Use of Drones 2019-20

Tom Anderson made this Freedom of Information request to Avon and Somerset Constabulary

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Dear Avon and Somerset Constabulary,

Please can you tell me if the Avon and Somerset Constabulary has used drones (UAVs) during 2019-20, either operationally or in testing?

If drones have been used please confirm
a) the dates of their use
b) The purpose for using them
c) the company which supplied them

Yours faithfully,

Tom Anderson

#Freedom of Information Requests, Avon and Somerset Constabulary

Thank you for your request for information. Your request will now be considered and you will receive a response within the statutory timescale of 20 working days as defined by the Act. In some circumstances Avon and Somerset Constabulary may be unable to achieve this deadline if consideration needs to be given to the public interest test. If this is likely you will be informed and given a revised time-scale at the earliest opportunity.

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#Freedom of Information Requests, Avon and Somerset Constabulary

2 Attachments

Legal Services Directorate

Force Headquarters, PO Box 37, Valley Road,

Portishead, Bristol, BS20 8QJ

Email [email address]    

 

 

 

 

Tom Anderson Our 757/20
<[FOI #680539 email]> Reference
Date 20
August
2020

 

Dear T Anderson, 

 

I write in connection with your request for information dated 29^th July
under the Freedom of Information Act.

 

Specifically you asked:

 

Please can you tell me if the Avon and Somerset Constabulary has used
drones (UAVs) during 2019-20, either operationally or in testing?

 

If drones have been used please confirm

a) the dates of their use

b) The purpose for using them

c) the company which supplied them

 

 

Our response:

Avon and Somerset Constabulary have used drones during 2019 and 2020.

 

Please find the monthly breakdown for 2019 and January – June 2020 below.
We are unable to provide any further figures for 2020 as these numbers are
collated quarterly by the multiple departments that use drones. They will
therefore be available in September.

 

+------------------------------------------------------------------------+
|Monthly breakdown of drone deployment: |Total deployed: |
|-----------------------------------------------+------------------------|
|2019 |  |
|-----------------------------------------------+------------------------|
|January |8 |
|-----------------------------------------------+------------------------|
|February |3 |
|-----------------------------------------------+------------------------|
|March |13 |
|-----------------------------------------------+------------------------|
|April |10 |
|-----------------------------------------------+------------------------|
|May |14 |
|-----------------------------------------------+------------------------|
|June |15 |
|-----------------------------------------------+------------------------|
|July |17 |
|-----------------------------------------------+------------------------|
|September |21 |
|-----------------------------------------------+------------------------|
|October |7 |
|-----------------------------------------------+------------------------|
|November |12 |
|-----------------------------------------------+------------------------|
|December |12 |
|-----------------------------------------------+------------------------|
|2020: |6 |
|-----------------------------------------------+------------------------|
|January |7 |
|-----------------------------------------------+------------------------|
|February |5 |
|-----------------------------------------------+------------------------|
|March |20 |
|-----------------------------------------------+------------------------|
|April |22 |
|-----------------------------------------------+------------------------|
|May |21 |
|-----------------------------------------------+------------------------|
|June |28 |
+------------------------------------------------------------------------+

 

The constabulary uses drones for a variety of policing purposes including
but not limited to; Person Search; Crime scene search and recording;
Public safety and management of crowded spaces. Road collision
investigation and recording; Firearms support; Operational response;
Training and planning support. Support to partner agencies (Fire/ Local
Authority/ Environment agency etc) and Support to Enabling services
(Estates & facilities).

 

The Constabulary does not sub-contract any UAV services from outside
bodies.

 

The information you have requested regarding the company that supplies
Avon and Somerset Constabulary with drones has been considered exempt from
disclosure. The exemption applicable to the withheld information is
section 31(1)(a)(b) of the act which relates to law enforcement.  Section
31 is a qualified and prejudice based exemption which means there is a
requirement to identify and evidence the harm that would be caused by
disclosure and consideration given to the public interest which is below.

 

Harm

There are concerns associated with the release of any information that
would identify the type of UAVs owned by the constabulary as law
enforcement could be adversely affected. The release of this information
would equip individuals involved in criminal activity with an indication
of our capabilities. This information, together with other information
already in the public domain would assist those involved in criminal
behaviour in identifying the vehicles that are used for covert operations.
This would render them useless, hinder the prevention and detection of
crime and could compromise ongoing and future enquiries.

 

Public Interest Test for Section 31(1)(a)(b)

 

Considerations favouring disclosure

Disclosure may add value to the accuracy of public debate with regards to
resources allocated for the prevention and detection of crime.

 

Considerations favouring non-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 force UAVs
could compromise their operational purpose and allow them to be targeted.
Disclosure may reveal what resources are available 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.

 

Disclosing the details of UAVs would provide sufficient information to
those involved in criminal activity of the capabilities available to the
force when carrying out policing duties. 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 UAVs being
damaged or identified which would render any capabilities useless.

Balance Test 

The ability to deliver effective law enforcement is of paramount
importance.  Whilst the value of transparency is recognised, there is no
further tangible benefit to disclosing the company that supplies our
drones, and in turn the type of UAVs owned by the Constabulary.  This may
be interesting to some individuals however this is as you will appreciate
different to being in the public’s interest to know.  To disclose this
information concerning Police drones would have an adverse effect on our
ability to prevent and detect crime.  Therefore on balance the factors
favouring non-disclosure outweigh those favouring. This represents a
refusal notice for this part of your request.

 

 

Avon and Somerset Constabulary neither confirms nor denies that it holds
any other information relevant to the request by virtue of the following
exemptions:

 

Section 23(5) - Information supplied by, or concerning, certain security
bodies

Section 24(2) - National Security

Section 31(3) - Law Enforcement

 

Section 23 is an absolute class-based exemption and there is no
requirement to conduct a harm or public interest test.

 

Sections 24, and 31 are prejudice based qualified exemptions and there is
a requirement to articulate the harm that would be caused in confirming or
denying that any other information is held as well as carrying out a
public interest test.

 

Harm for the partial NCND

As you may be aware, disclosure under FOIA is a release to the public at
large. Whilst not questioning the motives of yourself, confirming or
denying that any other information is held regarding the use of this
specialist equipment for covert use, would show criminals what the
capacity, tactical abilities and capabilities of the force are, allowing
them to target specific areas of the UK to conduct their
criminal/terrorist activities. Confirming or denying the specific
circumstances in which the police service may or may not deploy UAV’s,
would lead to an increase of harm to covert investigations and compromise
law enforcement. This would be to the detriment of providing an efficient
policing service and a failure in providing a duty of care to all members
of the public.

The threat from terrorism cannot be ignored.  It is generally recognised
that the international security landscape is increasingly complex and
unpredictable. Since 2006, the UK Government have published the threat
level, based upon current intelligence and that threat is currently
categorised as ‘substantial’, see link;
[1]https://www.mi5.gov.uk/threat-levels

 

The UK continues to face a sustained threat from violent extremists and
terrorists.

 

It is well established that police forces use covert tactics and
surveillance to gain intelligence in order to counteract criminal
behaviour. It has been previously documented in the media that many
terrorist incidents have been thwarted due to intelligence gained by these
means.

 

Confirming or denying that any other information is held in relation to
the covert use of UAV’s would limit operational capabilities as
criminals/terrorists would gain a greater understanding of the police's
methods and techniques, enabling them to take steps to counter them. It
may also suggest the limitations of police capabilities in this area,
which may further encourage criminal/terrorist activity by exposing
potential vulnerabilities. This detrimental effect is increased if the
request is made to several different law enforcement bodies. In addition
to the local criminal fraternity now being better informed, those intent
on organised crime throughout the UK will be able to ‘map’ where the use
of certain tactics are or are not deployed. This can be useful information
to those committing crimes. It would have the likelihood of identifying
location-specific operations which would ultimately compromise police
tactics, operations and future prosecutions as criminals could counteract
the measures used against them.

 

Any information identifying the focus of policing activity could be used
to the advantage of terrorists or criminal organisations.  Information
that undermines the operational integrity of these activities will
adversely affect public safety and have a negative impact on both national
security and law enforcement.

 

Factors favouring Neither Confirming Nor Denying for Section 24

The information if held simply relates to national security and confirming
or denying whether it is held would not actually harm it. The public are
entitled to know what public funds are spent on and what security measures
are in place, and by confirming or denying whether any other information
regarding the covert use of UAV’s is held, would lead to a better-informed
public.

 

Factors against Neither Confirming Nor Denying for Section 24

By confirming or denying whether any other information is held would
render Security measures less effective. This would lead to the compromise
of ongoing or future operations to protect the security or infra-structure
of the UK and increase the risk of harm to the public.

 

Factors favouring Neither Confirming Nor Denying for Section 31

Confirming or denying whether any other information is held regarding the
covert use of UAV’s would provide an insight into the police service. This
would enable the public to have a better understanding of the
effectiveness of the police and about how the police gather intelligence.
It would greatly assist in the quality and accuracy of public debate,
which could otherwise be steeped in rumour and speculation. Where public
funds are being spent, there is a public interest in accountability and
justifying the use of public money.

Some information is already in the public domain regarding the police use
of this type of specialist equipment and confirming or denying whether any
other information is held would ensure transparency and accountability and
enable the public to see what tactics are deployed by the Police Service
to detect crime.

 

Factors against Neither Confirming Nor Denying for Section 31

Confirming or denying that any other information is held regarding the
covert use of UAV’s would have the effect of compromising law enforcement
tactics and would also hinder any future investigations.  In addition,
confirming or denying methods used to gather intelligence for an
investigation would prejudice that investigation and any possible future
proceedings. 

It has been recorded that FOIA releases are monitored by criminals and
terrorists and so to confirm or deny any other information is held
concerning specialist covert tactics would lead to law enforcement being
undermined. The Police Service is reliant upon all manner of techniques
during operations and the public release of any modus operandi employed,
if held, would prejudice the ability of the Police Service to conduct
similar investigations.

 

By confirming or denying whether any other information is held in relation
to the covert use of UAV’s would hinder the prevention or detection of
crime. The Police Service would not wish to reveal what tactics may or may
not have been used to gain intelligence as this would clearly undermine
the law enforcement and investigative process. This would impact on police
resources and more crime and terrorist incidents would be committed,
placing individuals at risk. It can be argued that there are significant
risks associated with providing information, if held, in relation to any
aspect of investigations or of any nation's security arrangements so
confirming or denying that any other information is held, may reveal the
relative vulnerability of what we may be trying to protect.

 

Balance test

The security of the country is of paramount importance and the Police
service will not divulge whether any other information is or is not held
regarding the covert use of UAV’s if to do so would place the safety of an
individual at risk, undermine National Security or compromise law
enforcement. 

 

Whilst there is a public interest in the transparency of policing
operations and providing assurance that the police service is
appropriately and effectively engaging with the threat posed by various
groups or individuals, there is a very strong public interest in
safeguarding the integrity of police investigations and operations in the
highly sensitive areas such as extremism, crime prevention, public
disorder and terrorism prevention.

  

As much as there is public interest in knowing that policing activity is
appropriate and balanced this will only be overridden in exceptional
circumstances. The areas of police interest discussed above are sensitive
issues that reveal local intelligence and therefore it is our opinion that
for these issues the balancing test for confirming or denying whether any
other information is held regarding the covert use of UAV’s, is not made
out.

 

However, this should not be taken as necessarily indicating that any
information that would meet your request exists or does not exist.

 

 

Yours sincerely

 

Olivia Hillyard

Disclosure Officer

[2]www.avonandsomerset.police.uk  |  Follow us on [3]Twitter and
[4]Facebook

 

 

 

Please note:

1.     Requests and responses may be published on Avon and Somerset
Constabulary’s website (within 24 hours), some of which may contain a link
to additional information, which may provide you with further
clarification.

2.     Whilst we may verbally discuss your request with you in order to
seek clarification, all other communication should be made in writing.

3.     Avon and Somerset Constabulary provides you with the right to
request a re-examination of your case under its review procedure (copy
attached).

 

 

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Dear Avon and Somerset Constabulary,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Avon and Somerset Constabulary's handling of my FOI request 'Use of Drones 2019-20'.

1) I do not agree with your assessment that disclosing the company supplying A&S Constabulary's drones would pose any security risk. And it is in the public interest to know how public money is spent, and which companies are benefiting from public contracts. Indeed, other police forces have chosen to make this information publicly available. For example here https://www.kent.police.uk/foi-ai/kent-p...

2) You have supplied me figures showing how many times drones have been used on a month by month basis. But you have not told me the reason for each incident.
The general list of justifications for the use of drones you have provided is not sufficient

Please disclose the purpose of deployment for each incident of drone use.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/u...

Yours faithfully,

Tom Anderson

#Freedom of Information Requests, Avon and Somerset Constabulary

 

 

 

 

 

 

Legal Services Directorate

Force Headquarters, PO Box 37, Valley Road,

Portishead, Bristol, BS20 8QJ

Facsimile 01275 814667

    

 

  Our 757/20
Reference
Date 24/08/2020

   

 

 

Dear Tom Anderson,

 

I acknowledge receipt of your email dated 23^rd August 2020 requesting
that Avon and Somerset Constabulary review its response to your request
for information. 

 

The review will be conducted in accordance to Avon and Somerset
Constabulary’s review procedure and every effort will be made to have a
response to you as soon as possible.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Freedom of Information Officer

Legal Services Directorate

 

 

Please note;

1.     Whilst we may verbally discuss your request with you in order to
seek clarification, all other communication should be made in writing.

 

 

 

 

 

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#Freedom of Information Requests, Avon and Somerset Constabulary

Tom Anderson Our 757/20
Reference
[FOI #680539 email] Date 19
November
2020

 

Dear T Anderson,

 

Re: Request for internal review dated 24^th August 2020 under the Freedom
of Information Act.

 

I write in response to your request for an internal review of your recent
FOI application in relation to ‘Drone Usage by the force’. The purpose of
an internal review is to establish whether the application was processed
correctly and in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act.

 

I have reviewed your application and I am satisfied that the response from
the Constabulary met the requirements of the Act.

 

The release of any information regarding the supplier of Drones or UAV’s
to Avon and Somerset Constabulary could have a detrimental effect on the
operative use of this type of policing. The information already in the
public domain along with information surrounding the supplier of this type
of equipment could give individuals involved in criminal activity
extensive knowledge of equipment owned by the force. Furthermore
identifying the supplier could give potential criminals the opportunity to
infiltrate software and hardware used alongside this type of equipment.
This would render this type of policing useless and hinder any future use
of drones or UAV to prevent and detect criminal activity.      

 

Therefore the implementation of a section 31(1) exemption to provide the
data you have requested, has been upheld.

 

Within the response sent many of the policing purposes in which a drone or
UAV may be deployed has been identified. However confirming or denying the
specific circumstances in which the police service may or may not deploy
UAV’s, would lead to an increase of harm to overt and covert
investigations and compromise law enforcement. Confirming or denying what
type of policing is used for any overt or covert activity would again
limit our operational capabilities and lead to increased knowledge to
criminals regarding our methods and techniques. This could lead to
criminals making steps to counteract this type of policing. Confirming or
denying what policing purpose the drones were deployed for in each of the
months requested could identify to potential criminals what crimes we
would deem necessary to deploy this type of equipment. This again would
give potential criminals a breakdown of what crimes could be committed
without fear of the police force deploying a drone or UAV to prevent or
detect them. Furthermore should requests for the same information be made
to other police forces in the UK, confirming or denying what Avon and
Somerset Constabulary deem necessary to deploy drones or UAVs could give
potential criminals the opportunity to ‘map-out’ where within the UK
criminal activity could potentially go un-noticed. In turn this would
increase crime rates within vulnerable areas and prevent that police force
from carrying out effective policing and providing a duty of care to the
public.

     

Therefore the implementation of a section 24(2) and section 31(3)
exemption to provide the data you have requested, has been upheld.

 

If you consider the Constabulary has failed to meet its obligations under
the Act you have the right to raise the matter with the Information
Commissioner who may agree to investigate this matter on your behalf. The
Information Commissioner can be contacted at the following address:

 

Wycliffe house,

Water Lane,

Wilmslow,

Cheshire,

SK9 5AF

 

Telephone 0303 1231113.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Adam Northcott

Disclosure Officer

 

Mail: Freedom of Information, Legal Services Directorate, Avon and
Somerset Constabulary, Force HQ, PO Box 37, Valley Road, Portishead,
BRISTOL, BS20 8QJ

Email  [1][email address]

 

[2]www.avonandsomerset.police.uk  |  Follow us on [3]Twitter and
[4]Facebook

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