Editorial: Time for an enquiry into the culture of the police

 

Share

Compared with the shock provoked by the revelations of a systematic police cover-up after the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, an ex-policeman's admission to Southwark Crown Court that he deliberately bungled 11 rape cases – faking records, falsifying witness statements and lying about forensic analysis – received relatively little attention. But Ryan Coleman-Farrow's case is chilling proof that Hillsborough is not an isolated aberration long in the past, but part of a decades-long pattern of unethical police practices which still continues today.

The past 40 years and more have been regularly punctuated by scandals involving the activities of the police. The list of cases casting doubt on the truthfulness and integrity of British forces is shamefully long, including the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four, Blair Peach, Stephen Lawrence, Jean Charles de Menezes and Ian Tomlinson – to name but a few. Each incident has exposed toxic problems ranging from incompetence to racist stereotyping to outright disinformation.

There is an appalling array of examples from which to choose. There were, for example, the false claims that Mr Menezes, a Brazilian plumber shot dead by police on the London Tube, was a "suspected terrorist" wearing a padded jacket with wires sticking out. There was the Macpherson Inquiry into the Lawrence case, which exposed deep-rooted institutional racism in the Metropolitan Police. And there was the death of Mr Tomlinson in the G20 protests in 2009 and what the Independent Police Complaints Commission described as a "simply staggering" acceptance of ill-disciplined behaviour, given that the policeman who assaulted the newspaper vendor had faced complaints in two separate police forces but was still allowed to rejoin the Met.

Policemen and women are, of course, required to do a difficult and dangerous job. And it is one which requires a culture of loyalty, camaraderie and internal strength. But it too often results in unacceptable secrecy, in closed ranks, in obfuscation and dissembling.

In fairness, attempts are being made to remedy the situation. Not only are many chief constables working hard to instil a greater sense of integrity in their forces; the Government is also introducing elected Police Commissioners to boost local accountability, and one of the Home Secretary's more unpopular innovations is a plan to recruit senior officers from outside. But it will take more than a few tweaks to crack open the closed culture of Britain's police forces and re-shape a culture too wedded to the notion of protecting its own.

It will take more than a few tweaks to crack open the closed culture of Britain's police forces

The system for investigating accusations of malpractice is a good place to start, given that the more than 8,500 allegations of wrong-doing against the police over the past three years have resulted in just 13 criminal convictions. Even Dame Anne Owers, the new head of the IPCC, questions the ability of forces to investigate their own officers. She is right. The status quo would be laughable, were the fall-out from it not so appallingly serious.

But even that will not be enough by itself. The problems of police corruption will not end with either the Hillsborough report or the sentencing of Mr Coleman-Farrow. Indeed, one need look no further than the phone-hacking scandal for evidence of more to come. So far, attention has focused on the press. But the role of the police in selling information to newspapers is both more shocking and more corrosive of Britain's institutions.

It took the Leveson Inquiry to expose the behaviour and ethics of the media. The arguments for a full public investigation into the culture of the British police – perhaps modelled on the Hillsborough panel – are surely stronger still.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sales Consultant – Permanent – West Sussex – £24-£25k plus commission and other benefits

£24000 - £25000 Per Annum plus company car and commission: Clearwater People S...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£45 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply SEN Support Jobs in Bris...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£45 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply SEN Support Jobs in Glou...

Humanities and Economics Teacher - January 2015 - Malaysia

£18000 - £20400 per annum + Accommodation, Flights, Medical Cover: Randstad Ed...

Day In a Page

Read Next
George Bush Snr and his adviser Lee Atwater  

Perception is reality: The facts won't matter in next year's general election

Simon Kelner
<p><b>Mock the Week</b></p>
The newest of our quiz shows was created by Created by Dan Patterson and Mark Leveson, who also made 'Whose Line is it Anyway?'. This is more of a 'quiz' format, and for me, the best part about it is that it introduced me to Frankie Boyle.  

Liberal shows like Mock The Week just can’t understand why Ukip has so many supporters

Nigel Farage
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain