Essex Police own a repair workshop and commission vehicles ourselves in-house.
Details of the Essex Police Marked Vehicle, Motorcycle, Marine and Push Bike Fleet as at 28 March 2022 including Make, Model, Commission Year, Date in Service, Body Type, Role Type and Fuel Type broken down by Vehicle Type.
No further details in respect of Vehicle Registration Numbers (VRN’s), Call Signs, Armed Response (ARV’s), covert or unmarked vehicles will be provided by virtue of the following exemption:
S31(1)(a)(b) Law Enforcement
Evidence of Harm
Disclosure of full information on fleet, such as full Vehicle Registration Numbers (VRN’s), could be of intelligence value to a person or persons with criminal or malicious intent. Full disclosure could provide and enable targeted malicious actions, be that some form of attack on an operational unit or avoiding that unit for example where strengths and weakness may be perceived (whether incorrectly or not).
Although VRN’s are an overtly displayed marker that can be clearly seen and are intended to be seen, to disclose a ready-collated list of vehicles with complete vehicle registration numbers would be substantially more harmful than the limited availability of related information via the visibility of vehicles whilst on public roads. In practice, all of this information is not realistically accessible to a member of the public and is, therefore, not in the public domain.
Providing full lists of VRN’s for marked vehicles provides opportunities for criminality to benefit, or for risks to be extended to members of the public:
Marked Police vehicles are often exempt toll and congestion charges, facilitated by automatic recognition of the VRN; cloned vehicles would avoid these charges.
Decommissioned Police vehicles are sold at public auction and will re-appear in domestic use, usually driven by members of the public. Lists of VRN’s accessible by criminals, such as Organised Crime Gangs (even if out of date), may potentially expose unaware members of public to direct challenge and/or risk of harm.
Detailed VRN listings will potentially enable a criminal gang to understand the force’s capability, through the volumes and types of vehicles being operated, for example the numbers of Armed Response Vehicles, comparative to other models.
The recent high profile case of Sarah Everard’s murder and the fact that the perpetrator was in a Police car when he committed the crime cannot be ignored. Although this was not a cloned vehicle, the suggestion that a cloned vehicle could also be used in such a crime and would provide a level of credibility to the driver, is clearly demonstrated.
Additionally, law enforcement tactics and operational capability would be compromised with the disclosure of VRN details requested such as that relating to unmarked cars, as those who wish to commit criminal acts will be more aware of what vehicles may belong to the force in a covert role, that assist with preventing and detecting crime.
Such a disclosure would allow those with criminal intent the ability to build up a mosaic picture of force capabilities and resources and use this information to undermine law enforcement. This places the community at increased unnecessary risk of harm and impacts on Police resources if additional resources and tactics need to be put in place to counter any harm caused by an adverse FOI disclosure.
To disclose a list of call signs would be of huge concern. Such information would allow those with ill intent to cause disruption to operational policing and prejudice the prevention and detection of crime. Knowing call signs and associated information for specific areas would allow individuals to speak on the policing network with a level of validity that could lead to major disruption to the force communications network. It would also encourage criminals to try and disrupt events involving these areas.
To disclose details of ARV’s, covert and unmarked vehicles could cause harm to the Police Service’s ability to protect the public it serves and could prejudice its ability to perform core functions such as the prevention and detection of crime. Releasing this data would give individuals with criminal intent the intelligence required to disrupt Police activity and target innocent members of the public. Criminals would be able to identify in which force areas resources are weak and use this knowledge to their advantage in furthering criminal activity around the county and the country as a whole. The disclosure of information which is likely to undermine the Police Service’s ability to serve the public in preventing and detecting crime and the apprehension and prosecution of offenders can only be considered as being harmful to the public.
Public Interest Test
Factors Favouring Disclosure
There is a legitimate public interest in the public being satisfied that the Police force has up to date and well maintained vehicles to deliver services to the public when and where required.
The release of call sign information would demonstrate the openness of the organisation to make such matters public.
The disclosure of information relating to ARV’s, covert and unmarked vehicles would adhere to the general principle of openness and transparency and better inform the public about how public funds are spent, better awareness which may reduce crime or lead to more information from the public.
In the current financial climate of cuts and with the call for transparency of public spending this would enable improved public debate.
Factors Against Disclosure
The Police Service has a duty to deliver effective law enforcement ensuring that the prevention and detection of crime, apprehension or prosecution of offenders and administration of justice is carried out appropriately.
Disclosing information that would allow the identification of all vehicles may reveal what resources are available for a given role and this information could enable Police strength to be determined and circumvented by those intent on committing crime. The release of this information could, therefore, provide a tactical advantage to offenders which would negatively impact on public safety and undermine the policing purpose. Patterns could be drawn which would enable those intent on criminal activities to strategically plan offences based on this data. The force would then be required to adapt its methods in order to continue to prevent and detect crime.
Disclosing the details of covert vehicles would provide sufficient information to those involved in criminal activity of the capabilities available to the force when carrying out covert activities in certain areas. This could result in them taking steps to evade detection and to destroy evidence if they believe that their movements are being monitored. This could also lead to vehicles and Officers being identified which would render their covert capabilities useless.
Releasing call sign data would give those individuals with the intent to do so, the intelligence required to disrupt Police activity. This knowledge would mean that offenders would be able to target their offending more effectively which would inevitably lead to an increased likelihood of terrorist or criminal activity and an increased danger to the public.
On a national level, terrorists and criminals would be able to identify and use this knowledge to their own advantage in furthering terrorist/criminal activity around the country.
Any disclosure of information which is likely to undermine the Police Service’s ability to serve the public in preventing and detecting crime can only be considered as being harmful to the public.
The Police Service is charged with enforcing the law, preventing and detecting crime and protecting the communities we serve and there is a public interest argument in ensuring we are open and transparent. However, the disclosure of Police resources which would harm the ability of Essex Police to prevent and detect crime is a more influential reason.
It is not in the public interest for law enforcement tactics and operational capability to be compromised with the disclosure of Fleet VRN’s, as those who wish to commit criminal acts will be more aware of the vehicles in operation to assist with preventing and detecting crime.
Such a disclosure that would allow those with criminal intent the ability to build up a mosaic picture of force capabilities and resources which could be used to undermine law enforcement, would not be in the public interest.
Disclosure is also not in the public interest as it places the community at increased unnecessary risk of harm and impacts on Police resources. This is especially the case if additional tactics/resources need to be put in place to counter harm caused by an adverse FOI request regarding Police vehicles.
As part of that policing purpose, information is gathered which can be highly sensitive relating to high profile investigative activity. Weakening the mechanisms used to monitor any type of criminal activity would place the security of the country at an increased level of danger.
In addition, any disclosure by Essex Police that places the security of the country at risk, no matter how generic, would undermine any trust or confidence individuals have in us, therefore, at this moment in time it is our opinion that for these issues the balance test favours of non-disclosure of the information at this time.
Every effort is made to ensure that the data provided by Essex Police is accurate and complete. However, Essex Police systems are designed primarily for the management of individual cases and not for the purposes of providing data to answer specific FOI enquiries. Please note although data can be extracted from a number of sources via database queries, the results may be subject to inaccuracies. Care should be taken to understand our return when considering the interpretation or further use of the data.