Undercover police fight internal corruption

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The Independent Online

A team of undercover detectives from specialist police units and crime squads are to be used to investigate officers suspected of corruption, under a new national strategy.

A team of undercover detectives from specialist police units and crime squads are to be used to investigate officers suspected of corruption, under a new national strategy.

Police officers who turn whistle blowers and give evidence against "bent" detectives will be offered new identities and relocated to safe houses in serious cases. In addition they could be given jobs with different police forces and new homes. The measures are part of a strategy that has been sent to all 43 police forces in England and Wales. The drive follows investigations at Scotland Yard, West Midlands and Merseyside forces that have uncovered more than 200 serving and former officers involved in corruption.

The "Corruption Prevention Strategy" drawn up by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) notes that corrupt officers operate nationally and specialist undercover teams drawn up from several metropolitan forces, the National Crime Squad, and the National Criminal Intelligence Service should be used in covert operations against them.

The reports adds: "Organised criminals do not recognise police boundaries, neither do corrupt officers. Corruption inquiries are resource intensive and sometimes require specialist skills not readily available to all forces."

In the most extreme cases of corruption, particularly where major organised crime and drug dealing is involved, whistle blowers will be given protection similar to that offered to supergrasses. As revealed in The Independent last July this could include "a complete change of identity and relocation" says the report. Other possible measures include having the officers move home; moving them to another job within the existing force or to a different force; and "physical security measures at the individual's home".

While the Acpo documents says the term whistle blower should not be used as it can be deeply upsetting it believes that the greater use of officers to provide evidence of wrongdoing is one of the most effective anti-corruption strategies. The report says that "limited defined amnesty" should be considered for corrupt staff "who are able to give evidence of criminal activity, and serious breaches of discipline". Amnesty from prosecution should be used if the officers evidence is essential in securing convictions in a major trial.

The police chiefs note that officers have closed ranks in the past and "presented a unitedwall of silence". In other cases officers reporting allegations of corruption have been targeted by their colleagues and have been left feeling victimised, says the report. "As a result of cultural pressures, there have been cases when an individual has openly made a report, where this has been seen by peers as an act of treachery and disloyalty," says the document.

To overcome these problems police chiefs are to offer greater support to whistle blowers and set up a comprehensive reporting system.

Confidential telephone hotlines for anonymous reporting of wrongdoing should be set up and officers who are brave enough to speak out should be considered for commendation, says the report.

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