BBC News: Police fix crime statistics to meet targets, MPs told
This BBC article has it almost right. All the activities it describes are mostly correct. It isn't quite right on burglaries – these are actually recorded as 'criminal damage plus a theft'. But it's a good article mostly.
Where it misleads is that like all tendentious writing about the police, the rank-and-file have been lumped together with senior management in an amorphous mass, as if we're all equally to blame. I wish that author understood that the constables have no power to self-determine. We simply have to do what we are told.
The way the crime mis-recording works is that senior officers set the targets of 'reducing crime by 20%' and the chief inspectors, inspectors and sergeants lower down the hierarchy realise that the only way of achieving this is by changing the way crime is recorded. The chief inspectors and inspectors are looking for promotion, and that is what motivates them.
The article states that hitting targets is linked to officers' promotion. This is not quite how it works. There has been no promotion for PCs for almost three years, and there is unlikely to be any for the foreseeable future, as the Met is trying to lose sergeants. The PCs aren't motivated by self-interest to record crimes in a certain way. They simply have to do what they're told. We work inside a uniformed quasi-military organisation based upon the following of orders. Any attempt to negotiate or ignore a supervisor's order will always result in disciplinary proceedings.
Ultimately the targets are to blame. Police cannot reduce crime. We investigate it afterwards, but we cannot control how much crime happens. So a crime reduction target unavoidably results in chiefs forcing the PCs to adopt unethical crime-recording practices.