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NPCC look at technological solutions for vetting online activity

It comes as a report on Extreme Right Wing Terrorism highlighted concerns over the police vetting processes.

The NPCC has said that, alongside the College, they are currently looking at technological solutions to assist in the vetting process where use of social media and online forums is concerned.

The Code of Ethics and APP includes a requirement to conduct social media checks within vetting, however, the NPCC has now said they are undertaking work to ensure the measures taken by vetting practitioners are “sufficiently thorough”.

It comes as an Intelligence and Security Committee report into Extreme Right Wing Terrorism highlighted concerns over a vetting process that they say has a “lack of thorough background checks”.

NPCC Lead for Vetting, Chief Constable Debbie Tedds responded to the report saying: "Police chiefs are committed to ensuring the right culture in their force and that officers and staff uphold the standards and values the public expect. The Statutory Vetting Code of Practice and Authorised Professional Practice (APP) was introduced in 2017 by the College of Policing and sets the standards for Forces to adopt. It is designed to protect the public, respond to current and evolving threats, and form a fair but robust part of a police force's framework of ethics and professional standards.”

Last year, Met officer Ben Hannam was convicted of membership of barred group National Action and sentenced to four years and four months’ imprisonment.

This week’s report noted there had been indications of his beliefs while he was at school, and two days before he applied to join, he appeared in a neo-Nazi propaganda video.

Although he was the first serving officer to be convicted of a terrorism offence, the report found that he was subject to the usual vetting processes and that the current ones in place “would not have picked up Hannam’s membership and interest in National Action”.

His activity was eventually picked up through a data leak from a closed forum called Iron March.

CTP told the inspection that without the data leak, an extensive search of Hannam’s internet history would have had to have been conducted for them to have picked up on activity.

Currently this is not routine, but the report indicated that the police are now “actively considering this additional measure”.

The Head of CTP Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, however, said: “reality being…. People don’t like the idea that their whole internet history is going to be looked at as part of their application for a particular job”.

Meanwhile, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “My line of questioning now around vetting is very much case by case, step by step what are the processes, and there are other individuals as well, not in relation to this example but others where I’m asking some pretty detailed questions because one of the areas where I need assurance right now is that it’s not just desk-based, paper-based tick-box but people are actually contacted and the right questions are being asked and they are asked consistently.”

Police Federation Chair Steve Hartshorn has previously spoken with Police Oracle on his concerns over the intersection between monitoring officers and their rights.

Speaking of mobile phone monitoring, he said that any changes by forces should apply to everyone in policing.

“Human rights apply to everyone. Just because you’re a police officer, you shouldn’t have your human rights violated. Should everyone be punished for the sins of the few? Does it apply to Police and Crime Commissioners? To the government? Where does it stop?” he said.

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