On March 3, 2012, in the village of Culcheth near Manchester, Anthony Grainger, a 36-year-old father of two, was in a car with two other men when they were approached by armed police officers who were carrying out a pre-planned operation. The police believed that the men were planning an armed robbery and were armed themselves with firearms.
During the operation armed Police fired a single shot at Grainger, which hit him in the chest and killed him almost instantly. The authorised firearms officer (AFO) claimed that he believed Mr Grainger was reaching for a weapon and that he fired in self-defence. However, no weapons were found in the car, and Grainger was not known to have any previous convictions for violent crime. The shooting led to public outrage and calls for a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding Grainger’s death.
The subsequent Public Inquiry, the AGPI, sought to investigate the circumstances surrounding Mr Grainger’s death and determine whether lessons could be learned. The final report, published in July 2021, highlighted a number of challenges and failings, and made recommendations for implementation by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and the National Crime Agency (NCA).
The AGPI highlighted several police failings leading up to the incident, highlighting a number of factors that contributed to the shooting, including flawed intelligence, inadequate risk assessments, and a lack of clear communication between the police officers involved.
One of the main police failings identified was the reliance on flawed intelligence as a result of police systems and teams not sharing intelligence in a timely manner. Intelligence received suggested Grainger and his associates were planning an armed robbery, but the inquiry found the intelligence was unreliable and the police did not adequately verify its accuracy or take into account the fact that the intelligence was several weeks old and the possibility the suspects’ plans had changed in the intervening period.
The Inquiry examined risk assessments carried out by the police prior to the operation, and found the police did not properly consider the risks involved in the operation, and did not adequately plan for a potential confrontation with the suspects. The police officers involved in the operation did not have access to key information, such as the layout of the area where the operation was taking place, which would have allowed them to better assess the risks, and access to up-to-date and accurate intelligence profiles.
A lack of clear communication between the police units involved was also identified as a contributing factor to the shooting. The inquiry uncovered communication breakdowns between the officers who were planning the operation and those who were carrying it out. This led to a lack of coordination and confusion about the roles and responsibilities of individual officers.
In addition to these specific failings, the inquiry also identified broader systemic issues within the police force that contributed to the incident. These included a lack of training and guidance for police officers on the use of force, a lack of clear policies and procedures for managing firearms operations, and the challenges of sharing sensitive intelligence both internally and with other forces.
Overall, the inquiry found that a combination of factors led to the shooting of Anthony Grainger, and made recommendations for implementation by the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the National Crime Agency to address these systemic issues and improve policing practices, with the goal of preventing similar incidents from happening in the future.
The Inquiry also found significant issues with the way in which subject profiles and IT systems were being used by the police. The inquiry highlighted a number of specific problems, including a lack of integration between different IT systems and databases, and a lack of standardisation in the way in which data was collected and recorded.
This lack of data-sharing between National and Local Police IT systems and databases directly impacted officers ability to compile time-critical information about individuals, such as their criminal history and known associates. This led to incomplete and out-of-date subject profiles to inform investigators, covert teams and Armed Response Commanders, and as a result, they were not always able to make informed decisions about how to respond to potential threats. Additionally, the lack of standardisation for the creation of Subject Profiles made it difficult for police officers to make sense of the data and use it effectively.
The inquiry recommended that the police should adopt a more standardised approach to data collection and recording, with a focus on ensuring that key information is consistently captured and shared between different IT systems and databases.
One major criticism was the length of time it took to complete, and now, the length of time it takes to implement IT and data sharing changes post Data Protection Act 2018 and the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).
The incident occurred in March 2012, the inquiry began in 2017 and lasted for over four years, with the final report not being published until July 2021. This long timeframe can be attributed to a number of factors, including the complexity of the case, the sheer volume of evidence that had to be considered, and the need to ensure that all relevant parties were given the opportunity to provide evidence and make submissions.
So, what’s happened since the recommendations made in July 2021 as we approach the 11th year anniversary of the shooting of Anthony Grainger?
Four key recommendations focused on improving Policing’s intelligence-gathering and analysis capabilities, as well as its ability to work collaboratively with other police forces and agencies such as the NCA. This would involve a greater focus on gathering and analysing intelligence about criminal activity, particularly covert and sensitive intelligence, as well as improving the NCA’s ability to rapidly share intelligence with other police forces and agencies. The inquiry also recommended that the NCA should work more closely with local police forces, in order to build better relationships and improve communication and coordination between different agencies.
Thus far, and not within the scope of this article, the NCA and NPCC have made huge gains in improving the Sensitive Intelligence Network and delivering tools to front-line policing such as PNC At the Roadside (PaRs) and the National ANPR System (NAS) which allows for real-time sharing of ANPR data to support investigations and intelligence-gathering.
On the down side though, other critical system upgrades have stalled, such as the National Law Enforcement Data System (NLEDS) which is over budget, behind schedule and now only delivering 50% of the original specification.
There are several valid but nonetheless frustrating reasons why it can be difficult for the UK Government to upgrade national policing systems. One of the key challenges is the complexity of the procurement process. Government procurement rules and regulations can be complex and bureaucratic, which can make it difficult for suppliers to work with the government on IT projects, particularly small to medium enterprises.
Liam Maxwell, former National Technology Advisor for the UK government, criticized the government’s procurement process, stating: “The procurement process in the government is slow and inflexible. It takes too long for new technologies to be adopted, which hampers innovation and costs taxpayers money.” (Source: “Digital Transformation in the Public Sector”, The Guardian, October 2018)
In a report by the Institute for Government, it was mentioned that “The slow pace of change in public sector IT procurement, and the preference for large, established suppliers, has created barriers to entry for innovative SMEs.” (Source: “Government Procurement: The Scale and Nature of Contracting in the UK”, Institute for Government, December 2018) and, characteristically ahead of his time, Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, once said, “The current procurement process is stifling innovation. It is preventing the adoption of the most modern, innovative technologies that could deliver better public services at a lower cost.” (Source: “Opening Up Government IT”, The Guardian, March 2014)
There is good news though: the Accelerated Capability Environment (ACE) is a UK Home Office-funded initiative that aims to foster innovation and collaboration by bringing together industry and academia. A recent quote from a Home Office official emphasises the importance of ACE: “The ACE programme allows us to rapidly prototype, test, and deploy cutting-edge technologies, ensuring that our frontline services have access to the best possible tools and capabilities to keep the public safe.” (Source: “Rapid Innovation for a Safer Britain: The ACE Programme”, Home Office News Release, October 2021)
Another challenge is the fragmentation of the UK policing landscape. There are 43 police forces in England and Wales, each with its own IT systems and processes. This can make it difficult to develop and implement national IT systems that are compatible with the different systems used by individual police forces, often legacy systems that have been kept alive over the years rather than full modern upgrades.
Experts have also noted the challenge of working with government bureaucracy and a lack of agility in the decision-making process. According to Tony Smith, former Director General of the UK Border Force, “the challenge is that government processes are slow and cumbersome, and it can be difficult to get things done quickly.”
Synalogik deeply understand the challenges that can make it difficult for the UK Government to upgrade national policing systems, and passionately promote the need for more agile and flexible approaches to IT project delivery, as well as greater collaboration between different police forces and agencies. Drawing from a wide range of Public Sector experiences, our team in Professional Services has created DataHunter, a ground-breaking tool that seamlessly integrates multiple disconnected government databases. This innovative solution not only aggregates data from diverse sources, but also presents it in a unified, easily accessible format. By eliminating the need for numerous individual licenses, our cutting-edge tool drastically reduces both time and resource expenditures, while addressing other critical limitations inherent in traditional investigative activities. This revolutionary advancement empowers law enforcement to optimise their data-driven decision-making, leading to more efficient and effective operations in the pursuit of public safety.