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Police informing

Martin Rosenbaum | 13:25 UK time, Thursday, 19 April 2007

The Police are at the sharp end - in terms of freedom of information as with much else. They receive many FOI requests and clearly have many genuine secrets which merit protection - but it's fair to say that on the whole (although some forces are notable exceptions) they have an efficient and helpful record on dealing with FOI requests compared to many other public authorities. (Which is not the same as saying that they always give you the information you want or may be entitled to).

As with other public services, there are internal tensions between the traditions of secrecy and the pressures for openness.

The Police response to FOI is coordinated by the Association of Chief Police Officers, who have a Central Referral Unit (CRU) based in Hampshire. This recent presentation from the CRU's Chief Inspector James Fulton shows the sort of information the Police tend to think should or should not be disclosed in the public interest.

Information they seek to provide, he says, includes: 'How we spend public funds; strategic reasons for Police actions; issues that impact on the community; peformance statistics, good or bad; information surrounding integrity.'

They don't like releasing information about investigations, informants, tactics, national security and VIP protection.

If you want to see the sort of information that a force has released in practice, there's an extensive disclosure log on the Avon and Somerset Police website.

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