There are at least 25 investigations into allegations of wrongdoing by police officers, involving a wide range of suspected offences, including taking bribes, planning robberies and providing confidential information to criminals.
The scale of the national anti-corruption drive emerged as Detective Chief Inspector Elmore Davies, of the Merseyside force, was jailed yesterday for five years for selling sensitive police information for pounds 20,000 to a crime syndicate.
A senior officer said last night: "It has not been politically convenient to accept there is a growing danger of corruption. But this is the policing issue for the next century."
Merseyside Police said a special team formed to investigate Davies, described in court as "a bent copper stewed in corruption", would continue its work.
The Chief Constable, Sir James Sharples, said: "This took place when there was a large amount of shooting between various gangs. There was a considerable danger to the community of Merseyside."
Superintendent Phil Jones, of Merseyside Police, said the case had revealed the vulnerability of British police officers to corruption and the "fabulous" bribes that drug dealers could offer. "Officers have seen their income decrease sharply as overtime and allowances have been abolished. At the same time, the money at the disposal of the drug dealers has become huge. It has not been politically convenient to accept there is a growing danger of corruption. But this is the policing issue for the next century."
Davies became the most senior policeman to be convicted of corruption for almost three decades when a jury at Nottingham Crown Court decided he had perverted the course of justice in return for pounds 20,000 from one of Europe's biggest drug traffickers.
Bugged phone calls and conversations caught Davies, 50, betraying personal details of a police constable shot at while arresting a gunman outside the Venue nightclub, Liverpool, in July 1996.
Two accomplices, including his friend Michael Ahearne, who played Warrior in the TV show Gladiators, were convicted of perverting the course of justice. Ahearne, 36, was sentenced to 15 months, and Tony Bray, 38, was jailed for three years. The three, all from the Wirral, Merseyside, had denied a total of six charges.
Davies passed case notes and advice through intermediaries to Curtis Warren, a drug dealer with a fortune estimated at pounds 180m.
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