Saturday, March 08, 2014

A terrible day for the police

When I was a boy I thought we could take for granted that our police were almost incorruptible and the envy of the world.

I have known a large number of police officers and in most cases it has been a privilege to know them. I remain convinced that most police officers in this country are dedicated and honest public servants, doing a difficult, sometimes unpleasant and sometimes dangerous job on behalf of the community.

Unfortunately, there are some people in every walk of life who fall short of the standards society has the right to expect of them.

And after what has now come out about

* the Hillsborough disaster

* the death of Ian Tomlinson following an unprovoked attack by a police officer

* the involvement of some police officers in the phone hacking scandal,

* the sackings of two police officers for gross misconduct after an inquiry found that they had lied about former chief whip Andrew Mitchell (one of whom was also given a prison sentence after pleading guilty in court to the same offence)

* repeated deeply alarming revelations about the mishandling of the Stephen Lawrence murder

there appear to be serious concerns that the mechanisms to hold police officers who fall short of those standards accountable do not appear to be working as well as we need them to work.

I am convinced that those who are involved in corruption, negligence and cover-ups are a small minority of police officers. But the damage they have done is out of all proportion to their numbers.

I support the action Therea May has taken to get to the bottom of this, but it is becoming more and more apparent that we need cross-party agreement on action to further improve the accountability of the police. Not just for the sake of the public but to protect the reputation and position of the vast majority of honest police officers.


Anonymous said...

Isn't this just another part of Broken Britain.
It doesn't matter which part of the Civil/Public Service you look at, it's all broken, and nobody holds any of them to account.

Chris Whiteside said...

I would not go quite that far, but the accountability clearly isn't working as well as it needs to.

The truth always seems to come out eventually, but when it takes anything up to a couple of decades and only after an attempted cover-up, this is precisely calculated to do even more damage to public confidence than if what had gone wrong was faced up to openly and honestly at once.

Anonymous said...

Police, NHS, Social Services, etc.
It appear that unless someone is killed (or they allow someone to be killed) it doesn't matter. But even then lessons are never learned.

Chris Whiteside said...

We need to be better at learning from our mistakes. And part of that is that we need to be better, in a calm, measured and non-vindictive way, at holding both individual people and organisatons to account.

It is becoming painfully obvious that we have a difficulty with holding important and respected organisations to account without being seen as attacking the organisation and the good people in it.

Hence we have difficulty, and Labour governments appear to have particular difficulty, in holding the NHS to account.

And both Conservative and Labour governments have been shown to have had difficulty in holding the police to account.

There is still hope for the present coalition government in this area - they seem to have finally faced up to the truth about more long-running scandals than any of the last four or five governments - but there is no room for complacency.