DRAMA: But is there some truth to the popular BBC cop show Line of Duty? (BBC)
ORGANISED criminals are believed to have infiltrated one of the country's biggest police forces by getting associates to apply for jobs so they can leak sensitive information. West Midlands Police - the force that inspired the BBC's fictional police corruption drama Line of Duty - has cited unauthorised disclosure of sensitive information to organised crime gangs as one of its biggest threats. Line of Duty is a long running drama about gangsters and police corruption focussed on the anti corruption unit of a fictional police force believed to have been based in the Midlands. But, in real life in the West Midlands, crime syndicates have been seeking information on police raids, rivals gangs, whether they are under investigation and even victim's personal details putting them at risk of violence. The force says more than 103 crime gangs currently operate or impact upon the West Midlands. The force is toughening up applicant vetting processes, but is not being as stringent with those from black and ethnic minority communities who may still qualify with "low risk" criminal connections, that would rule others out, the force has admitted. A redacted version of the force's strategic threat assessment, released under freedom of information, suggests some gangs have been able to get people into posts or corrupt serving officers.
It is not the first time it has happened.
JAILED: Corrupt cops Husman (left) and Majid may not be alone in their criminal behaviour (WMP)
In October 2007 Wahid Husman, 49, and Tahsib Majid, 37, two former PCs based at Birmingham, were jailed for a total of 31 years for selling information on drug dealers to rival criminals so they could steal their stash of narcotics.
The pair fed information to their criminal associates in exchange for cash and a cut of the stolen drugs.
Husman, who got 16 years, accessed police computer systems to harvest details on drugs operations, while Majid, jailed for 15 years, breached data protection laws.
The counter corruption unit (CCU) worked with the National Crime Agency to bring the pair down.
However, in 2018 the CCU received several intelligence reports about sensitive information being leaked to organised crime syndicates before police operations.
The force is also aware of at least 50 serving officers who have criminal associates, friends or relatives - known as "vulnerable associations" - not all of who were declared by the officers in question. The report said: "Intelligence concerning disclosure of information (DOI) compromises (is) the most common type of intelligence received by CCU. "The majority of DOI information involves disclosure to criminals with just over half indicating an organised crime group (OCG) connection."
HIDDEN: Frank Matthews being interviewed during a Panorama documentary on police corruption (BBC)
Of the 82 allegations of DOI 66 involved criminals and 37 of those were organised gangs. In 2014 a 2002 secret Met Police corruption report called Operation Tiberius was leaked, detailing how organised criminals had infiltrated Britain's biggest police force at will. It was believed police forces were largely cleaned up since, but a former Met Police corruption whistleblower was astounded by the new West Midlands report. The former detective sergeant tweets about police issues under the pseudonym Frank Matthews. He said: "It was exactly the same as Tiberius with infiltration a problem. "Even though the numbers are high and worrying enough, they will just be the tip of the iceberg, because the CCU only ever hears about a fraction of what's going on. "A very senior Met Police officer recently said that corruption has pretty much been eliminated, based on this he is either very, very naive or lying."
Dave McKelvey is a former Met Police detective chief inspector who took on major organised criminals but the prosecutions collapsed amid claims of interference by other corrupt detectives aiding them. He said: "Those who corrupt police officers undermine and frustrate not just the criminal justice system but our democracy and entire way of life. "This was laid bare in the recently exposed 2002 MPS report Operation Tiberius. "The problem is now worse than ever and this report reinforces that. There needs to be a radical review of how police deal with corruption. "Those organised criminals and gangs who use corruption as a tool to evade justice and secure criminal profit need to be specifically targeted no matter the cost. The entire fabric of society is at risk." The West Midlands assessment added: "Approximately a quarter of DOI allegations involved information leaked to criminals who were either family or friends of the WMP employee, including nine people linked to OCGs. The report said that often the force would be unaware what information had been disclosed to a crime gang, but just over a quarter of disclosure breaches are thought to have led to an operation being compromised. The report was based on intelligence from October 9 2017 to October 9 2018 The force is now checking the online and social media profiles of job applicants to try to establish any criminal connections that could compromise them. The report said: "Recruitment vetting is the first line of defence in preventing infiltration of West Midlands Police by those linked to OCGs and other criminals. "The vetting process needs to be as thorough as possible. In an ideal situation this would include the use of open source material to effectively uncover inappropriate associations or behaviours. "In the interests of diversity and inclusion, WMP has adjusted its vetting standards. "The intention is to help those individuals from certain communities, who may have low-risk community connections, in the recruitment process." In 2015/16 of 473 applicants, nine per cent (44) failed vetting and nine per cent of those (four) were due to criminal connections.
Two criminal associates were weeded out the following year. However, the high number of intelligence reports about leaks to the underworld still being made has led to fears some criminal associates have got through the vetting process, or corrupt police officers could be responsible. Officers with family ties to criminals are supposed to declare these to the force, however this may not always be happening. The report added: "The number of allegations concerning vulnerable associations has increased over the past three years while the art of self-declaration has decreased. "Vulnerable association data held by professional standards shows that over the past three years records concerning criminal associations have increased from 30 to 50 (67 Per cent rise)." In 2017/18 only just over half of those recorded came from self declaration, with the rest from intelligence. The report added: "Infiltration events are difficult to detect, but once an infiltrator is ensconced within an organisation it is likely that at some point they will be tasked by others to provide police information. "Equally individuals working within the organisation may be approached." In 2017/18 there were 82 intelligence reports about DOI, but the force redacted from the report how many concerned criminals. More than a quarter of cases concerned reports of information about police activity being passed to crooks before the event. The report added: "Other disclosures included victim details, information about rivals and the subjects of investigation. "DOI therefore has the potential to impact the force as a whole as, for example, information passed to rivals could trigger retributive action and result in an increase in violent activity." Chris Todd, force head of professional standards, said: "No operations or prosecutions have been dropped as a result of DOI compromise in the last two years. "Security in all aspects of business and public life is about layers. Corruption prevention in policing is the same. The first layer is vetting of all officers and staff. "I think the limited impact that corruption has on the operational effectiveness of WMP demonstrates that despite the occurrences is indicative of our effectiveness in mitigating corruption where it does occur and in preventing the volume of instances. "Each occurrence is one too many but in an organisation of almost 11,000 employees, the instances really are few and far between." On less stringent vetting of BAME candidates, he added: "This should never compromise our high levels of professional standards, but we must appreciate that many people born into and living in challenging environments are good people with much to offer their community and if we can make reasonable adjustments that enable them to realise the opportunity to join us, then we should." Earlier this year, Mr Todd linked his force to Line of Duty while the show's fifth series was still on in April.
TWEETS: Chris Todd asked if Line of Duty was fact or fiction on Twitter (WMP)
Chief Supt Chris Todd, who heads the West Midlands Professionals Standards Department, including counter corruption, took to Twitter to to pose the question whether the series was more fact or fiction? He even held a live Twitter Q&A session for members of the public about the work of his department an hour before an episode was due to air on Sunday, April 14. He tweeted: "It's almost time for @Line_of_duty, but first join me at 8pm and I will do my best to answer your questions about what really goes on in a team like AC-12. "I will also try and shed some light on where the line between fact and fiction really is." Mr Todd was clearly a fan of the program and changed his Twitter background image to a promotional image from the show during the debate. He was open with questioners, including revealing his department was investigating 65 potential cases of police corruption following intelligence received in the first four months of the year. He replied: "This calendar year so far our counter corruption team received 73 pieces of intel. "We’re still looking at 65 and have filed the others." "The range of allegations are broad. "Thankfully most are minor and often negated." He also said that since Christmas seven allegations had been found not proven cases, but there had been seven dismissals, two final written warnings, two written warnings, plus two officers jailed and one given a driving ban." During the debate he revealed the strategic threat assessment had recently been completed, but did not go into the high number of intelligence reports that were linked to organised crime. He said: "This was purposely done to raise awareness not just of counter corruption work, but of the professional standards department as a whole. Line of Duty presented an opportunity to engage with a wider audience whilst it attracted such widespread attention and gave us the opportunity to use myth busting as a means of engagement."