Met Police Report on the Self Evident App
"Since launch Self Evident has succeeded in:
- Becoming the leading, most practical crime reporting app on Android & Apple
- Crucially assisting the public & Police to capture & exhibit evidence with ease
- Saving Police time & reducing the barrier to reporting by creating a solution to the digital incapability of Police services
- Allowing for better triaging of reports entering Police systems
- Being recognised by the CPS as a secure & legitimate evidence provider
- Providing Police officers evidence required to arrest & charge suspects
- Securing convictions at court, based on evidence gathered on Self Evident"
Read the full MPS Report here.
Despite its proven value, the Met Police has said it is not prepared to help meet the costs of the App and Service, as explained below. Since this decision is now being questioned by a number of MPs we will continue to run this public service at our own expense until the Summer. We hope public funds can then be provided to enable this public service to continue to help police officers, victims and witnesses work together to reduce crime.
Since its launch in 2013, Self Evident has been the only app that enables victims and witnesses to report crime, record statements and send evidence to the police. Though the App provides a public service, save for its hate crime pilots in London and Sussex no public funds have contributed to the costs of this free service. For the reasons explained below, the costs of developing and running the App have been met by its workers, a handful of individual investors and some small grants from enlightened charities.
Following keen support from frontline and senior police officers and a glowing report from its Continuous Policing Improvement Command, it seemed in 2018 that the Met Police would adopt and promote the Self Evident App to help it to catch criminals, support vulnerable victims, engage witnesses and free up officers’ time. Unfortunately, in the face of continued opposition from its Public Access Board, the Met has informed us it is not willing to pay toward the costs of the App. Regrettably this left us with little option but to suspend the service in November. Following complaints and pleas from users and the intervention of MPs, we have decided to fund the service through this summer in the hope that the police, Mayor or Government will agree to fund it in the light of its proven value.
Four of the consequences if the App is to be suspended are
- Victims and witnesses will no longer be able to send the police photo and video evidence, something Theresa May called on police chief officers to enable in January 2016;
- Crimes will go unreported, as nearly one third of App users say they would not have reported the crime without the App;
- Frontline officers will be deprived of a tool they value and which in London alone would free up over 100 officers a year; and
- Victims and witnesses reporting crime digitally will now have to use an online form that takes 20 minutes to complete. This will particularly disadvantage the young and the poor many of whom can only go online using a smartphone.
As of now the App, which has never been promoted by the police, has:
- 27,500 registered users
- delivered over 3,500 crime reports to the police, including reports of gun crime, child abuse and terrorism
- provided the police with 5,000 items of digital evidence - photos, videos, audio
- a unique validation feature which makes App captured evidence ‘good to go’ for prosecutions in the words of the Crown Prosecution Service
- secured convictions in court based on app-captured evidence
To help people understand this decision, the Briefing here sets out the reasons the Met has given us. The Briefing includes exchanges with Met Commissioner Cressida Dick and with Deputy Asst. Commissioner Mark Simmons whom she asked to review the Met’s initial decision that it saw no use for Londoners using apps to report crime or send the police evidence. Critically while the Commissioner justifies her decision on the basis that the App will cost too much, she and the Met has failed to give any indication about the sum they estimate is too much. As the App is proven to work while the Met's record of failures on digital policing is "extremely concerning" to the London Assembly, the Commissioner should publish the papers behind her decision or at least state what was the sum she was advised would be too much to run the App and Service.
A savings paper we produced estimated that if the Met made use of the App it could free up over 137 front line officers every year and save £4m annually. After the Met reviewed the paper, we were told we had overstated some savings and understated others, so acknowledging that the App could make substantial efficiency and other savings. Despite our requests, the Met has not released its review of the savings that the App will unlock. As most business and public bodies are now using apps to improve the services they provide and to engage their users and to reduce costs, it is surprising that the Met has no plan to use apps and that the Home Office is suggesting that digital policing is still on track to be working in 2025.
Yes you can. But if it has to close later this summer, it will close nationally. As explained here, almost all our dealings with the police on the App have been with and through the Met Police and one half of crime reports and evidence submitted via the App are sent to the Met. If you believe the service should continue to be available outside London, please email your MP and ask him or her to call on the Home Secretary to intervene.
The reason that the App has been funded privately goes back to February 2012 when the Met Police intervened to stop the independent grant funding of the charity Witness Confident. It did this because it could not endorse Witness Confident’s initiative to highlight and reduce street violence in London with an interactive witness appeal map. As the then Commissioner, Bernard Hogan Howe, had encouraged the development of the witness appeal map and had given it its name, StreetViolence.org, he was unhappy to learn the Met had stopped the charity’s funding. He sent in a top team to see if they could make use of the witness appeal map. As the team described it as “a stonking example” of the type of IT police officers need, it proposed the Met fund a year long pilot of the StreetViolence.org.
As, by that time, we had an early version of the Self Evident App working, we showed it to senior officers at the Met. They were amazed, saying it was five years ahead of its time and that it hit on everything the Met knew it should be doing. The Met decided that rather than support the witness appeal map, they would focus on the App and on 11th July 2012 they – backed by the Commissioner - formally recommended it should be funded with £500k for a one year pilot.
This decision was reversed on 2nd August by Simon Byrne, then Asst Commissioner at the Met. He wrote that the Met was unable to invest such money in a proof of concept and wished the charity well. As the charity was running out of funds – something the Met had caused and knew – workers, friends and trustees decided to set up a social enterprise, Just Evidence, to raise the funds to run the App.
When we told the Met this was our plan, they spent the following nine months telling us we could not launch the App for unspecified legal and technical reasons. In June 2013 Self Evident was launched in London after the Met said it had had legal advice there were no valid objections to the App and that the technical issues were no longer a bar.
N.B. We later learned that the Met had in fact been scoping and developing their own crime reporting app from August 2012 which, although it was ‘green lit’ for a launch late in 2013, has never been released. While the precise costs of this have not been published, the Met has confirmed that it wrote off £4.1m of bespoke software it had spent on developing an iPad app for an unsuccessful trial so its officers could take evidence, record witness statements and file crime reports digitally. It seems bizarre to us that the Met can write off £4.1m on software for an app that never is used but objects to spending any funds on an App that is proven to work and is highly valued by officers, victims and witnesses.
If you are unhappy about this decision, please email your MP and ask him or her to call on the Home Secretary to intervene. It makes no sense to us that without the App, people will be unable to send the police photos and video of crimes they have on their smartphones before 2025.