Capturing the police authorities
For almost half a century Police Authorities in England and Wales fulfilled their role of ensuring that the public had an efficient and effective local police force. This system was however replaced by a single elected individual (a Police & Crime Commissioner) following the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011.
Thursday 15th November saw elections for the new Police and Crime Commissioners in the 41 police force areas in England and Wales outside London (The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has since January held the equivalent role over the Metropolitan Police Force).
We in the British Library Web Archiving Team were concerned that with the abolition of the Police Authorities and the disappearance of their websites significant documentary material would be lost. Information on the Authority websites typically includes annual reports, statements of accounts, policing plans, public consultations, strategy and delivery plans and newsletters, all of which serve to inform the public of the work of the Authorities and to enable Authority members to scrutinise the constabulary and hold the Chief Constable accountable.
In light of this we contacted the Police Authorities asking for permission to archive their current websites before being replaced by the PCCs on 20 November. Some Authorities responded immediately whereas others required further information and (after a little bit of chasing) we received a 100% positive response rate. This is certainly something to be pleased about as the usual response rate is between 25 and 30 % and so for the first time we have been able to capture a nationwide administrative change comprehensively.
Between two and four snapshots of each website have been taken and reviewed individually for quality and completeness before being submitted to the archive. Typical issues included the need to add supplementary seeds to capture linked documents and style sheets external to the host server; applying filters to prevent crawler traps and probing crawl logs to identify the reasons for missing content. The final snapshots were taken on 20th November in case of any last minute changes. See the whole collection.