helping others do the same, this bloke, Frank, found himself in a world of pain in the NYPD, culminating in his being shot in the face….
Think on that….think on the fact that times have moved on somewhat and we rarely face the same level of physical danger….but, at the same time, think about how little else has truly changed.

Sure, the law has changed, PIDA exists – but only as a net and not a shield – and whistleblowers are seen by the public as champions across the world – even the media shine a positive light on us these days…

…But we are the awkward squad, we are a curse – a plague of locusts – upon employers, upon managers, upon reputation managers. We are dangerous. We are mental. We are subjects of ridicule and reprisal. That hasn’t changed at all, not truly.

In my first written submission to the Public Administration Select Committee I wrote: “I hope that police officers in the future will not experience the same frustration and anxiety that I was subjected to at the hands of my superiors because of my attempt to report corruption. I was made to feel that I had burdened them. The problem is that the atmosphere does not yet exist in which an honest police officer can act without fear of ridicule or reprisal from fellow officers. Police corruption cannot exist unless it is at least tolerated at higher levels. Therefore, the most important result is a conviction by police officers that the department will change”.

It is exactly as true as it was when it was first said….not by me in 2013, in London, but in the early 1970’s, in New York, by Frank Serpico, when he appeared before the Knapp Commission…

Around forty years later, and several thousand miles away, here we still are…Frank himself, in a rare, recent article, made clear that he sees the Blue Wall of Silence in policing as strong as it ever was.

Of course, in the modern world, Social Media brings some more immediacy to the kind of responses you get…when my evidence went in, an Assistant Chief Constable publicly attacked me, one of those ‘how dare you moments’ and another – a sergeant who uses anonymity because he’s, for want of a better phrase, utterly spineless – described giving evidence of endemic police corruption as ‘jumping the shark’. I had to Google it: it relates to Happy Days becoming gimmicky towards the end of its run.

It was only last night that someone I used to work with sent me a Facebook message…basically saying “I’ve never heard anyone say you were wrong, they’ve called you a cunt, but never said you were wrong”.

If saying that rape victims were talked out of crimes is gimmicky, or if saying that resource figures were doctored and left London to be ravaged by riots is gimmicky, then yes: I jumped the shark.
Of course, the dark question these kinds of people need to ask themselves is this: if I’m prepared to jump a shark, what would I do to you face to face? That’s why the true art to reprisal and ridicule is to keep it insidious…out of sight. I hope I’ve made that harder to do, by making sure that what happened to me was as public as possible…because sunlight remains the best disinfectant…

I was trained to deal with and survive confrontation, but not every whistleblower was…the biteback on whistleblowers has evolved but not stopped…and this is why Public Concern At Work must carry on its work with our support.

Without them, many would just wander around fighting shadows or being chased by them, being devoured by them…simply being alone and at risk. Because, you see, we are at risk, doing what we do, fighting things much bigger than ourselves – things which see us as a risk, and yet…we risk everything anyway.

Why is that? What is it about us that makes us do it? I’ve thought about this a lot, even sometimes questioned myself, doubted myself, hated myself…but, in the end, it comes down to there being something in each of us that is a little bit like biting on tinfoil – something hard and uncomfortable.

For me, I’ve boiled it down, managed to distill the reasons I did it, into a format that made sense – at least to me in my own environment…it came down to a simple choice: to play by the rules or not.

You see, I could quite easily have become a criminal as a kid, made a choice to walk on the wrong side of the line permanently – I’d have been an excellent smackhead and burglar, I assure you…I didn’t, I chose to be a copper and chose to walk that side of the line instead. With that choice came the simple fact that there is no grey area, no half-arsed effort: you are either in or out.

I was in, and I was in to the bitter end. Over my head, out of my depth, but, by God, did I stick to that cursed path. I walked into the room, walked up to the biggest beast there and knocked him out in front of everyone…and I can’t think of a much bigger beast than the Met.

I left with nothing, no compensation, no big reward, no glittering future, but I never wanted that. Where it counts, I handed the Met it’s arse, because it needed to be done. Where it counts, I won on behalf of all of the victims that had been talked out of reporting their crimes, or simply not given the respect and dignity they deserved…I’m retired from the first police force that gave me a whistle, and I still don’t think they ever thought I’d ever blow it…

I did everything that I had to do, everything that I needed to do, and absolutely nothing that I was asked to do. I did it because I made a choice to walk the right side of the line, instead of taking smack and nicking TVs…I guess that makes me stubborn, like a donkey with a fundamentally good temprement.

I suppose the one life lesson I used, to get me through it all, goes all the way back to a fight I had when I was a kid. The only way I could win, being outnumbered and smaller than the other lads, was to distract them, make them look left while I swung a right, a real haymaker that settled it.

In many ways that’s what I did with Twitter, with blogs, with public side of what went on. I made the Met look left and they didn’t see the knock out coming. I later learned that Sun Tzu advocated exactly the same in the Art of War…and it made me feel a bit better about having had to use tactics to tell the truth.

Do I regret doing it? Even in the darkest hours, even in those moments where I cried in the street while walking home, or stared point-blank into the bottom of a pint glass…when I felt crushed and saw even the slightest bump as impossible to climb, no, I never regretted it. Not then and not now.

What I did regret was the toll it took on others, because I didn’t have enough left, all of my energy being focused on simply surviving, to adequately defend those I love. I nearly ruined my marriage [I did], became distant at home; saw that my small children could see me upset, could see the stress etched onto my face. There was nothing I could do to protect them and that I do regret…but the fight against corruption is never easy…remember.

Of course there is always a future to look to…though it’s something you don’t necessarily believe at the time…even now, when I went into Reed’s the other day, the recruitment consultant looked at my CV and said “I can see this being a problem for employers…”

My immediate future was working in the local pub, which – as it turns out – was exactly what I needed…complete separation from the past. A period of deinstitutionalisation. It worked a charm. I’m not James the ex copper, James the whistleblower. I’m just James and, as soon as I let go of some of that, good things started happening.

I’ve just been to Mexico, flown out by the US Embassy and hosted by the Federal Police to talk to them about how to identify perverse incentives, data mainpulation and all of the related corruption. Hopefully, that’s the start of something that could lead me back there…

I’m also working with the Coalition of Police and Crime Commissioners, to try and help police forces get better at whistleblowing practice and procedure – to make sure no one else ever has to go through what I did.

I’m still in regular touch with Bernard Jenkin, the formidable MP and chair of the Public Administration Select Committee, who helped me swing the haymaker, and more positive change is on the horizon because he is like me, he won’t let it go. I my even get to meet Theresa May, to talk to her about her proposed changes to whistleblowing protections for coppers…

On top of all that, I was utterly humbled by the request from Cathy, Frankie and Liam to do this tonight.

I may be scared to death about how we pay the rent, but the clouds are starting to glow with silver linings, small ones, but visible ones nonetheless.

The one thing that I do need to do, so that I can really put this all to bed, is take the rough draft of my book, my side of the story, and get it out into the world. Breaching The Peace [The Rest Is Silence] is what it’s called because breaching the peace is what I did: I caused a disturbance, I rocked the boat, I made a noise no one could ignore. It’s going to be the literary equivalent of Ronseal meets Marmite…and it’s on the verge of finding a home…maybe. It’s another one of those uphill struggles, I can assure you.

I’d like to share some of it with you, and, seeing as my time is almost up here, I’d like to make it the end. It makes sense, to me at least, to leave you with some kind of explanation as to why, if I truly won, I left the police…

“I thought about all of the others I had come across over the last couple of years, since I started the process of raising concerns in public, outside of that spyrographed hell.

Were we the first, or last of it? That slightly anarchical generation of coppers: the ones who no longer blindly followed orders, who would question authority, who would, like me, leave a shit storm in our wake.

I’d come to think of us as the On The Beat Generation, the rebels with a cause, and thought about how, strangely, we were absolutely sod all to do with the future of the service. We were just an interchange, a cross roads to be traversed whenever policing caught up and worked out that it shouldn’t be what it was, but can’t ever be what it should; subsequently leaving the husk of a dog shit in its place.

Finally, I thought about people in this job and their long memories; about the circles, the cliques, about what the streets are really lined with.

By the end of that day, having listened to both my heart and my head, I knew that my mutton shunting days were over. A decade of my life was coming to its conclusion while the Commissioner was fighting his Total War on Crime, the Met were busy fighting their Total War on The Truth, the Federation were waging Total War on Themselves, and the Directorate of Professional Standards were running amock with their Total War on Whistleblowers.

There was never going to be a way back, no way to trust policing again; no way that my next twenty or so years wouldn’t be riddled with vendetta: I’d be squared up again and again..

In the end, and against the odds, I’d already won my battles in the Total War on Bullshit, so I started to write out my resignation”.

Anyway, that’s enough from me about being a whistleblower, about being in the police, because, to use some more of Frank’s words, “I’m retarded…I mean I’m retired”.

So, with my thanks and without further ado, Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Serpico, a tremendous film about a living legend….

Responsible Media Campaign

Responsible Media Campaign

Introductory Note:

Nobody wants a fettered press, no clamps on the mouths of journalists who provide us with factually accurate news and opinion. The regulation of the press as regards content is an abhorrent concept and rightly should never be applied in a democracy, even in the face of so called fake news which often spirals from little more than a back bedroom social media rant.

However, the caveat to the freedom of the press – with the media ruling many aspects of our lives, and trusted to inform us on important issues – is that it is honest and ethical.

A longstanding principle for journalists and editors has been that corrections and retractions are given equal prominence to the original article, in order to redress any adverse effects or imbalances caused.

With the larger publications now driven by profit, editorial responsibility is often over-ridden by business and revenue strategy.

This situation is untenable and irresponsible, with adverse effects clear for all to see.

Proposal:

It is now clear that intervention must come, led by the will of the people, to influence parliament to intervene and resolve this issue for the benefit of all, through legislation.

A short act must be introduced, to regulate this specific aspect of media behaviour, while unambiguously ensuring journalism remains free and unfettered.

An act, entitled the News Publications (Corrections and Retractions) Act is proposed, which would make the following provisions and the following provisions alone (formal draft wording is being prepared for later use):

Section 1:

a) News publications (defined as print newspapers and magazines, and electronic or digital versions thereof);

b) published or accessible in any format in the United Kingdom;

c) must, publish a retraction or correction of, or relating to an article, at the time they are made aware it is required;

d) and, when publishing a correction or retraction of, or relating to an article, assign the same headline size and type, page number, and printing space (or column inches), with identical prominence to the original article.

d) (A front page article must be corrected in identical lay out on the front page, or front page of a website, for example).

Section 2:

a) It is a criminal offence to fail to comply with section 1, with a mandatory fine for the publication or business owner of the publication responsible of not less than £25,000 but not more than £1000,000; the level of fine being attributed in bands on the scale set out below.

b) The offence is indictable and triable at Crown Court only.

c) The publication or business owner thereof, including any corporation or board, is the liable party in all cases. For the avoidance of doubt this includes ‘senior management’ as defined by the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.

d) Individual journalists are not liable parties in such proceedings but may be personally liable in any civil recovery proceedings arising from the case.

e) The band of fine on a guilty finding under this offence is set out as follows:

  • Local News Publications: £25-100,000
  • Regional News Publications: £100,000-500,000
  • National and International News Publications: £500,000-1000,000

f) The level of fine within the band will be attributed by the court based upon the comparative size, location and prominence of the correction or retraction to the original article, the circulation of the article, and the level of harm caused by the content – determined by any evidence of adverse affects to any person, group, corporation or any other body. In the case where no correction or retraction is made, the maximum fine within the band shall be applied.

Section 3:

a) Any party subject to proceedings as a liable publisher under this act must be readily identifiable to an average person as a ‘newspaper’, ‘magazine’, or ‘online news outlet aligned to or forming part of the operations of a newspaper or magazine’.

b) News publications shall not be subject to further regulation or constraint, notwithstanding rules, regulations and acts already in force at the time of enactment.

Section 4:

a) ‘At the time they are made aware it is required’, at Section 1(c) means upon the receipt of a formal letter, electronic communication, or telephone call.

b) A communication at Section 4(a) will be deemed received if the party making the publication aware holds a record of the outward communication, for example an email, or a recorded delivery receipt.

Section 5:

a) Any person may raise a complaint of an offence contrary to this act, including on behalf of another person.

b) For the purposes of crime recording, one notifiable offence shall be recorded for each instance relating to an article and its retraction, rather than one offence per person raising the complaint of the offence. For example, one failure to retract an article generates 10 complaints, one crime shall be recorded with ten complainants.

c) All offences shall be subject to mandatory referral by the police to the media regulator, OfCom.

Supporting This Campaign:

This campaign requires no financial support.

You can either sign an online petition here, which the government will respond to if it reaches ten thousand signatures. The petition wording is as follows:

Enact law regulating retractions and corrections (only) in news publications.

It is a long standing editorial principle that a correction or retraction should take the same size and prominence as the original article. With publications of newspapers and their online arms now increasingly profit driven and political, this practice of editorial responsibility has fallen away.

A number of inflammatory headlines over recent months have caused significant disturbance and furore, while the subsequent corrections and retractions have been buried in small bylines. Such articles very often inflame community tensions during a period of heightened civil unease and may well be a contributing factor in hate crimes across the UK. A proposed bill has been drafted to mandate for responsible publication practices, while making sure not to fetter the freedom of the press.

Or contact your MP (you can find your MP here) using the following as a cut and paste text:

Dear [name],

RE: Please support our campaign to enact law regulating retractions and corrections (only) in news publications.

The regulation of the press as regards content is an abhorrent concept and rightly should never be applied in a democracy, even in the face of so called fake news.

However, the caveat to the freedom of the press – with the media ruling many aspects of our lives, and trusted to inform us on important issues – is that it is honest and ethical.

A longstanding principle for journalists and editors has been that corrections and retractions are given equal prominence to the original article, in order to redress any adverse effects or imbalances caused. With the larger publications now driven by profit, editorial responsibility is often over-ridden by business and revenue strategy.

This situation is untenable and irresponsible, with adverse effects clear for all to see.

It is now clear that intervention must come, led by the will of the people, to influence parliament to intervene and resolve this issue for the benefit of all, through legislation.

A short act must be introduced, to regulate this specific aspect of media behaviour, while unambiguously ensuring journalism remains free and unfettered.

An act, entitled the News Publications (Corrections and Retractions) Act is proposed, which would make the following provisions and the following provisions alone (formal draft wording is being prepared for later use):

Section 1:

a) News publications (defined as print newspapers and magazines, and electronic or digital versions thereof);

b) published or accessible in any format in the United Kingdom;

c) must, publish a retraction or correction of, or relating to an article, at the time they are made aware it is required;

d) and, when publishing a correction or retraction of, or relating to an article, assign the same headline size and type, page number, and printing space (or column inches), with identical prominence to the original article.

d) (A front page article must be corrected in identical lay out on the front page, or front page of a website, for example).

Section 2:

a) It is a criminal offence to fail to comply with section 1, with a mandatory fine for the publication or business owner of the publication responsible of not less than £25,000 but not more than £1000,000; the level of fine being attributed in bands on the scale set out below.

b) The offence is indictable and triable at Crown Court only.

c) The publication or business owner thereof, including any corporation or board, is the liable party in all cases. For the avoidance of doubt this includes ‘senior management’ as defined by the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.

d) Individual journalists are not liable parties in such proceedings but may be personally liable in any civil recovery proceedings arising from the case.

e) The band of fine on a guilty finding under this offence is set out as follows:

  • Local News Publications: £25-100,000
  • Regional News Publications: £100,000-500,000
  • National and International News Publications: £500,000-1000,000

f) The level of fine within the band will be attributed by the court based upon the comparative size, location and prominence of the correction or retraction to the original article, the circulation of the article, and the level of harm caused by the content – determined by any evidence of adverse affects to any person, group, corporation or any other body. In the case where no correction or retraction is made, the maximum fine within the band shall be applied.

Section 3:

a) Any party subject to proceedings as a liable publisher under this act must be readily identifiable to an average person as a ‘newspaper’, ‘magazine’, or ‘online news outlet aligned to or forming part of the operations of a newspaper or magazine’.

b) News publications shall not be subject to further regulation or constraint, notwithstanding rules, regulations and acts already in force at the time of enactment.

Section 4:

a) ‘At the time they are made aware it is required’, at Section 1(c) means upon the receipt of a formal letter, electronic communication, or telephone call.

b) A communication at Section 4(a) will be deemed received if the party making the publication aware holds a record of the outward communication, for example an email, or a recorded delivery receipt.

Section 5:

a) Any person may raise a complaint of an offence contrary to this act, including on behalf of another person.

b) For the purposes of crime recording, one notifiable offence shall be recorded for each instance relating to an article and its retraction, rather than one offence per person raising the complaint of the offence. For example, one failure to retract an article generates 10 complaints, one crime shall be recorded with ten complainants.

c) All offences shall be subject to mandatory referral by the police to the media regulator, OfCom.

A petition has been lodged bearing the title ‘Enact law regulating retractions and corrections (only) in news publications’.

Your support in helping ensure ethics in media publications, while preserving the freedom of the press, is greatly appreciated.

Yours faithfully,

[Your Name]

Thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope you can see fit to support this campaign.

James.