'Poor' British Transport Police data 'risks safety'
The safety of the public and police has been put at risk because of the way British Transport Police handles information at its offices in Cardiff, three whistleblowers claim.
The chief constable of the force has been summoned to appear before the Home Affairs Select Committee of MPs following a BBC Wales investigation.
Committee chairman Keith Vaz has called for an urgent investigation.
BTP has identified improvements.
One of the whistleblowers who spoke to BBC Wales was a retired detective chief inspector with 30 years experience.
Jon Williams took on a job to review information BTP has on people relating to issues like criminal records and the likelihood of violence or sexual offences in April 2013.
He said he and two colleagues started raising concerns within weeks of starting the job.
Mr Williams claims the quality and management of data at BTP undermined the Police National Database - which was created after the 2002 Soham murders, to ensure police forces shared intelligence.
It brings together 150 different computer systems and combines information from the 43 police forces in England and Wales
The system is based on a nominal record being created for any individual the police has intelligence on. It holds basic details like a name, date of birth and any aliases.
Intelligence is then attached to the record so when a search on an individual is made, all the information is available.
Mr Williams said: "BTP wasn't creating nominal records so [only] the individual reports were being uploaded. But we couldn't find them.
"If another force searched on name details of an individual they couldn't find it. We couldn't find it. So that meant nobody else could find it."
He also claimed people who had committed minor crimes were mixed up with sex offenders and violent criminals.
Mr Williams said the potential consequences were that intelligence on an individual which would be the key piece in the jigsaw for solving or preventing a serious crime could be missing.
CONCERNS OVER POSSIBLE CORRUPTION
Mr Williams also reported allegations of possible organisational corruption but claims they were not investigated for months.
He said that an employee from the crime recording department told him that he and his colleagues had been told to record crimes in order to increase funding from the train operating companies that pay for BTP.
"Now, I don't know whether there is corruption in that process. What I find strange, in my experience of 30 years policing, is that nobody thought to investigate what we said for the best part of eight or nine months."
"If somebody is fiddling the crime figures, that's very serious so you would have thought they would have investigated it, but it wasn't investigated. If it was, I was never spoken to and nobody has ever interviewed me as a witness to what was said."
Mr Williams also reported breaches of the Data Protection Act.
According to police policy, information kept on people should be disposed of if it has no policing purpose.
But Mr Williams said that he knows of at least 11,000 intelligence reports held on the force intelligence system that were earmarked for deletion but had not been removed.
British Transport Police also has around 10,000 boxes of personal information kept in archive storage, dating back before 2006.
QUESTIONS FROM MPS
Keith Vaz wants an urgent independent investigation and has called on the BTP chief constable to give evidence to the committee about why the information was so unclear "and why action has not been taken to make the database fit for purpose".
He added: "This undermines the whole basis of the criminal justice system."
BRITISH TRANSPORT POLICE RESPONSE:
BTP said it recognises its obligations to record information accurately and welcomes the opportunity for its chief constable to appear before MPs.
"In January 2014, we carried out a review and identified ways to improve how our records were more searchable on the Police National Database.
"As a result of this review, measures were put in place to ensure our records were appropriately linked."
THE WHISTLEBLOWERS - WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?
Jon Williams said he was frustrated at the lack of action so on 9 July 2014, the three whistleblowers met with Simon Downey, the head of capability and resources to repeat their concerns.
The following day they were told they were being investigated for bullying and they were suspended in August.
"We weren't told why we were suspended. About two weeks after the suspension, I had a letter which purported to explain the reasons why. It didn't."
He said they feel "abandoned" by the force and believes complaining to BTP about bad data management processes was "a significant factor in the allegations made against us."
The three resigned in October and are now taking a case for constructive dismissal against BTP.
The force said in a statement it intended to "resist all allegations that staff were treated unfairly after raising concerns about the management of data and information".