British Policing: The Price of Shame!

English: UK Police Chief Constable rank markings

It would be fair to say, it hasn’t been a good year for British policing. As the BBC pointed out recently in one of the latest stories; in recent years a number of chief constables have resigned or retired after facing pressure to step down amid criticism or allegations about their conduct (see here)…

In February, Adam Briggs, Deputy Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police, took retirement after a spat with his Police Authority over personal development funding, and a subsequent misconduct charge (read more). Later in the year, a deputy police chief in Wiltshire committed suicide, whilst being investigated over allegations of sexual harassment of female colleagues (read more).

The long running saga over the North Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Graham Maxwell rumbled on through the year, until his retirement (see here) in May. He subsequently admitted gross misconduct (see here) and narrowly avoided becoming the first Chief to be sacked in the UK for 30 years. But the Disgraced chief constable, who tried to help a relative get a job was still awarded a £250,000 golden handshake before saying goodbye (see here).

Earlier this week, Sir Norman Bettison, chief constable of West Yorkshire police, decided to step down from his post (see here). There is an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) inquiry ongoing into his role (see here) in the aftermath of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

The only problem with Norman Bettison’s decision to retire as West Yorkshire Police Chief Constable, at a date and on grounds of his own choosing, is that it raises the prospect of the investigation into his role in the events following the Hillsborough Disaster being pursued with a little less vigour…(The Independent)

But, even when a Chief is considered to be a “good copper” by politicians, the public and the officers that he/she is responsible for leading, they’re still not immune to some media condemnation.

Unfortunately, Chief Constable Michael Todd of Greater Manchester Police was subjected to this. At the inquest into his untimely death on Snowdon in 2008, despite being hailed a good cop (see here), he was subsequently branded a lothario by the exact same media outlet (see here).

And, even when the IPCC get involved and find there is no case to answer, as with the “anonymous allegation” against the Chief Constable of Sussex Police (see here), there are still those who will vociferously cry; “no smoke without fire” I’m sure.

Now Sean Price, Chief Constable of Cleveland Police, has been branded “shameful” by the IPCC after being found guilty of gross misconduct and dismissed (read more).

Mr Price appeared to think his position as Chief Constable gave him the power to order people to do as he wished. A Chief Constable must set the standards for the police force to follow. Sean Price appears to have forgotten this and he set his own standards which fell far below those that would be expected. He has attempted to intimidate and bully staff under his leadership and mislead an independent investigation…(IPCC Press Release)

With all the bad press over recent months, it’s hardly surprising that Yvette Cooper MP, the Shadow Home Secretary announced planned changes to police scrutiny at the Labour Party annual conference.

The Guardian: Labour would abolish the Independent Police Complaints Commission and replace it with a tougher and much more robust Police Standards Authority to restore public trust in the police…(Read more)

Cooper reportedly said a new body was urgently needed to ensure that isolated incidents were not allowed to damage the police’s reputation. I’m not sure about the creation of ‘a new body’ but I can go with, something has to be done to preserve and hopefully enhance a failing police reputation. I do however agree with her observation.

Police officers need to know serious problems will be rooted out so they don’t cast a shadow over everyone else. …Policing in a democracy needs proper checks and balances…(Yvette Cooper MP)

After reading all of the above, it would be fair to see the ‘bad year’ comment as something of an understatement however; my concern, more importantly, is the fall-out that is impacting upon British policing as a whole. In particular, the effect it undoubtedly has upon public support (or the lack of it) for frontline officers.

It’s a sad state of affairs that we mostly have to endure events like the recent deaths of frontline police officers (see here) to bolster and mitigate against the failing public support for policing; a failure that is mostly engineered by politicians, senior police management and the media!