Police Cross the Line

Some UK police have apparently been crossing lots of their own lines, according to a recent BBC report (Image source: Newham Recorder)

Police in the southern UK counties of Devon and Cornwall have been blocked from online gambling and pornographic websites a whopping 2,700 times over a period of just three months, according to a newly released report from the BBC.  The scandalous findings bring a whole new meaning to the term “bobbies on the beat”.

Saucy Summer of 2013

The BBC News investigation showed that access to pornography was attempted almost 700 times between June and August of this year, while the attempts at gambling online were made more than 2,000 times in the same period, but yet no disciplinary action has been taken against any member of the police force during this time.

The figures used to piece together the report were released under the Freedom of Information Act and pertain to the number of individual users prevented from accessing a particular site or section of a site. These figures include all staff and police officers, as well as any agency members contracted by the police force who used the computer systems.

Scrambling to cover the news of their possible dirty deeds and misspent time, the police force claimed that pop-up adverts from “legitimate” websites were to blame for the statistics – one worth remembering as a future “get out of jail free” option.

The force’s Deputy Chief Constable has stated that the websites which are flagged often contain content which is simply of an adult nature, which also includes “sites containing profanity or dating websites”. Since local news websites often contain adverts for such sites, these are frequently flagged and become part of the statistics while the members of staff are simply browsing the local media and keeping updated.

Sure, we’ll stick with that story then.

“The software we use to monitor Internet usage is a commercial application that uses finely-tuned filters,” explained Deputy Chief Constable David Zinzan in the BBC News report. “The software blocks and prevents access to websites which are suspected to have inappropriate content, such as gambling or pornography.

“We have many recorded blocks from local newspaper websites because they have pop-up adverts that breach our ‘gambling’ or ‘pornography’ rule,” he added.

“I’m confident I don’t have dozens of staff routinely accessing gambling or pornographic websites in work time and on force computers,” added the Deputy Chief. “Almost all our staff know better than to compromise themselves, which could lead to disciplinary action.”

Could, but apparently didn’t.

Zinzan explained that over the years, only an “extremely small number of people” have been disciplined for abusing computer access in this manner, adding that in a 6,000 strong workforce, the percentage is “tiny”.

“If continuous attempts are made to access blocked websites we have the systems in place to ‘dig deeper’ if required,” added Zinan, “though that’s rarely necessary and at this moment in time there are no current ongoing investigations around genuine inappropriate Internet access.”

Parliament Salutes Their Own Union Jack

But hey, the good news is, no matter what these cops may or may not have done on company time, they’re still not as nasty as their friends over in Parliament. Official records released last month revealed some 300,000 log ons to porn sites alone at the Houses of Parliament in 2012. It has not been ascertained if MPs, peers or support staff were responsible for the hits, a House of Commons official noted.

Naturally, they weren’t going to take the insinuations lying down, so to speak; so more officials came back saying that not all figures were for “purposeful request,” meaning, you know, like you logged onto the news and porn or gambling sites just mysteriously popped up, cause that happens a lot, as we all know. The spokespeople added that the reported figures could have been overstated by third-party software, not to mention those self-reloading websites that plague us all.

With some 5,000 folks working on the parliamentary estate, that would come out to about 60 inappropriate log ons per person.