IT seems the Metropolitan Police have got themselves in a stew after a Freedom of Information request for police policy on how undercover officers are accountable to members of the public.
The request, submitted on January 16, 2013, pointed out that uniformed officers are obliged to display their identification numbers while on duty so complaints can be raised by members of the public, but queried how the same could be done with officers in plain-clothes.
FOI requests must be responded to within 20 working days, so it was expected on February 13, however, on February 25 the Met replied apologising for the delay and stated it was ‘trying to establish’ what information it holds.
In it’s email, the information officer wrote: ‘I am sorry to inform you that we have not been able to complete our response to your request by the date originally stated, as we are currently trying to establish what information the MPS holds, if any, and whether it can be retrieved within the cost threshold as laid out under Section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act (the Act).’
One may be forgiven for wondering how long it could possibly take the Met’s dedicated information officers to dig-up a manual.
The email went on to say a response could be expected by March 13.
On March 14 the Met got back in contact to apologise – again – and to state that it would be unable to respond within the required 20 working days, despite 40 having now passed, and set a new date of April 15 to supply the elusive document – or decide if it crosses the cost/time threshold.
The matter could be awkward for the police after senior officers stipulated police must have their identity numbers on display following the G20 protests so the public could hold them to account, however, it could throw a spanner in the works were undercover officers obliged to do the same. But to insist they do not would be to accept and acknowledge they are largely unaccountable not withstanding some alternative method of identification such as video footage or a picture of their face.
At the time of writing I was unable to confirm rumours that the Met had drafted in its top detectives to uncover the Met’s policy.
Anyone with any information should call the Met’s information officers and anyone with any spare time should pop into New Scotland Yard to help them look.
We look forward to April 15 with bated breath.