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  • 1. Freedom of Information Act, 2000 Lessons learned from implementing the Act in the London Metropolitan Police – a high profile U.K. Public Authority Presentation to the international seminar in Santiago, Chile Howard Back 5/6 November 2007
  • 2. My role in Freedom of Information
    • London Metropolitan Police project team September 2002 until April 2005
    • Extensive learning from Queensland Police, Australia
    • Visit to/regular contact with Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Washington DC, USA
    • Seen by 42 other UK Police Forces as a lead player
    • [email_address]
  • 3. Objectives of presentation
    • Consider what lessons were learned from the London experience
    • Recognise the implications for Chilean organisations
    • Use the lessons learned to improve planning for implementing the law in Chile
  • 4. Freedom of Information Act, 2000
    • Threat or opportunity?
  • 5. The implications of FOIA
    • Policy, systems, processes
    • Training and awareness
    • Culture of openness and accountability
      • Senior management
      • Front line staff
      • Willingness to release new information
      • The view from the public
    • Information management improvements
  • 6. What size is the Metropolitan Police?
    • 31,000 police officers
    • 17,000 civilian support staff
    • Budget of £2.9 billion
  • 7. Different formats of information
    • Paper records – a huge legacy
    • Electronic Word documents and spreadsheets
    • Email communication and decision making
    • Video tapes
    • Audio tapes
    • Photographs
    • Maps and plans
  • 8. FBI experience of FOIA
    • Comparison with a similar high profile law enforcement agency:
    • History of being unprepared for the onslaught of requests
    • Experience of the threat of ‘Mosaic Requests’
    • File based culture
    • Acceptance that records will be exposed
  • 9. How did the Metro Police project team model the response?
    • Scale and geography of the organisation
    • Risks/threats
    • Central processing office and local decision makers
    • Existing Data Protection requests
    • Staffing constraints
    • Local ownership of information
  • 10. What was the anticipated impact on the Metro Police?
    • Information Commissioner would publicise the right
    • Significant numbers of e-mail applications anticipated
    • Applications from media, politicians, criminals, local pressure groups and staff
    • Focus would be on policy, procedure, decision making and resource deployment
    • Significant past events will attract applications
  • 11. How is it working in the Metro Police now?
    • Simple requests managed locally
      • No issues on disclosure
      • Application of simple exemptions
    • Complex requests managed centrally (Public Access Office)
      • Public interest exemptions
      • Co-ordination required
      • Structure of Single Points of Contact in higher ‘risk’ Dept’s
      • National co-ordination of pan-UK police forces
  • 12. Resource cost
    • Staffing – 850 potential decision makers, 38 processors in the central Public Access Office
    • MetRIC – a case management system which cost £1.3m
    • Training – 5 levels – one size does NOT fit all
  • 13. What are the Metro Police being asked for?
    • Focus on personal information, personnel matters and deployments / resources
    • Internal requests
    • Growing media usage
    • Considerable internal co-ordination needed
    • Hot news issues – this is event- driven
    • Top ten requested documents include the Diversity Strategy, minutes of local police station senior management team meetings and the expenses paid to the Commissioner and his Management Board colleagues!!
  • 14. FOIA activity currently
    • 3084 FOIA requests in 2006
    • Monthly Publication Scheme activity:
    • 16,190 hits monthly on the Publication Scheme
    • 95,700 monthly downloads
    • Significant rise in Data Protection requests
  • 15. The Metro Police’s system to manage requests
    • MetRIC – Metropolitan Requests for Information and Correspondence
    • Central co-ordination – access across the Metro Police
    • Software solution to capture and track all requests
    • Audit trail of all disclosures and decision making
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  • 20. The Metro Police Publication Scheme – used to reduce requests
    • Catalogue of information available to the public
    • Emphasis on new material of public interest
    • Proactive publication of material
      • Minutes
      • Policies
      • Performance
      • Plans, Objectives, Strategies
    • MPS model follows national model for police forces
    • Currently 12,900 documents published for world wide access
  • 21. Lessons learned (1)
    • Culture change is led from the top
    • Publish NOW as much as you dare
    • Work closely with high risk departments and establish control points
    • Use as many exemptions as possible to protect high risk information
    • If one exemption fails, have alternatives ready
    • Invest in training for decision makers
    • Train to various levels based on need
  • 22. Lessons learned (2)
    • Maintain contact with the applicant at all stages of the request
    • “Do you want it all or do you want it quickly?”
    • Think like an applicant
    • Once an applicant has possession of information, all control of it is lost
    • FOI is event driven – an incident given local/national/international media coverage will increase requests
  • 23. Lessons learned (3)
    • Use technology if possible to manage requests:
    • Look for patterns of requests and regular applicants
    • Full audit trail of decision making
    • Up to date tracking of all requests
    • Analysis of bottle necks to improve performance
    • Publish information on the internet once released to an applicant
  • 24. Lessons learned (4)
    • One and only opportunity to improve information management (not seen as important):
    • Reduce volumes of information, improve indexing, increase staff efficiency, improve staff knowledge, reduce costs, improve professionalism and reputation
    • Use the change in law to change the culture and reputation – openness, accountability, honesty, willingness to release information
  • 25. If FOIA is coming to you, do this…
    • Prepare for requests
      • Identify the types of information that will attract requests
      • Examine the exemptions under FOIA
      • Consider how you would apply them
    • Proactively publish documents of ‘Public Interest’
  • 26. General issues in the Metro Police’s law enforcement arena
    • FOIA relates to information held, not owned
    • Applicant blind
    • Threat of mosaic approaches
    • Interpretation of Public Interest Test
    • However the big issue is……………..
  • 27. The issue of co-ordination
    • Pan-Department
    • Pan-London
    • National
    • International
    • Remember different FOIA legislation and use of exemptions in UK, USA, Canada and other countries subject to this legislation
  • 28. If FOIA is coming to a range of organisations at the same time…
    • Make a request for one agency’s information from another one – where is the weakest link in the chain nationally/internationally?
    • Will each agency deal with its own requests or is there a central clearing house?
    • What protocols will govern decision-making on disclosure / withholding of information?
  • 29. Multi-agency co-operation
    • Joint activity now to
      • Assess the risks
      • Identify sensitive information
      • Apply exemptions/agree publication now
      • Agree co-ordination
      • Think like an applicant
      • How is your organisation set up to respond?
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