Digital Forensics (286A/22)
Basic Statistics and Training
1) In January 2022 how many Police Officers and Police Staff work in Digital Forensics/Cyber for you?
2) What are the job titles that exist in your Digital Forensic Uni/Cyber Unit? Can you please also tell me what the salary scales are for these roles? For example, one force might have Digital Forensic Technicians, Pay = Scale 5.
3) What is your annual budget allocation for Digital Forensics and Cyber Investigations?
4) Are you already ISO 17025 accredited with regards to Digital Forensics – Yes/No?
5) Are you working towards being ISO 17025 accredited – Yes/No?
6) Please can you confirm what mandatory courses new recruits are put on when they start work in Digital Forensics? For example, some forces insist on recruits going on the ‘CoP Core Skills in data recovery and analysis’ course. Just the names of the courses will be okay if possible.
7) Following on from the above Question 6 – if new recruits are put on specific courses, would them having a related degree in Digital Forensics negate the need for them to undertake a mandatory training course such as the ‘CoP Core Skills in data recovery and analysis’?
1) Are there any mandatory periodic psychological assessments or offers of counselling for Police Staff and Police Officers involved in Digital Forensics/Cyber? This relates to staff who have to view upsetting, graphic and illegal material such as child abuse images or terrorist material.
2) Carrying on from the above Question 1 – if there are any psychological assessments or counselling, are they enforced and does this spend come out of a force wide budget or the Digital Forensics departmental budget?
3) On the subject of illegal images of children, when grading such content – are breaks away from the computer offered and enforced?
4) Do you have a limit on how many hours individual Police Staff and Police Officers spend grading illegal images at any one time?
5) Does your Digital Forensic Unit routinely attend crime scenes?
6) If your Digital Forensic Unit Officers and Staff attend crime scenes – do they have access to body worn video equipment?
7) If your Digital Forensic Unit Officers and Staff attend crime scenes – do they have access to PPE and body armour?
We can confirm that relevant information is held by West Midlands Police. However, while the majority of the information is attached to this email, I am not required to release all of the information requested. Please find attached our response.
REASONS FOR DECISION
The withheld information is exempt by virtue of the following exemption:
Section 31(1)(a)(b) – Law enforcement
In line with the above, I am required to complete a Prejudice Test/Public Interest Test (PIT) on disclosure. Please find this PIT attached (286A_PIT).
In addition to the attached response, West Midlands Police can neither confirm nor deny that it holds any other information relevant to this request as the duty in Section 1(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 does not apply by virtue of the following exemptions:
Section 23(5) – Security Bodies supplied by, or concerning, certain Security Bodies
Section 24(2) – National security
Section 31(3) – Law enforcement
Section 23 is a class based absolute exemption and there is no requirement to consider the public interest in this case.
Confirming or denying the existence of whether any other information is held would contravene the constrictions laid out within Section 23 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in that this stipulates a generic bar on disclosure of any information applied by, or concerning, certain Security Bodies.
These exemptions and explanatory notes are shown here:
No inference can be taken from this refusal that any further information relevant to your request does or does not exist.
Evidence of Harm
Although there is a call for openness and transparency this needs to be balanced against any harm in confirming or denying whether any other information held and any subsequent disclosure. To confirm or deny whether any other information is held in this case would be extremely useful to those involved in terrorist activity as it would enable them to identify whether specific security measures and investigative capabilities are in place across the spectrum of police forces.
The Police Service has a clear responsibility to prevent and detect crime and disorder as well as maintaining public safety.
Modern day policing is intelligence led and this is particularly pertinent with regard to both law enforcement and national security. The public expect police forces to use all powers and tactics available to them to prevent and detect crime or disorder and maintain public safety.
The prevention and detection of crime is the foundation upon which policing is built and the threat from terrorism cannot be ignored. It is generally recognised in this current environment that the international security landscape is increasingly complex and unpredictable. The current UK threat level from international terrorism, based on intelligence, is assessed as of today’s date, as “SUBSTANTIAL” which means that a terrorist attack is likely, see below link:
In order to counter criminal and terrorist behaviour, it is vital that the police have the ability to work together, where necessary covertly, to obtain intelligence within current legislative frameworks to assist in the investigative process ensuring the successful arrest and prosecution of offenders who commit or plan to commit acts of terrorism.
To achieve this goal, it is vitally important that information sharing takes place between police officers, members of the public, police forces as well as other security law enforcement bodies within the United Kingdom. Such an action would support counter-terrorism measures in the fight to deprive terrorist networks of their ability to commit crime.
Although the staffing levels of some individual units are published, to reveal whether any other information is held concerning staffing levels of separate force counter terrorism units and organised crime units, together with the budgetary figure, would provide resource capability and financial awareness enabling criminals and terrorists to build a mosaic picture of each force area around the country, highlighting staffing levels and monetary allowances which would emphasise vulnerabilities and tactical options.
If further information were to be confirmed as held, the impact of disclosure under FOI which aids in identifying staffing resources of counter terrorist and organised crime units would weaken the national infrastructure thereby undermining national security and leaving the United Kingdom at risk of more terrorist attacks and jeopardising the health and safety of individuals.
Public Interest Considerations
Section 24(2) – National Security
Factors favouring disclosure
There is information within the public domain relating to the number of staff members, broken down by police officer and police staff, together with total budgetary figures, and this fact alone favours confirming or denying whether any other information is held.
In addition, disclosure of the information could assist public debate into whether enough resources and finances are being ploughed into counter terrorist and organised crime units.
Factors favouring non-disclosure
Taking into account the current security climate within the United Kingdom, no information which may aid a terrorist should be disclosed. To what extent this information may aid a terrorist is unknown, but it is clear that disclosure would impact on an individual force’s tactical vulnerability.
The public entrust the Police Service to make appropriate decisions with regard to their safety and protection. The only way of reducing risk is to be cautious with what is placed into the public domain.
The cumulative effect of terrorists gathering information from various sources would be detrimental, as highlighted within the harm above. The more information disclosed over a period of time would provide a more detailed account of the tactical infrastructure of not only a force area but also the country as a whole.
Any incident that results from such a disclosure would by default affect National Security.
Other organisations outside the Police Service are also widely engaged in targeting criminality and terrorism, see below links:
Counter-Terrorism | MI5 – The Security Service
Subsequently disclosing the requested information, if held, would harm the close relationship that exists with such organisations, where trust and confidence has been built up.
Section 31(3) – Law Enforcement
Factors favouring disclosure
There is a strong public interest in disclosing how many police officers and police staff members are tasked within individual counter terrorist and organised crime units, as well as the financial sum dedicated to policing these units, as this would provide openness, transparency and a better awareness to the public, that West Midlands Police are proactively targeting terrorist offending and serious crimes.
Factors favouring non-disclosure
Law enforcement agencies and the Police Service generally work together to ensure the effective delivery of operational law enforcement. Disclosing whether any other information is held about staffing levels and individual financial information would enable terrorists and those intent on committing offences to try to use the information to gain an insight into policing numbers and financial capability of these units which could be used as an advantage over West Midlands Police. Furthermore, this information to all intents and purposes can be classed as operational intelligence and extremely sensitive and the disclosure of which would compromise an ongoing operation, which may or may not be covert.
Public safety is of paramount importance and to confirm or deny the existence of any other information requested to the world would undermine the capability of these units and highlighting those units which are vulnerable thereby placing the public safety at risk.
The points above highlight the merits for disclosing and withholding the requested information, if held. The Police Service is charged with enforcing the law, preventing and detecting crime and protecting the communities we serve. As part of that policing purpose, specialist units are developed to target precise areas of policing.
Whilst there is a public interest in the transparency of policing and how public funds are allocated there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding the intricacies and tactical capabilities surrounding organised crime and terrorism.
Furthermore, we also need to take into account the victims of crime. Public safety is of paramount importance and any information which would place individuals at risk and compromise National Security, no matter how generic, is not in the public interest. The effective delivery of operational law enforcement and the National Security of the United Kingdom is crucial and of utmost importance to West Midlands Police.
Therefore, at this moment in time, we cannot confirm or deny whether any other information is held, and it is our opinion that for these issues the balance test for disclosure of the information is not made out.