29 June 2016

Undercover policing guidance published

​Undercover policing guidance which outlines how the tactic should be used to gather legal evidence and intelligence will be published for the first time, the College of Policing said today.

The professional body for the police today published undercover policing Authorised Professional Practice, which is national guidance, for a six week consultation before the final version is released later this year.

Undercover policing is used by forces across England and Wales to obtain evidence and intelligence to keep the public safe and bring criminals to justice.

The draft guidance says undercover operatives can only work once they have been accredited by the professional body, which involves going through a selection process and undergoing vetting and specialist training.

There are two types of undercover operative

  1. An undercover foundation operative carries out low-level infiltration that does not require the ability to withstand intense scrutiny by people who are potentially suspicious. For example, buying drugs on the street.
  2. An undercover advanced operative is trained to undertake deployments involving higher-level infiltrations and they must be able to withstand intense scrutiny from anyone who may be suspicious. For example, counter terrorism work.

The draft guidance sets out clearly the roles and responsibilities of police officers from those who are deployed on operations, to those who supervise and manage undercover officers and authorise operations.
It describes the roles of other external scrutiny arrangements such as the Office of Surveillance Commissioners and the courts.

Publication of the guidance is intended to allow the public to see the arrangements to manage undercover policing and give confidence that these arrangements are robust and built on experience.

The draft guidance has an emphasis on the welfare of those working undercover and foundation operatives will undergo a personality assessment by a psychologist to understand a candidate's motivation and suitability to the role.
Advance operatives undergo a one-to-one psychological assessment with a psychologist or psychiatrist to identify any risk to their wellbeing. Officers themselves, their supervisors and managers all have a role in supporting those who operate in this high stress work and the guidance makes this clear.

Recent interest in undercover policing has centred on operatives having sexual relationships with individuals they are targeting.
The draft guidance says 'It is never acceptable for a UCO to form an intimate sexual relationship with those they are employed to infiltrate and target or may encounter during their deployment. This conduct will never be authorised, nor must it ever be used as a tactic of a deployment.'

College of Policing CEO, Chief Constable Alex Marshall, said: "Undercover policing is an essential tactic used by police forces to protect the public, save lives and bring serious and organised criminals to justice.
"The job of an undercover operative is dangerous so any authorisation must be done by an assistant chief constable and any operation lasting longer than 12 months needs to be approved by the chief constable.
"By publishing the vast majority of the guidance, withholding only operational tactics which would no longer be viable if shared, we want the public to see the measures we have in place to ensure undercover policing is used in a way that is proportionate, lawful and ethical."

You can view and respond to the consultation on the Authorised Professional Practice website.

Notes to editors

The College of Policing licenses all undercover training courses and accredits all who pass them. Undercover training is delivered to national standards by subject matter experts who hold appropriate training qualifications which are recognised by the College.

The register is attached as a PDF on the right-hand-side of this page.

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