A total of 6,969,396 subject profiles were held on the National DNA Database (NDNAD) at 31 March 2012 according to the NDNAD Annual Report 2011-2012. Allowing for duplication, the number of individuals whose DNA profile were held on the database is estimated at 5,950,612. This includes 1,253,289 innocent individuals ('without a current recorded conviction whose profiles had been added to the National DNA Database by English and Welsh police forces'). This also includes children; new research by the Howard League for Penal Reform has found that officers in England and Wales took swabs from 53,973 boys and girls aged 17 or under just during 2011.
The table below lists how many DNA subject profiles were loaded per year and how many individuals succeeded in getting their DNA profiles deleted following the 'Exceptional Case Procedure' over the past ten years. It clearly shows how easy it is for the police to grow the NDNAD, but how hard it has been for anyone to get off it.
|DNA profiles of individuals added||488,519||475,297||521,118||715,145||722,475||591,029||580,803||540,313||474,193||398,845|
|DNA profiles deleted (Exceptional Case Procedure)||256||45||53||165||115||162||283||414||503||390|
|Source: National DNA Database annual report 2011 to 2012, National DNA Database biennial report 2009-2011, National DNA Database annual report 2007-09, Parliamentary written answer 2007-05-10|
The DNA and fingerprint provisions of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 are scheduled to commence in October. Before then, DNA profiles of the innocent must be deleted, and most DNA samples destroyed. The profile deletion process is managed by the custodian of the NDNAD, which has been the Home Office since the closure of the National Police Improvement Agency. The physical destruction of the samples is handled by the forensic service provider that did the sequencing. This work was initially slow (see table below), but '[t]here has been significant progress' explained Lord Taylor of Holbeach in the House of Lords:
To date, 1,136,000 DNA profiles belonging to innocent individuals have been deleted from the National DNA Database. Some 6,341,000 DNA samples containing sensitive biological material that are no longer needed as a DNA profile has been obtained have been destroyed.
DNA sample destruction is due to be completed by the end of this month, and DNA profile and fingerprint deletion by the end of September. By the time the Act commences in October, only those convicted of a criminal offence will have their DNA and fingerprints retained indefinitely.
This must be a moment of great relief to all those innocent individuals whose DNA profiles the police were desperately retaining. However, as there was no requirement for a notification mechanism, it is likely no one concerned has been informed. If you have been arrested, your DNA taken and believe your DNA profile should have been deleted, one way to find out is to use the Data Protection Act and send a subject access request to the police force that arrested you (for help, see my short guide: How to obtain personal information which is held by an organisation?)
|DNA profile deletions||504,000||504,000||1,136,000|
|DNA sample destructions||439,000||453,000||6,341,000|
|Source: Ministerial statement 2013-05-20, Parliamentary written answer 2013-03-21, Ministerial statement 2013-03-04|
Here are some of the provisions describing what must happen before the coming into force of any provision of Part 1, Chapter 1 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012:
14. (4) A DNA sample to which this section applies must be destroyed—
(a) as soon as a DNA profile has been derived from the sample, or
(b) if sooner, before the end of the period of 6 months beginning with the date on which the sample was taken.
25. (2) The Secretary of State must, in particular, provide for the destruction or retention of PACE material taken, or (in the case of a DNA profile) derived from a sample taken, before the commencement day in connection with the investigation of an offence.
25. (3) Such provision must, in particular, ensure—
(a) in the case of material taken or derived 3 years or more before the commencement day from a person who— (i) was arrested for, or charged with, the offence, and (ii) has not been convicted of the offence, the destruction of the material on the coming into force of the order if the offence was a qualifying offence,
(b) in the case of material taken or derived less than 3 years before the commencement day from a person who— (i) was arrested for, or charged with, the offence, and (ii) has not been convicted of the offence, the destruction of the material within the period of 3 years beginning with the day on which the material was taken or derived if the offence was a qualifying offence, and
(c) in the case of material taken or derived before the commencement day from a person who— (i) was arrested for, or charged with, the offence, and (ii) has not been convicted of the offence, the destruction of the material on the coming into force of the order if the offence was an offence other than a qualifying offence.
Stealth DNA database of everyone
In contrast to the positive development of destroying all DNA samples and the DNA profiles of the innocent held on the NDNAD, a new report (pdf) by GeneWatch UK exposes the Government's plan to build a whole population DNA database by stealth:
In April 2013, the Caldicott Committee, including Government Chief Scientist Sir Mark Walport, proposed new rules for data-sharing which would allow the Government to build a DNA database of the whole population of England in the NHS by stealth.
The plan is to make NHS medical records and people's genetic information available to commercial companies and to use public-private partnerships to build a system where all private information about every citizen is also accessible to the police, social workers, security services and Government.
In announcing the report, GeneWatch UK director, Dr Helen Wallace said:
Total government surveillance of every citizen and the end of privacy between doctors and their patients are inevitable if a DNA database is built within the NHS. Every adult and their children will be tracked using their DNA, and private healthcare records from the NHS will be sold around the globe. Genes are poor predictors of most diseases in most people and personalised risk assessments will lead to the marketing of fear and medicalisation of vast swathes of the English population. The costs of unnecessary follow-up of misleading risk predictions could bankrupt the NHS and harm the health of vulnerable people.
For more information on the new data sharing powers, check out the presentations from the launch conference of medConfidential. Phil Booth's slides include diagrams that are extremely useful when trying to make sense of the new NHS structure and understand the workings of the General Practice Extraction Service (GPES) system used to share data from your GP. The GeneWatch report includes on pp. 33-34 two diagrams from a presentation by Tim Hubbard, Wellcome Trust Sanger Centre that shows the flow of the genomic information. The individual genome sequence is about 3 GB, this will be compared to a reference genome sequence, and the difference –a variant file of about 10 MB– stored in the electronic health record, and from there in the cloud.
Last October, I was interviewed about my unlawful arrest by Patrick Hafner, a journalist at Austrian Broadcasting Corporation ORF, who visited London to shoot a TV documentary about monitoring, both in terms of CCTV surveillance and online data gathering, for the programme 'Welt Journal' (World Report).
The international version of the program, called Naked Citizen has just been published on YouTube:
The Restart Project is a London-based social enterprise and charity aiming at changing our relationship with information technologies by empowering people to repair and reuse their electronic devices. It was started nine months ago by Janet Gunter and Ugo Vallauri.
The Restart Project’s vision is one based on collaboration and creativity – combining online knowledge sharing and cooperation with tangible activities in real life. One of the main such activity have been ‘Restart Parties’, community repair events, where all kinds of electronics are taken apart and repaired by owners together with volunteer repairers (Restarters). The aim is to promote increased lifespan, share repair skills and promote sustainable and informed consumption of information technologies.
To find out when and where the next Restart Party will happen, check out the events page.
Becoming a Restarter
At the end of last year, I turned up at a Restart Party and joined other volunteers to become a Restarter.
The Restart Project has been generating lots of interest and below are my contributions to two interviews, one in English and one in French, about it. Follow the links to read the articles in full.
Janet contributed Could you become a Restarter to the RSA's Great Recovery blog:
[...] We owe all of our momentum to our Restarters, a fun yet serious group. We would like to take a moment to introduce two of our committed repairers, and share their approach to repair. [...]
David, an east Londoner who has a background in tech and telecommunications, and is a privacy and civil liberties activist, writes
“The skills needed for most repairs are: a lot of common sense, some limited experience (acquired at a Restart Party), good research skills and access to a few tools. For example, if you can deal with a blown fuse, you have some understanding of continuity and if you have ever touched a lit light bulb, you understand that current generates heat. So when a device stops working, first steps are to check that everything is still connected, that electricity flows, and that there’s no dust or crumbs blocking any fan (an air duster often comes handy). For how to open a device such as a laptop or a mobile phone, that’s where the research skills comes in handy as it is likely already documented somewhere on a web page or a video. Experience will be useful to realise how hard to pull on a part to pry it open while being careful to avoid ripping out a hidden connector, or that using an egg carton to store screws in the order of each step helps to find them again when time comes to reassemble things.”
Both believe in the empowering and transformative aspect of repair. [...]
And David says:
“For more than twenty years I’ve been communicating to demystify new technologies and software development, initially – and how to reclaim our civil liberties, later. What attendees get out of the Restart Parties should be much more than a repaired product: a willingness to fix their electronic products in the future and some basic repair skills. The Restart Parties are an occasion for collaborative repairing, where there are no geniuses, just more experienced Restarters (and hopefully soon to be Restarters). It is for this transformative process, when attendees realise that many repairs are accessible to them, that I am involved in Restart. The confidence gained at the Restart Parties by some attendees to start fixing things on their own is the most rewarding part of the experience.”
If you are reading this, perhaps you have a skill worth sharing: maybe you know how to make a slow PC faster again. Or you know how to clean a printer, or how to extend the battery life of a smartphone. Perhaps you are a professional repairer or a tinkerer, and you can teach us more. If you’d like to get involved, please contact us on our website or on Meetup.com.
Béatrice Debut wrote Halte au gaspillage: des ateliers londoniens pour les nuls en électronique for the AFP:
Ordinateur poussif, bouilloire défectueuse, lecteur MP3 en rade: plus besoin de s'arracher les cheveux pour les réparer ou de se précipiter au magasin pour les remplacer. A Londres, les novices peuvent apprendre gratuitement à prolonger la vie de leurs appareils, une alternative à la société de consommation en période de crise économique et écologique.
Lyn Turner, bonnet bleu enfoncé sur la tête et chien en laisse, est frustrée. Cette quinquagénaire ne peut plus écouter ses programmes favoris: sa petite radio est en panne.
"Je serais surprise si vous parveniez à la réparer", lance-t-elle, en la confiant à l'un des bénévoles férus de technologies de l'organisation "Restart Project" ("Projet redémarrer").
Ce samedi, l'atelier a élu domicile dans une boutique vide-greniers de North Cheam, une banlieue modeste du sud de Londres. David Mery, barbe poivre et sel soignée, tout de noir vêtu, vérifie d'abord les piles, sous l'oeil attentif de Lyn. Bingo. Une pile a coulé. Il la remplace et la radio se remet à crépiter. "1305, c'est ma fréquence préférée", explique Lyn à David qui s'exécute.
"La prochaine fois, vérifiez les piles, et si vous n'utilisez pas votre radio pendant longtemps, mettez-les dans un tiroir", conseille David, 47 ans. Lyn acquiesce. [...]
Les ateliers, organisés deux fois par mois à Londres, visent à "démystifier la réparation" pour que "la personne ait confiance de se lancer elle-même la prochaine fois", explique David, ancien journaliste. [...]
Learn more about filming the police conducting stop and search operations with a brilliant animated film retracing the police intimidation of Gemma Atkinson:
There's further information, including the script, story board and animation boards on the accompanying Act of Terror website.
Update: StopWatch has published Viewed With Suspicion: The Human Cost Of Stop And Search, a video and 33-page report. (That web page also includes a film by the StopWatch youth group, exploring young Londoners' feelings about stop and search.)
The Home Affairs Committee published a damning report on the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). (I contributed some written evidence based on my experience.) The introduction is explicit:
4. Police officers are warranted with powers that can strip people of their liberty, their money and even their lives and it is vital that the public have confidence that those powers are not abused. In this report, we conclude that the Independent Police Complaints Commission is not yet capable of delivering the kind of powerful, objective scrutiny that is needed to inspire that confidence.
Nearly a quarter of officers were subject to a complaint last year. When appeals were made against the way police forces handled a complaint, the IPCC found that the police had been wrong in 31% of all cases. It decided against the police in almost two thirds of appeals where police had decided not to record someone’s complaint.
The report includes a useful practical annex on the complaints & appeals process:
1. If you think a police officer has behaved incorrectly then you have a right to complain. You should give details of when, where, what happened, what was said, the police officers and witnesses involved, and whether any proof exists of any damage or injury.
There is no time limit on making a complaint, but if a year goes by the incident may not be investigated.
2. If your complaint is about a chief constable you should contact your Police and Crime Commissioner. (For London, read the Metropolitan Police Commissioner and the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime.)
3. If your complaint is not about a chief constable, contact the police force involved, by e-mail, telephone or in person. A solicitor or your local MP can also make a complaint on your behalf.
4. All valid complaints against the police must be recorded, which means that it has formal status under the Police Reform Act 2002. Each police force in England and Wales has a duty to either record your complaint or tell you why it has decided not to record your complaint.
5. The IPCC does not have the power to record complaints. This must be done by the chief officer or the Police and Crime Commissioner responsible. You can send a complaint to the IPCC but it will be forwarded to the relevant police force and the IPCC will not read or see your complaint.
A table elsewhere in the report explains the different modes of investigation of complaints:
When the Commission receives a complaint or a referral, it decides how it should be dealt with. This is referred to as a "mode of investigation" decision.
a) Local Resolution, carried out entirely by the police with the complainant's consent. There is a right of appeal to the Commission.
b) Supervised investigations, where the IPCC sets out terms of reference for the police. There is a right of appeal to the Commission.
c) Managed investigations, carried out by police forces under the direction and control of the Commission.
d) Independent investigations, carried out by the Commission's own investigators and overseen by a Commissioner.
My complaint ended up being a supervised investigation run by the Metropolitan Police Service's Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS). When I went to meet the officers from the DPS for them to take my witness statement to start their investigation, I had prepared a written witness statement. I recommend you do the same. Here's some other useful advice I included in my statement to the Home Affairs Committee:
10. My written statement of witness used by the DPS to start its IPCC-supervised enquiry concluded with a list of desired outcomes. These were ignored by the IPCC, which focused on the terms of reference drawn by the DPS.
11. With hindsight I would have ensured that all my desired outcomes were included in the terms of reference. The DPS attempted to pressure me to go for local resolution instead of a full investigation and to shorten my written statement of witness. I resisted this pressure. The definition of the terms of reference to be narrower than my statement of witness achieved a similar outcome for the police without being as obvious.
12. If the current system continues, it must be made clear to the complainants that the terms of reference are the only scope for any outcome they may be expecting in approaching the IPCC.
Back to the process:
Complaints are usually resolved by local resolution or local investigation by the police force involved. There is no limit on an investigation or local resolution, but you should be updated every 28 days. Complaints can lead to an agreed resolution (such as apology), internal misconduct proceedings, or criminal proceedings. The IPCC only investigates the most serious complaints referred to it by the police.
6. You may be able to appeal if you are not happy with the outcome. Appeals may be directed to the IPCC, the chief constable, or the police and crime commissioner. You cannot appeal if the investigation into your complaint has been managed or carried out independently by the IPCC.
7. You can appeal against a recording decision. The IPCC will look at your case to see whether or not recording your complaint was justified.
8. You can appeal against a local resolution. In most circumstances, appeals against the outcome of the local resolution process will be handled by the chief officer of the police force.
9. You can appeal against a decision to disapply a complaint, or the action taken after a decision to disapply, either to a chief officer or to the IPCC, which must receive your appeal within 29 days of the date of the letter telling you about the outcome of the complaint.
10. You can appeal against a decision to discontinue a complaint.
11. You can appeal against the police force's decision about your complaint, either to a chief officer or to the IPCC. Again, you will need to write within 29 days.
Your appeal will either be "upheld" or "not upheld". If your appeal is upheld, the appeal body will tell you any instructions it has given to the police force involved. If your appeal is not upheld, it will write to you and explain why it did not uphold your appeal.
This last paragraph is misleading in that 'instructions' are really only recommendations. The Home Affairs Committee's report specifically addressed this point:
68. In one case, the Commission "requested" that the Metropolitan Police Service reconsider a request for personal data to be expunged and "informed" the service that a copy of a compulsory form "should" be provided.[Ev w44, David Mery, para 14] This kind of light-touch recommendation is a long way from the kind of clear instructions for improvements that Dame Anne Owers said: "there should be a requirement formally to respond with an action plan".[Q 89, Dame Anne Owers] She suggested that Police and Crime Commissioners could contribute by ensuring that the Commission's work led to improvement across the service:
we need to work on [...] mechanisms to check whether what we have done has made a difference [...] Police and Crime Commissioners do form a place where I would envisage discussions going on between Commissioners, heads of casework and themselves about what is happening and if it is not happening why isn't it happening?[Q 74, Dame Anne Owers]
Privacy is a fundamental human right, but today this right is widely ignored. We are outraged.
The future of Europe needs privacy, and we need you to defend this fundamental right now.
Part 1, chapter 1 of the Protection of Freedoms Act implements the commitment in the Government's coalition agreement to reform DNA and fingerprint retention.
This Government want to protect the privacy and human rights of its citizens, while maintaining effective databases that protect the public and reduce crime.
The Protection of Freedoms Act fundamentally changes the principles behind the operation of biometric databases. From being databases that collected DNA profiles and fingerprints from every person arrested and retained them indefinitely, they will now operate proportionately, considering guilt and innocence, the seriousness of the offence and the age of the individual. In this way, they can continue to operate effectively while providing far greater protection of civil liberties.
Implementation of the Act is not a simple matter. A large amount of work is needed to prepare police forces, forensic laboratories and national databases. Complex reprogramming of databases is required to ensure that each person's DNA and fingerprints are removed or retained correctly and at the right time. This work will be carried out thoroughly so that biometric material is not held unlawfully, and material needed to solve crime is not unnecessarily deleted.
Before the Act commences, it is necessary to destroy a significant amount of existing biometric material that the Act would not allow to be retained.
The first priority is the destruction of DNA samples. A DNA sample is an individual's biological material, containing all of their genetic information. The Government do not want to retain the complete genetic makeup of any of their citizens. Every DNA sample taken will be destroyed as soon as a DNA profile for use on the database has been obtained from it. Destruction of existing DNA samples will begin in December 2012 and be completed by May 2013.
DNA profiles, consisting of a string of 20 numbers and two letters to indicate gender, are stored on the National DNA Database (NDNAD). They allow a person to be identified if they leave their DNA at a crime scene but contain none of the person's genetic characteristics. The NDNAD and the Police National Computer (PNC) must both be reprogrammed to allow DNA profiles which may not be retained under the Act to be correctly identified and deleted. Deletion from the NDNAD of existing DNA profiles which do not meet requirements for retention will begin in January 2013 and be completed by September 2013.
Fingerprints are stored electronically on the national fingerprint database, IDENT1. IDENT1 and the PNC must both be reprogrammed to allow fingerprints which may not be retained under the Act to be correctly identified and deleted. Deletion from IDENT1 of fingerprints which do not meet requirements for retention will begin in March 2013 and be completed by September 2013. Following deletion of each IDENT1 fingerprint set, police forces will destroy any corresponding hard copies they hold.
The Biometrics Commissioner will be appointed in early 2013. The role of the commissioner will be to keep under review the retention and use of biometric material retained subject to the Act's provisions, and, in particular, to adjudicate on those cases where the police apply to retain material of someone arrested for, but not charged with a serious offence for a limited period or where a national security determination is made.
Once destruction of existing biometric material is complete and the necessary processes have been set up, legislative commencement will take place, no later than October 2013.
Developing the technology for a fully automated speculative search will take a few more months. A transitional measure will be provided to allow speculative searching and quality checks to be undertaken using existing technology. This will ensure Commencement is not delayed and matches to crimes are not missed while the final piece of work is completed.
The publication of this timetable demonstrates both the complexity of the work involved in implementing the Act and removing innocent people's DNA and fingerprints from our databases, and the Government's commitment to completing this work as soon as safely possible. [Emphasis added.]
The million plus innocents whose biometric material is being retained will be counting the days until September 2013. However, until the legislative commencement, the current procedure, the exceptional case process, is still in force; the Metropolitan Police Service made this very clear:
In line with the Supreme Court decision of 18th May 2011 in the cases of C and GC v The Commissioner, and based on legal advice, the MPS will continue to process exceptional case requests in accordance with the ACPO policy of 16th March 2006. We will do so until Parliament introduces a new legislative scheme.
So until then, if you believe your situation is exceptional, you may still want to request the chief constable of the force that arrested you to (re)consider your case (for practical tips, see Reclaim Your DNA.) If you succeed to have your case considered exceptional, your Police National Computer (PNC) record will be deleted as well as your DNA and fingerprints, there is no such promise in the Protection of Freedom Act's implementation timetable. As for photographs kept by the police, limit on their retention will likely have to wait for a test case to come to court.
In his timetable, the minister points out that 'Implementation of the Act is not a simple matter.' What he does not highlight is that this government could have started working on the tools necessary to implement this act earlier, and the police knew some changes would be needed from as far back as 2008 when judges unanimously ruled in S and Marper v. the UK in 2008:
that the blanket and indiscriminate nature of the powers of retention of the fingerprints, cellular samples and DNA profiles of persons suspected but not convicted of offences, as applied in the case of the present applicants, fails to strike a fair balance between the competing public and private interests and that the respondent State has overstepped any acceptable margin of appreciation in this regard. Accordingly, the retention at issue constitutes a disproportionate interference with the applicants' right to respect for private life and cannot be regarded as necessary in a democratic society.
As the timetable does not specify a notification mechanism, for those innocents having been arrested, any celebration for not having personal data held by the police anymore and no longer being an honorary criminal will have to wait until next autumn.
In response to a withdrawn Motion of Regret moved by Lord Scott of Foscote (Crossbench) on 2012-12-05, Lord Taylor of Holbeach (Conservative), the Home Office Minister responsible for DNA responded:
[...] We anticipate that the elimination of the estimated 6 million DNA samples covered by the provisions of the Protection of Freedoms Act will begin this month, and will be completed by the end of May 2013. All other material covered by these provisions will be destroyed by the end of September 2013. As I say, I will be able to give fuller details of schedules to noble Lords in a Written Ministerial Statement which I expect will be made in the next few days. [...]
Some police forces have started 'early deletion of Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) samples, fingerprint and Police National Computer (PNC) records relating to individuals whose arrest was found to be unlawful and/or based on mistaken identity.' The Metropolitan Police Service's 'Early Deletion Requests - Consideration for the deletion of DNA samples, Fingerprint, PNC Records and CSIS Photographic Images.' (pdf) was created on 2012-05-10. These early deletions are very limited as James Brokensire detailed on 2012-10-31 when answering David Davis questions about 'how many (a) DNA profiles and (b) biological samples have been deleted or destroyed since Royal Assent was given to the Protection of Freedoms Bill on 1 May 2012.':
39,799 DNA profiles were deleted from the National DNA Database between 1 May 2012 and 26 October 2012. 34,496 of the DNA profiles deleted were taken from individuals by UK law enforcement agencies, of which 17,945 were taken by England and Wales police forces. 5,303 of the DNA profiles deleted were recovered from crime scenes by UK law enforcement agencies, of which 4,795 were recovered by England and Wales police forces. The number of biological samples destroyed is not held centrally. Records are kept by the forensic service providers storing samples on behalf of police forces.
There's more than one million innocents on the National DNA Database (an estimated total of 1,083, 207 innocent individuals as of 2010-03-31 ). It would appear that they will have to wait a further ten months to no longer be honorary criminals suffering from the suspicion of being on all these police databases, but at least it's a deadline we can all hold the government to account.
For more relevant information, see my earlier post Protection of Freedom Act, a step forward for DNA retention.
The United Families and Friends Campaign (UFFC) – a coalition of families and friends of those who have died in the custody of police and prison officers and in the care of secure psychiatric hospitals – will have its 14th annual remembrance march against custody deaths this Saturday 2012-10-27. There will be a silent procession along Whitehall, followed by a noisy protest at Downing Street. Assembly is at 12.30pm by the South side of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square.
Last year's march, was unfortunately concluded by police provocation. After the event, Samantha Rigg-David (a sister of Sean Rigg) wrote on behalf of UFFC: '[...] Policing of the march in the past has appeared to be proportionate both in response to the sensitive nature of the event and also in recognition that it does not pose a threat to public order. This year, at about 3pm, after delivering the letter to Downing Street family members and friends found themselves subject to aggressive and degrading treatment at the hands of a large deployment of what we believe were TSG officers [...] We believe it was both entirely unwarranted and unnecessarily confrontational to deploy these officers [...]'
The Metropolitan Police eventually investigated their policing of the event, but found that 'no misconduct was identified on the part of any officer'. However meetings were arranged with UFFC 'regarding planning for the 2012 march, a view to ensuring the needs of the families were met.' I obtained a Report to summarise background and outcome of complaint and Commissioner’s meeting with Samantha and Marcia Rigg sent by the Met to the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime. (The Met refused to provide this summary report in their responses to several Freedom of Information requests.) At that meeting with the Rigg family, Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan Howe promised to address one of UFFC's long standing practical demands: 'Hundreds of police vans are to be fitted with closed-circuit television cameras to address concerns about the "hidden" abuse of suspects.'
The ten demands are:
- Replacement of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) to ensure open robust transparent and thorough investigations from the very outset of police deaths in custody – with a removal of all ex-police officers for it to be a truly independent body.
- The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman should be placed on a statutory footing.
- Deaths in psychiatric detention and/or of those detained under the Mental Health Act must be subject to a system of properly funded investigation that is completely independent of the Health Service.
- Officers and officials directly involved in custody deaths are suspended until investigations are completed.
- Immediate interviewing of officers and all officials concerned with the death
- Officers and officials should never be allowed to collude over their evidence and statements of fact.
- Full and prompt disclosure of information to the families affected.
- Prosecutions should automatically follow ‘unlawful killing’ verdicts at Inquests and officers responsible for those deaths should face criminal charges, even if retired.
- Implementation of police body cameras and cameras in all police vehicles in the interests of both the officers and the public.
- There should be an automatic right to non means tested legal aid for families. There is a lack of funds for family legal representation at Inquests whilst officers and NHS staff get full legal representation from the public purse – this is unbalanced.
Overflow custody suites are visited but not Marylebone
The police made one arrest at the end of last year's march. A small group of those who participated in the demonstration went to Marylebone police station to wait for the release of the man who had been arrested, detained and eventually released without charge. This station has an overflow custody suite that is only occasionally used, mostly for public order situations. Mike Lyng, Quality and Assurance Advisor, explained on behalf of Territorial Policing and Central Operations:
In answering your specific question I can advise you that Marylebone Custody Suite was not opened in order to target any specific public order operation.
However on the day in question there were a number of events taking place in central London including The United Family and Friends Campaign annual march, Amnesty International solidarity to Syrian protestors march and Syrians love Syria counter demonstration.
In order to ensure sufficient facilities were available on this day, a charge centre in close proximity to the marches was requested. In this instance Marylebone Custody suite was selected as the dedicated charge centre. There was no specific request for the charge centre to be Marylebone. It was selected due to its proximity to the events taking place. The officer with the responsibility for this task was a sergeant from Kensington and Chelsea borough police working under the direction of Commander Michael Johnson from Public Order and Operational Support (CO11).
Several of those present wondered if Marylebone and other overflow custody suites are visited by Independent Custody Visitors (ICV). To find out I made several freedom of information requests and compiled the table in the post Visiting London's police custody suites. As custody suites can't be opened at short notice, the police can inform independent custody visitor panels of the opening of (non 24/7) custody suites at least a couple of days in advance and custody visitors can decide whether to schedule a visit. This system works for many overflow custody suites, however the Marylebone custody suites is one of those that didn't receive any ICV visit during 29 consecutive months. See the mentioned post for full details of independent visits to all of London's custody suites.
Safety of detainees when transported in police vans
The arrested man was concerned about the risk of injuries if the police van had had a traffic accident on the way to the police station. He had been handcuffed in the back and so couldn't sit properly and found it difficult to remain properly seated. I solicited the help of Jennette Arnold, my London Assembly Member, to find out more about the safety protocols for transportation of detained persons to a custody suite. Mark Rowley, Assistant Commissioner, Specialist Crime Operations responded earlier this year:
The guidance for the transportation of detainees is covered in the Police Driver and Vehicle Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). Specifically relating to the transportation of detainees in vans, officers are advised to accompany detainees so that they can be viewed at all times to prevent the detainees from self harm, taking illegal substances or disposing of evidence.
The decision on whether a detainee is handcuffed to the front or to the rear is at the discretion of the officer. However, the SOP does give some guidance, that persons handcuffed to the front should be monitored to prevent the issues raised above from occurring. Regarding the fitting of seat belts in the secure area of vans, currently there are no seat belts fitted as they could become ligature points or could be used by a detainee to cause injury to police officers or staff. The SOP was last reviewed in 2010 and as a living document is constantly under review.
When I was arrested, by the time I was transferred to a police van, they had moved the handcuffs to the front. I was sat in the secure area at the back of the van with nothing to hold on. I do not remember any police officer seating with me to monitor me during the short trip to the police station.
For safety reason, seatbelts are compulsory in cars where one is well seated in comfortable seats with their hands free, but there's no protection for handcuffed detainees sitting on hard seats at the back of police vans. It is very likely that detainees are hurt when a police van transporting them is involved in a traffic accident. A commenter annotated one my freedom of information request with the following personal story:
I was involved in an accident whilst in the back of a police van whilst being transported to a police station and I was cuffed as well as not having a seat belt on. It was never explained to me how to deal with an emergency stop under health and safety. I am currently seeking legal advice about the injury that I sustained.
Finding out hard data about injuries to detainees from traffic accidents has proved very difficult as it is not recorded in a way that can be found without a manual check of all recorded accidents:
The Traffic Operational command does not have or record details of how many detainees are transported to custody suites, although we do keep a record of the number of arrests made, but not for the whole of the Metropolitan Police Area.
We will not be able to supply details/numbers of how many detainees were injured while in a police Vehicle. Our Police collision database is not set up to run queries to identify who was injured in a collision.
Here's information regarding all collisions on public roads or public places in London involving police vehicles ('it may also include incidents where Metropolitan Police Service officers have been involved in collisions outside of the MPS district. Similarly, the information may include incidents where officers from other police forces have been involved in collisions within the MPS area'). '[N]ote that "collisions'"encompasses a wide range of incidents. For example, incidents resulting in minor scratches to incidents resulting in injuries to parties involved':
1/8/2007 to 31/12/2007: 1369 of which 235 resulted in injury
1/1/2008 to 31/12/2008: 3141 of which 444 resulted in injury
1/1/2009 to 31/12/2009: 2966 of which 429 resulted in injury
1/1/2010 to 31/12/2010: 2944 of which 389 resulted in injury
1/1/2011 to 31/11/2011: 2741 of which 326 resulted in injury
1/1/2012 to 2/8/2012: 1651 of which 192 resulted in injury
From April 2006 to March 2010, the Met listed eight fatalities following a collision on a road involving a 'police car' (there may be fatalities from collisions involving a police vehicle not included in these figures): four pedestrians, two drivers, one cyclist and one passenger. The passenger was a police officer, all the other fatalities were 'members of public'.
The independent charitable organisation Inquest records the number of deaths in police custody (or following other forms of contact with the police). Inquest explains that its 'figures are derived from our monitoring and casework and are independent of those produced by the Home Office, IPCC and other government agencies. We also monitor deaths in police pursuits and road traffic incidents (RTIs).'
Total deaths in police custody or otherwise following contact with the police, England & Wales, 1990 to 2012-09-05 Type Metropolitan Police Other forces Total Custody 249 701 950 Pursuit 33 284 317 RTI 19 93 112 Shooting 21 33 54 All deaths 323 1116 1439
It is likely that some detainees were among the several hundred injured annually in collisions involving a police vehicle. If any detainee died due to a traffic accident while they were transported to a police station, their death would likely be classified as a death in police custody rather than a road traffic accident.
According to Inquest, this year there has already been 14 deaths following contact with the police. This year's UFFC peaceful vigil and demonstration will hopefully be policed with more consideration.
The Protection of Freedoms Act (PoFA), which lays out new laws on DNA retention and the use of individuals' data in a variety of contexts, including in relation to biometrics in schools, CCTV and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR), received Royal Assent on 2012-05-01. Out-Law.com sums up the announcement:
[...] The Home Office said that "commencement orders" would be issued from July to enact some of the measures in the PoF Act.
The PoF Act also sets out new laws governing the retention and destruction of DNA and fingerprint profiles of suspected and convicted criminals. Last year the UK's Supreme Court ruled that police guidelines that allowed DNA samples taken during criminal investigations to be retained indefinitely were unlawful because it violated individuals' rights to privacy as guaranteed by human rights laws.
DNA and fingerprint samples can be retained "indefinitely" under the PoF Act in select circumstances, including where arrested suspects have been guilty of a serious crime previously. If those arrested suspects have no such previous conviction, their data must be destroyed after a three year period. Police can ask a district judge to issue an order enabling them to retain the information for a further two years, although this request can be appealed against.
The PoF Act requires that DNA or fingerprint samples must be destroyed if "it appears to the responsible chief officer of police that" it has been gathered unlawfully or from a third-party person in connection with a suspected criminal's arrest where the arrest was unlawful or based on mistaken identity.
However, DNA or fingerprint profile details can be retained beyond the expiry of retention periods for national security purposes unless a Biometrics Commissioner decides that it is "not necessary" for those purposes that the information is retained. The Human Rights Joint Committee had criticised this clause in its scrutiny of the draft PoF proposals.
The Committee had said the clause would "create a broad 'catch all' discretion for the police to authorise the retention of material indefinitely for reasons of national security." There had, at that point, been no "justification" why the power was "necessary and proportionate", it had said. [...]
At the beginning of the year, there was an estimated 5,882,724 total number of individuals whose DNA profile was retained on the National DNA Database (NDNAD). Already by 2010-03-31, there was an estimated total of 1,083, 207 innocent individuals whose DNA profile was on the NDNAD. Analysis of the English and Welsh approach so far, of indefinite retention of the DNA samples and profiles of all those arrested, has shown time and time again that retaining the DNA profiles of as many individuals as possible, many innocent, is ineffective and does not increase crime detection rate.
The PoFA's section on DNA retention is modelled on the Scottish approach. Once the law comes into force, from July according to Out-Law, six month-old DNA samples retained will be destroyed and most three year-old derived DNA profiles (and fingerprints and palm prints) of those not convicted or convicted of a single minor offence will be deleted as well.
This is clearly a welcome step by many whose personal data is on the National DNA Database. There are plenty of reasons, including stigma, discrimination, visa or job refusal, loss of personal data and higher risk of being falsely linked to crime, to want to be off the National DNA Database, especially for innocents and those convicted for some trivial matter.
It is a success for all the privacy activists and victims who campaigned to restore the presumption of innocence and the rehabilitation of offenders having been convicted of a minor crime. GeneWatch UK –as an indefatigable organisation at the forefront of the campaign to change the law to make the National DNA Database much smaller and more carefully controlled, and to safeguard privacy and rights without compromising the use of DNA in fighting crime– deserves much credit in this success.
Celebration will happen when the DNA sections come into force and DNA samples are destroyed and DNA profiles, fingerprints and palm prints are deleted. As no deadline has been issued for the enactment of all the DNA sections of the PoFA, if you are an innocent person with a record on the DNA database you may want to contact your MP without further delay. Help is offered at Reclaim Your DNA.
Two step backwards
The PoFA has limits, such as the national security exemption criticised by the Human Rights Joint Committee and highlighted in the excerpt from Out-Law.com above, and even removes some of the benefits of the earlier process. In the system that had been in place until now, very few individuals succeeded in getting off the NDNAD, but those that did manage to go through the exceptional case process had not only their DNA sample destroyed and their DNA profile, fingerprints and palm prints deleted, but also their associated Police National Computer (PNC) record deleted. There's no such requirement in the PoFA. And nothing is said either of photographs retained by the police. The retention of photographs has not been reviewed by judges in the court cases about DNA retention so it is likely that once PoFA is enacted, a test case on this specific issue will come to court.
Vigilance is required to ensure that ameliorations made to the rules for DNA retention by the police are not lost by worse data sharing initiatives elsewhere. At the end of 2011, the government unveiled plans to change the NHS Constitution to allow patients' records and other NHS data to be automatically shared with science companies. Dr Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch UK, warned about some of the potential risks: 'Every adult and baby with a blood or tissue sample stored in the NHS could end up with details of their genetic make-up stored in a cloud-based DNA database built by stealth within the NHS.'
When the police arrest someone they usually detain him or her in a cell in a station's custody suite. To ensure detainees are treated well, local community members –known as Independent Custody Visitors (ICVs)– volunteer to conduct unannounced visits of police custody suites and speak with detainees (with their consent) about their experience from the time they arrived in the custody suite. The visits are always done by a pair of ICVs and often last a couple of hours. At the end of each visit, the ICVs discuss with the custody staff any immediate concerns and write notes about the visit and any issues they feel need further answers from the police for follow up at the next quarterly ICV panel meeting.
Data obtained from Freedom of Information requests sent to the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) and the Metropolitan Police Service (Met) shows that there are 82 custody suites in London with a total of 1,057 cells. The Met explained they have a total of 992 operational cells contained within 72 custody suites across London, however ICVs also visits custody suites of the British Transport Police as well so these are included in the MPA data and my analysis.
Over a period of 29 months, they were 4,834 visits by ICVs. During that period, custody suites opened 24/7 were visited on average three times a month, 23 months out of the 29. On average, during a visit there were just over six detainees held in the custody suite and more than three of them where in their cells and accepted to talk to the ICVs.
|Type of custody suite||Total # stations||Total # cells||Total # visits||Average # months with visits||Average # visits / month visited||Total # det. in custody during visits||Average # det. in custody / visit||Total # det. spoken to by ICVs||Average # det. spoken to / visit|
|All custody suites||82||1,057||4,834||19||2.9||30,597||6.3||15,906||3.3|
24/7 custody suites
Overflow custody suites
Unknown (either 24/7 or overflow)
Closed custody suites
It would have been interesting to find out how many persons are detained in each custody suite every month and for what reason, but that data is currently not collated by the Met. Ironically, even though this historic data is not held by the Met, some of it is held by the MPA as it is written down by ICVs during their visits. Stephen Bloomfield, Head of TP Criminal Justice, Territorial Policing Headquarters explains that 'The current NSPIS [National Strategy for Police Information Systems] Custody system does not store historic data regarding cell usage. It is designed to be a live system with a capacity to store custody records and not which cell was used or when a custody suite was full. No information is held centrally as to which custody suite is open on a monthly or daily basis although this has been identified as an area which requires work and it is hoped that this information will be held in the future.'
Marylebone and other overflow custody suites
After the United Friends and Family Campaign (UFFC) annual march at the end of last year (see Police provocations at peaceful march against deaths in custody and Question to the police authority about police provocations at peaceful march and Met's response to the 'Protecting the innocent' review on DNA retention), a small group of those that participated in this demonstration went to Marylebone police station to wait for the release of the man who had been arrested at the end of the march and was detained there. This station has an overflow custody suite that is only occasionally used, in particular for public order situations. Several of those present wondered if Marylebone and other overflow custody suites are visited by ICVs.
Overflow custody suites are mainly used as charge centres for major public or sporting events such as football matches, for local policing operations, for bail to returns and temporarily while another suite is closed for any reason e.g., cleaning, maintenance, upgrade work. In the couple of days it takes to plan the opening of an overflow custody suites, the police have the duty to inform ICV panels who can then schedule visits to custody suites that are not opened 24/7. Protocol 7 of Appendix G of the London ICV Handbook (pdf) specifies that 'A single point of police contact on the borough should be identified to inform [ICV] panels promptly of any intended changes, closures or additions to custody facilities'.
As can be seen in the summary table above, there are 18 overflow custody suites with a total of 159 cells. The average number of months visited during the 29 months surveyed period is low: four. This could indicate either that these overflow custody suites are not open often or that they're not visited even when opened; there's not enough information available to clarify this point. During the visits, there tends to be fewer detainees held in cells with an average of close to three, consequently ICVs on average spoke to fewer detainees in overflow custody suites than in those open 24/7.
The UFFC march was on Saturday 2011-10-29, Mike Lyng, Quality and Assurance Advisor, on behalf of Territorial Policing and Central Operations, 'advise [...] that Marylebone Custody Suite was not opened [on that day] in order to target any specific public order operation. However on the day in question there were a number of events taking place in central London including The United Family and Friends Campaign annual march, Amnesty International solidarity to Syrian protestors march and Syrians love Syria counter demonstration. In order to ensure sufficient facilities were available on this day, a charge centre in close proximity to the marches was requested. In this instance Marylebone Custody suite was selected as the dedicated charge centre. There was no specific request for the charge centre to be Marylebone. It was selected due to its proximity to the events taking place. The officer with the responsibility for this task was a sergeant from Kensington and Chelsea borough police working under the direction of Commander Michael Johnson from Public Order and Operational Support (CO11).'
Met searches reveal that during the period September to November 2011, the Marylebone custody suite has been opened on 18 days and received 137 detainees:
|Arrest date||Total held in Marylebone custody suite|
The spreadsheet from the MPA does not list any ICV visit to Marylebone custody suite for a 29 months period including September and October 2011, and the latest published annual report of the Westminster ICV panel, for 2009, does not mention the Marylebone custody suite at all.
The system works for some overflow custody suites as for instance Tooting and Hackney were visited respectively 31 and 15 times during this 29 months period, however, like Marylebone, the Brentford, Orpington and Harrow Road custody suites didn't receive any ICV visit during that period.
Becoming an ICV
ICV panels are regularly recruiting new members. The ICV scheme was created following a recommendation of Lord Scarman in his report on the 1981 Brixton riot. It became a statutory scheme with the Police Reform Act 2002 and is managed by Police Authorities. To volunteer, contact the police authority local to where you live or work. In London, the ICV scheme was managed by the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) until earlier this month, and now by the new Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPC). Note that the wealth of information about the ICV scheme has not yet been moved from the MPA website to the MOPC one, so for more details follow the MPA link.
Bootnote 1 See the table below for a more detailed summary listing all the London custody suites:
|Borough||Station||Type of station
|Type of station
|# visits||# months with visits||Average # visits / month visited||Total # det. in custody during visits||Average # det. in custody / visit||Total # det. spoken to by ICVs||Average # det. spoken to / visit|
|Barking and Dagenham||Freshwarf New Build||24/7||27/7||30||0|
|Barking and Dagenham||Barking||Overflow||7||4||3||1.3||30||7.5||14||3.5|
|Barking and Dagenham||Dagenham||Overflow||Closed||9||30||12||2.5||130||4.3||61||2.0|
|Brent||Wembley Park (BTP)||24/7||10||18||12||1.5||10||0.6||5||0.3|
|Camden||Tottenham Court Road (BTP)||24/7||10||91||29||3.1||336||3.7||197||2.2|
|Hammersmith and Fulham||Hammersmith||24/7||24/7||18||4||3||1.3||18||4.5||10||2.5|
|Hammersmith and Fulham||Fulham||24/7||Overflow||9||9||6||1.5||28||3.1||16||1.8|
|Hammersmith and Fulham||Fulham Place Road (BTP)||33||15||2.2||45||1.4||26||0.8|
|Hammersmith and Fulham||Shepherds Bush||Overflow||Closed||9|
|Heathrow||Heathrow Polar Park||24/7||24/7||30||116||29||4.0||382||3.3||251||2.2|
|Islington||Brewery Road (BTP)||24/7||22||7||3.1||60||2.7||26||1.2|
|Kensington and Chelsea||Chelsea||24/7||24/7||8||16||8||2.0||45||2.8||28||1.8|
|Kensington and Chelsea||Notting Hill||24/7||24/7||6||16||8||2.0||34||2.1||17||1.1|
|Kensington and Chelsea||Kensington||Overflow||Overflow||6||1||1||1.0||1||1.0||1||1.0|
|Kingston upon Thames||Kingston||24/7||24/7||10||112||29||3.9||415||3.7||274||2.4|
|Newham||West Ham (BTP)||22||19||1.2||23||1.0||16||0.7|
|Richmond upon Thames||Richmond||24/7||24/7||5||21||7||3.0||51||2.4||36||1.7|
|Richmond upon Thames||Teddington||24/7||Overflow||5||5||4||1.3||9||1.8||8||1.6|
|Richmond upon Thames||Twickenham||Overflow||Overflow||4||1||1||1.0||0||0.0||0||0.0|
|Tower Hamlets||Bethnal Green||24/7||24/7||19||23||9||2.6||191||8.3||114||5.0|
|Waltham Forest||Waltham Forest / Leyton||24/7||24/7||30||0|
|Westminster||Ebury Bridge (BTP)||24/7||4||27||8||3.4||40||1.5||21||0.8|
|Westminster||West End Central||Overflow||Overflow||28||3||3||1.0||2||0.7||1||0.3|
Bootnote 2 For even more details, I've collated the source data and my analysis in this Excel spreadsheet.
Bootnote 3 And to check out the several Freedom of Information requests it took to obtain all the data used in this post, see:
The British Transport Police (BTP) have CCTV cameras in the strip search rooms of all their custody suites in contradiction to their own CCTV in Custody Standard Operating Procedures and to the Home Office guidelines. I detailed these findings in the post British Transport Police pervert CCTV policy.
The BTP said that the contradiction with their own procedures does not exist 'as [the BTP CCTV in Custody Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)] is only a draft SOP and is still awaiting sign off'. The latest available draft is dated January 2010.
The BTP also claimed that by carrying out strip searches in rooms with CCTV cameras they are not in breach of the Home Office Safer Detention & Handling Guidelines (SDH) 'as long as the recording of the search is necessary and proportionate.'
To substantiate this claim, a BTP officer must decide before the start of the strip search whether a recording will be necessary and proportionate.I asked for the criteria they use to determine whether the CCTV recording of a strip search is necessary and proportionate. My questions was forwarded by the BTP Data Protection & Freedom of Information Researcher to Mark Leahy, Head of CCTV, British Transport Police, London. Here's the BTP's response:
The decision of whether to CCTV record strip searches is taken on a case by case basis. It is a decision that is taken by the individual Custody Sergeant and British Transport Police do not have a specific set of local guidelines that are followed. However, all decisions are carried out in accordance with PACE Code C and with the Safer Detention & Handling Guidelines.
(For relevant extracts from the SDH guidelines and PACE Code C, see the earlier British Transport Police pervert CCTV policy.)
I also asked for the relevant training material used to train BTP officers to enable them to determine whether the CCTV recording of a strip search is necessary and proportionate, what elements they must base their decision on, when they must make such decision and what kind of reporting of their decision they must make. The BTP do not hold any such training material.
Individual BTP officers are placed in an impossible situation, even if they try to act with respect to the privacy and the dignity of detainees being strip searched: CCTV cameras are installed in strip search rooms in all the BTP custody suites in contradiction to the BTP and the Home Office policies, and BTP Custody Sergeants are asked to decide on an ad hoc basis, without any training or guidelines, whether the actual recording of a strip search will be necessary and proportionate.
When I was unlawfully arrested at Southwark tube station in 2005, the first thing police officers said they found suspicious was that I was ‘avoiding them’. When I entered the station, instead of looking at them, I looked at the steps. It probably didn't help either that I had an eye infection that day.
Since then, there has been many more stops and searches without the need for reasonable suspicion, and much further education. This should make it clear that avoiding eye contact does not mean being suspicious.
For instance, the National Autistic Society published Autism: a guide for criminal justice professionals, endorsed by the Association of Chief Police Officers, which contains advice such as:
Misunderstanding social cues
Many people with autism find it difficult to make eye contact. In some cases it will be fleeting or may be avoided altogether. In others, eye contact may be prolonged or intrusive. This has led to cases such as a young man with autism who was served an Anti-Social Behaviour Order for staring over a neighbour’s fence.
“Sometimes we find it hard or even painful to make eye contact, and people can misunderstand us, thinking we are shifty or dishonest.”
Person with Asperger syndrome
“I recently found myself in court opposite a 15-year-old with Asperger syndrome and it was obvious how difficult he was finding the whole thing and how his behaviour might influence the view the magistrates took of him. For example, the lack of eye contact can be interpreted as a person telling lies. Magistrates have been trained on the eye contact issue in connection with certain cultures but I am not sure that they have been made aware of how it is also the case in people with Asperger syndrome.”
Solicitor, Brighton and Hove
However it would appear that avoiding eye contact is still perceived as highly suspect. This is an extract from the UK Border Agency response (pdf) sent a couple of days ago to a freedom of information request by David Hansen about the targeting of bus passengers for passport checks:
Using these powers [to stop and question a person ‘in-country’] Immigration Officers may legitimately question individuals encountered in public places in order to determine their immigration status under three specific circumstances:
- The intelligence is so specific that the Immigration Officer knows the immigration offender will be travelling on a specific date, time, location, train etc;
- The Immigration Officer has formed a reasonable suspicion that the individual is an immigration offender e.g. from what is said by the person during the course of a prior interview with a police officer; or
- Where the individual displays an ‘adverse reaction’ to a clearly identifiable immigration presence. This could give rise to a ‘reasonable suspicion’ that the person is an immigration offender. An ‘adverse reaction’ could include attempting to avoid passing through or near a group of Immigration Officers, a sudden or unexplained change of direction, avoiding eye contact or hanging back from barriers. [Emphasis added.]
Rupert Goodwins's recommendation, from his guide to not getting arrested in London, still applies:
He didn't look at the police at the entrance to the station. The plod wasn't detailed about how much looking is required to allay their suspicion — the more the merrier, I guess. I recommend carrying a pair of binoculars on a tripod: there may be no police at your station, and you might have to sweep the area. Once you've found a policeman, stick an "I've Been Seen!" badge on their lapel.