Law unto themselves? Revelations that show police reforms have a long way to go

 

Share

You could tell that something had happened to public attitudes towards the police in Britain when Theresa May, the Home Secretary, addressed the Police Federation two months ago. She overturned one of the eternal laws of politics by laying into the officers’ trade union with the kind of blunt speaking once reserved for representatives of miners and printers.

This weakening of deference is a healthy and democratic change, but it has been brought about partly by the long failure of the police, as a profession, to reform itself. The most blatant miscarriages of justice have become harder for police officers to perpetrate, but it still seems that too many feel they can get away with conduct that would not be tolerated in any other part of society.

The revelation that undercover officers gathered intelligence on grieving families who were seeking redress against the Metropolitan Police will only reinforce this feeling. The latest cases are not surprising – not since we found out that Stephen Lawrence’s family had been spied on – but now that we discover that the families of Jean Charles de Menezes, Cherry Groce and Ricky Reel were treated the same, it still has the power to shock.

It is extraordinary that officers assumed that the Met had the right to defend itself, when they knew it had done something wrong, by using extreme crime-fighting measures against people seeking justice.

We accept that the police do an important and dangerous job. We can see that it may be frustrating for officers to see the vultures of left-wing extremists take up cases of alleged police brutality or incompetence. But there can be no excuse for spying on the families of people wronged, or alleged to be wronged, by the police.

Commissioners and chief constables have led important changes in police culture in recent decades, but forces are still far behind where they ought to be – in taking it for granted that their duty to the public is to be open when things go wrong, diligent in finding out the truth, and self-critical in seeking to learn from mistakes.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Piper Ryan Randall leads a pro-Scottish independence rally in the suburbs of Edinburgh  

i Editor's Letter: Britain survives, but change is afoot

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Some believe that David Cameron is to blame for allowing Alex Salmond a referendum  

Scottish referendum: So how about the English now being given a chance to split from England?

Mark Steel
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam