Police chief tells service to confront 'the bad apples'

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The Independent Online

Corrupt police officers have been blackmailing criminals, assaulting members ofthe public and arranging serious crimes such as armed robberies, a senior detective said yesterday.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Roy Clarke of the Metropolitan Police said a small minority of unethical officers were allowed to operate because police chiefs failed to acknowledge that corruption was a problem. But forces, both rural and urban, were now realising that they did have a corruption problem, Mr Clarke told a meeting at the Police Federation annual conference in Brighton.

Corrupt officers were hard to detect, even though they sometimes organised offences with criminal associates, Mr Clarke added. Others blackmailed criminals, including prostitutes, while others used their position to advise on fixing jury trials.

Mr Clarke, who was behind the Metropolitan Police's recent drive to convict an estimated 150 corrupt officers, said that new measures were being taken to root out the few "bad apples". Measures taken to combat the problem of corruption now included covert integrity tests and the establishment of an advisory body on corruption.

Mr Clarke said: "Corruption is everywhere, and in the police force we are more vulnerable than most. We must never, ever drop our guard again."

Another officer told the conference that police forces risk "sickening corruption" because there are not enough officers to supervise unruly constables.

John Harrison, the chairman of the Sergeants' Section of the Police Federation, claimed that corrupt constables were being allowed to betray the police service because of a shortage of sergeants.

Sgt Harrison told the federation, which represents the junior ranks, that the lack of supervision of constables bordered on the scandalous. "It lies at the heart of some of the biggest problems that this service faces," he said.

"Let me be blunt; one of those problems is corruption. We have all been shaken and sickened by recent revelations about a tiny minority of police officers who have betrayed our service. If we examine the facts of these cases, one common denominator is the absence of adequate supervision of these officers."

Home Secretary Jack Straw will address the conference today. His department is also unveiling plans for a shake-up in the way police officers are investigated.