Guide to A&LS Back Office

Note: This document supersedes the document known as the Step-by-Step Guide [sometimes referred to as The Back Office Bible]. It has been written on behalf of the Back Office operated by A&LS, formerly known as ‘Central Back Office’. Regional Back Offices may operate in slightly different ways: please refer to their specific documentation. There is a separate guide for BOCs (Back Office Coordinators) that we hope will also be moved to the Toolkit. Most recent content update: 26 March 2022

1. Functions of A&LS Back Office

The main functions are to:

2. Structure of Back Office

During a mass action

A&LS Back Office (A&LS BO) is staffed by volunteers under the supervision of members of the A&LS BO team. There are two main volunteer roles:

Normally volunteers take only one of these roles per shift. However, we welcome volunteers willing to be trained for both roles - this enables flexibility, including the possibility of taking both roles simultaneously during quiet shifts.

The supervisor is known as the Back Office Coordinator (BOC), and is volunteers’ point of contact for enquiries during a shift. The BOC will also oversee workflow; ensure an even distribution of responsibilities during the shift; and answer queries.

There may also be access to a Legal Support Line (LSL), staffed by a member of XR Legal Support, to whom enquiries of a legal nature can be referred.

Communication:

Enquiries from volunteers can be made to the Back Office inbox (address in Summary of Key Links section), staffed by a member of the A&LS BO team. Short-term Signal groups are set up in association with specific mass actions, and can also be used for some kinds of enquiry. There are additional ways of communicating while on shift.

Between mass actions

We currently aim to run a 24/7 Back Office service staffed by members of the A&LS BO team, augmented on a short-term basis by volunteers if necessitated by a particular action.
The BO inbox is also staffed throughout the year.

Relationships with regional Arrest Support systems

Vary from region to region. Systems are evolving and there is no general model. Currently this necessitates negotiations with regions from time to time.

3. Recruitment

Recruitment is usually carried out intermittently, and will definitely happen in association with mass actions.

4. Training

Training mainly comprises videos and documentation, supplemented by live sessions via Zoom.

Written and other online resources

Training videos

Live Training

Live training sessions, via Zoom, are provided in advance of mass actions. These will be publicised widely within XR’s communication channels.

Live sessions may include:

5. Security and Data Protection

Volunteers are handling sensitive personal information and are required to confirm that they understand their responsibilities under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This is done by reading and signing XR’s online Volunteer Agreement.

Please sign with the e-mail address you provide to Back Office, to facilitate checks.

Remember that you’ve agreed to protect the privacy of arrestees, and don’t share any of the information you receive with anyone outside Back Office.

6. ArrestWatch

This is the database used during and after an action to record information about arrestees, legal observers, and calls associated with the action. Information can be entered manually or, in the case of an arrest or release, via an online form.

The use of the forms and database can be practised using the ArrestWatch playground. The username and password for BOVs and PSSCs respectively are: bov, bovbov; and pssc, psscpssc. Please don’t change these! The arrest report form is at https://playground.arrestwatch.info, and the release form at https://playground.arrestwatch.info/pss.

Manual entries

Online entries

Access

There are three levels of access to the information currently held in ArrestWatch, all access is via login at https://backoffice.arrestwatch.info/login Volunteers will be allocated a login, with the appropriate level of access, after completing the training required by A&LS policy.

7. Back Office Volunteer (BOV)

The BOV role: involves taking phone calls via 3CX, an online software-based private branch exchange phone system.
Calls to BO may come from:

BOVs usually work in shifts of 3 or 6 hours, and at busy times several BOVs will be on shift together so the workload will be shared. On-shift support will be available from the Back Office Coordinator (BOC), via either a Signal chat, Zoom calls, or phone calls.

Training involves
The phone system - 3CX

The 3CX phone system is a software-based private branch exchange. 3CX can be accessed via either a smartphone or a PC equipped with speakers and a microphone. Please ensure your equipment will remain charged throughout your shift. Training in the use of 3CX will be provided.

Before your shift

Please ensure you have ready access to relevant documents, Signal groups, and the Zoom call (if operating), and have logged in to 3CX and ArrestWatch. It’s helpful to have kept an eye on the day’s BO Signal group, which will help familiarise you with what’s happening.

During your shift
Calls from LOs

Record the beginning and end of LO shifts, and their location, in the ‘Legal Observers’ tab in ArrestWatch. Create separate entries for coming on and off shift.

Reports of Arrests
Custody Calls
Responding to enquiries from friends and families:

Sometimes we receive calls from rebels asking where their friend or family member has been taken. If they know the name of the rebel, we accept these requests at face value and will try to help them: otherwise, we don’t give out information.

A balance needs to be struck between helping rebels find their friends, and protecting data. If in doubt, discuss any particular request with your BOC before sharing any information. Special care must be taken if ‘famous’ rebels are involved, as press teams may try to take advantage of BO to gain information about the arrest.

ArrestWatch can be searched by arrestee name, though spellings need to match, so you may need to search manually.

Enquiries from friends and family are an opportunity to recruit police station supporters. If they can help, give them the link to the police station map, from which they can join the relevant police station WhatsApp or Signal group.

Calls from rebels after release:

Occasionally we are unable to arrange support at a police station, and rebels contact BO after release:

Calls asking for legal advice

Do not give out legal advice.

Raids:

Occasionally BO gets a phone call for advice from rebels during a Police raid on their premises, and needs a fast response. If the BOC isn’t available immediately, please refer to XR’s Raids handout.

Calls involving other information:

Miscellaneous information might include reports of Police misconduct that you are unable to match with a pre-existing report. Record anything you think may be of relevance in the Call Log in Arrestwatch: reports are created via the ‘Add log’ button and can also be edited.

If information regarding police misconduct or similar is shared, please ask the caller if they would be willing to share their contact details so that they can be contacted later to corroborate the information. In addition, encourage them to write down their own account of the events (to include date and time) as soon as possible, with video evidence if available, and send it to XR Legal at xr-legal@riseup.net.

Each entry or edit in the Call Log should be annotated with the name of the author, and the time of the call. Where possible, entries should also include contact details of the caller.

It may also be appropriate occasionally to use the Log to record actions taken by BOVs/PSSCs, but it should not be necessary to use it routinely for this purpose.

If specific action is needed as a result of an incoming call, such as contacting someone, the person making the entry should take responsibility for that action, by either carrying it out or passing responsibility to someone else (and recording this).

At the end of each shift:

8. Police Station Support Coordinator (PSSC)

PSSCs ensure arrested rebels are met on release by Police Station Supporters (PSSs), by creating a rota for supporters and offering them advice and information.

Liaison with PSSs takes place via WhatsApp or Signal groups, and occasionally by phone. Arrestees can be held in custody for 24 hours after being checked in at a police station, so we need to try to ensure supporters are available throughout this period (there is usually a time gap between arrestees arriving at a station and being checked in).

PSSs

Training
Overview of PSSC Tasks
Before your shift
At the beginning of each shift
Creating and maintaining a PSS rota
Communication with PSSs
During your shift
Eliciting information about arrestees via PSSs
Appropriate Adults
When an arrestee can be held for more than 24h

In certain circumstances, an arrestee can legitimately be held by the Police for more than 24h. Sometimes the BOC may have had, or be able to get, information via the solicitor network, and should tell any PSSCs looking after the stations involved. Circumstances in which arrestees can be held longer than 24h include:

If you think there’s a possibility that a rebel may be going to be held for court (eg if it appears from the arrest report that they may have broken bail conditions), let the BOC know and they may be able to investigate.

PSS Expenses
At the end of each shift

Summary of Key Links

Software

Documents

Videos