West Midlands Police force policy in respect of recovery vehicles and particular pursuant to section 165(a) (c) Road Traffic Act 1988
I can confirm that west midlands police holds the requested information, and have decided to release the policy in full, with the exception of a few minor redactions which relate to Force Vehicle Examiners contact detail, call signs and strength, since I consider that the exemption outlined below applies.
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:
Disclosing the details of the number of Force Vehicle Examiners, their specific call signs and direct contact numbers would mean that they could then be identified. This would compromise the effectiveness of vehicle recovery operations by identifying officer strength and those with access to police airwaves may also discover the location of a specific crime being investigated and the tactical position of the force in those areas. Due to the current threat level for police officers and staff being severe release of details of the force vehicle examiners may also put them at risk of harm.
Factors Favouring Disclosure
Police forces need to be properly equipped in order to meet the demands placed upon then. This information could go some way towards reassuring the public that West Midlands Police is adequately prepared in all areas.
Disclosure of call signs used by Force Vehicle Examiners would provide an insight into the intricacies and identification of police units, and would reveal a better understanding of the tactical capabilities of the police when deploying their units
Factors Favouring Non-Disclosure
Specific information relating to the tactical information of units would reveal resource information and intelligence to the criminal fraternity. Knowledge of the call signs coupled with other information would allow individuals to listen in to the radios and officers could be directed into potentially dangerous situations. It could also furnish individuals or groups with the opportunity to identify where a specific crime has taken place or where a recovered vehicle is located.
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.
We recognise that the public interest in being open and transparent is of great importance to all and release of information may assist in the public being more aware of the work that the police are carrying out. However, while the public interest considerations favouring disclosure are noted, this must be balanced with the impact any release would have on the operational capability tactical approach of the police.
Because the Freedom of Information Act is ‘applicant blind’, any information released under the Act is available to everyone. It is well documented that criminals will use every advantage they can gain to successfully carry out their criminality.
Therefore it is my view that the public safety from non-disclosure is of greater importance than the advantage of public confidence from the disclosure of this information.
At this time, it would not be in the public interest to release this information West Midlands Police will not disclose information that could harm the public or that could compromise the safety and operational effectiveness of its officers.