At last week’s meetup on how mobile phone users are spied on in Birmingham we drew heavily on the great job The Bristol Cable did of revealing police purchases of covert surveillance devices, known as IMSI catchers. Interestingly, just yesterday (1 March) The Bristol Cable published a follow-up story, revealing how in the months since a majority of Police and Crime Commissioners they had featured in their story, including the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner have stopped publishing the monthly expenditure information which was central to their investigation.
Police withholding key information
The Bristol Cable’s investigation relied on monthly expenditure reports published by Police and Crime Commissioners. Here’s an extract from the follow-up story:
For years, these reports which list out the companies contracted by police forces, have included redactions; black lines pasted across spreadsheet rows to hide operationally-sensitive and personal-identity information. This is within the law.
However, the Cable has found that 5 of the 7 forces who bought IMSI-catchers, haven’t published their monthly reports altogether since autumn last year (the IMSI-catcher story was published in October). Beyond these 5 forces, 30 UK police forces in total haven’t published their monthly reports since at least December 2016.“Police and Crime Commissioners are required by law to publish what they spend”
It doesn’t look good for PCCs, the elected officials charged with overseeing police forces and representing the public in policing. They have a legal duty to publish these reports on a monthly basis, as set out in the Elected Local Policing Bodies (Specified Information) Order 2011 and the Elected Local Policing Bodies (Specified Information) (Amendment) Order 2012, in accordance with the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011.
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner monthly reports have lapsed
Sadly, David Jamieson, the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner appears to be one of the commissioners who has stopped publishing monthly expenditure reports. As of this evening (2 March 2017), the most recent expenditure report listed on the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner ‘s website was for August 2016.
How does West Midlands Police use IMSI catchers?
As part of our research for last week’s event, local organiser Francis Clarke submitted two Freedom of Information requests to obtain information about how West Midlands Police use IMSI catchers and how surveillance is supervised. One request was sent to West Midlands Police, the other was sent to the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner.
Both West Midlands Police and the Police and Crime Commissioner have until 15 March to officially respond to the requests. We will update you on how we get on. Follow us on Twitter @OpenRightsBrum to keep up with the latest developments.
We’ll also try to find out why the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner is not publishing regular monthly expenditure reports, despite the website stating:
“The Police and Crime Commissioner is required to publish information on each item of expenditure over £500 by the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner and by the Chief Constable of West Midlands Police. This information is to be published monthly.”
You can help by contacting the commissioner and asking him to make sure the expenditure reports are published on a monthly basis as required. You can contact the commissioner via Twitter @WestMidsPCC or through a contact form on the commissioner’s website.