The residents of Lancashire, like most people in Britain, hope that the police are there to protect them. So they will be shocked and disappointed today to find out that dozens of police have been using police equipment to spy on their partners and neighbours for the last three years. There were a total of 84 beaches of data protection laws, which have led to 13 dismissals, 7 resignations and numerous final warnings.
The majority involved officers accessing police computer systems to view classified data about current or ex-partners, neighbours, family members and even the history of cars. This information was then utilised for personal gain or passed on to third parties.
In one of the most serious cases, a superintendent was alleged to have used the system to check the whereabouts of an ex-partner and information about her current boyfriend.
A spokesperson for Lancashire Constabulary said the force would always take
“...robust action to investigate when necessary. Lancashire Constabulary expects the highest standards of professional behaviour from all employees in relation to information security. The public rightly expect that we maintain the security and integrity of all information held on police databases and it is paramount that we maintain their confidence in our ability to do so.”
“We audit how our staff access information to ensure that it is for policing purposes and that they are using that information lawfully and appropriately. The misuse of police systems by any individual staff member will not be tolerated.”
This is a massive abuse of the trust of the local populace, and the fact that it involved so many officers, rather than being simply an isolated incident, makes it all the more worrying. Effective policing requires trust and communication between the police and the people they are employed to protect. If this breaks down, it can take years to rebuild the relationship. The Lancashire Constabulary website does not currently display an apology for the actions of these individuals, or even acknowledge that the breaches occurred.