How much has the force spent on unmarked or undercover vehicles in each of the following financial years:
In each case please detail the make and model of the vehicle, as well as the cost.
I can confirm that West Midlands Police holds the requested information, and have decided to release this in full for question 1. However with regards to question 2, I am only disclosing details of unmarked vehicles used in ‘general duties’ and not ‘covert’ roles, since I consider that the exemption outlined below applies.
Please Note: The purchase of 30 Nissan Leaf vehicles (electric vehicles) is the beginnings of a Police and Crime Plan initiative to grow our fleet of ‘green’ cars under the headings:
• Adoption of green policies
• Demonstrating the Force’s commitment to social responsibility
REASONS FOR DECISION
The Freedom of Information Act places two responsibilities on public authorities, the first of which is to confirm what information it holds and secondly to then disclose that information, unless exemptions apply.
In this case the information is exempt by virtue of the following exemption:
Section 31 (1) (a)(b) – Law Enforcement
This exemption and explanatory notes are shown here:
In line with the above, I am required to complete a Prejudice Test/Public Interest Test (PIT) on disclosure:
Unmarked vehicles used in covert roles are non-liveried for the purpose of remaining anonymous. Disclosing the details of these vehicles would mean that they could then be identified. This would compromise the effectiveness of covert operations by alerting individuals involved in criminal activity that there is a police presence, allowing them to take steps to avoid detection.
FACTORS FAVOURING DISCLOSURE
Where public funds are being used by West Midlands Police, the public have an interest in knowing what it is being used for. Disclosure of this information would inform the public of precisely which vehicles their money is being spent on, so that they can be satisfied that it is being used efficiently.
FACTORS FAVOURING NON-DISCLOSURE
Disclosing the type of unmarked vehicles in a covert role would allow for the identification of those vehicles by individuals involved in criminal activities. This would be invaluable information to them, as they could change their behaviour to evade detection or destroy evidence if they suspect that they are being observed. This would compromise the tactical effectiveness of using covert vehicles and hinder the prevention or detection of crime.
For a public interest test, issues that favour disclosure need to be measured against issues that favour non-disclosure. The public interest is not what interests the public, or a particular individual, but what will be the greater good, if released, to the community as a whole.
In considering the public interest in relation to this request, I must balance the factor in relation to transparency and accountability, against the public interest in ensuring that West Midlands Police are able to appropriately enforce the law.
While I recognise the public interest in promoting transparency where the use of public funds is concerned, I feel that this has already been satisfied with the release of the total overall spend on unmarked vehicles as per question 1 of your request (see 4238_attachment_01.pdf).
Releasing specific details of unmarked vehicles used in ‘undercover’ roles would allow criminals to be able to identify these vehicles, thus undermining covert operations and compromising law enforcement tactics, meaning that the police service is less effective.
West Midlands Police has a duty to deliver effective law enforcement, ensuring the prevention and detection of crime, and the apprehension of offenders.
Therefore it is my opinion that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information. West Midlands Police will not disclose information that would compromise the future law enforcement role of the force.