In his latest annual report, chief constables are also criticised for failing to admit the problem of law-breaking and corruption among their workforce. Mr O'Dowd, the Home Secretary's adviser on police issues, says: "I am becoming increasingly concerned at the level of corruption that is now apparent.
"The re-emergence of corruption provides a painful reminder of the need for forces to sustain a constant, rigorous and pro-active approach to ensuring that corrupt practices do not go unchecked."
Mr O'Dowd is one of the most senior police officials to admit that corruption is widespread. His report also questions the quality of some chief officers, suggesting that some need retraining. The comments on corruption come as an unprecedented number of officers are being investigated throughout the country over allegations of malpractice and law-breaking.
The Metropolitan Police's high profile anti-corruption drive is singled out by Mr O'Dowd for praise. Sir Paul Condon, the Commissioner of the Met, has said that there is a hard core of up to 250 "bent" officers in his force. More than 40 detectives are currently being investigated or have been charged.
In implied criticism of some chief constables - most noticeable in provincial forces - who have denied corruption is an issue in their force, Mr O'Dowd said: "Chief officers cannot afford to take the view that corrupt practice is focused exclusively in one or two areas of the service."
He argued: "Both the opportunities for corruption and the `rewards' are greater than ever before." He said that the main areas of threat included the vast amount of money available for police bribes from organised crime and drug- trafficking. The use of police informants and the performance culture with ever increasing pressure to get better results, were also highlighted.
t HMCIC Annual Report 1997-98 is available on 0345 023474, price pounds 16.40.Reuse content