Wednesday, August 27, 2014

True scale of British police corruption claims revealed: Almost 100 officers a year are suspended over misconduct allegations

Almost 100 police officers are suspended on suspicion of corruption every year, MailOnline can reveal.

In the past five years, a total of 460 officers have faced investigation over allegations including selling information, hacking into police computers and interfering with criminal probes.

Officials expressed concern at the scale of the problem, while one MP said the data proves that police corruption is not just limited to 'a few rotten apples'.

As well as the 460 officers who have been suspended for alleged corruption in the UK since the start of 2009, 200 members of police staff were investigated on suspicion of corrupt practice in the same time period.

The force with by far the most suspended officers was the Metropolitan Police, where 119 officers and 67 other employees have been relieved of their duties during a corruption probe in the past five years.

A spokesman for Scotland Yard pointed out that the force, which is responsible for Greater London as well as national issues such as counter-terrorism, is much larger than any other, and insisted that it is dedicated to eliminating corruption.

Asked last week via Twitter whether he had condemned corrupt officers, commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe replied: 'I have. It's Met-led investigations which have rooted them out. We don't want the corrupt in the Met.'

The other forces with the most officers accused of corruption were West Midlands (32), Nottinghamshire (20), West Mercia, Police Scotland and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (18 each).

The statistics, which cover the period from January 2009 to March this year, were given to MailOnline by all but one of the country's 46 police forces in response to a series of Freedom of Information requests.

While there is no official definition of police corruption, the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) defines it as 'the abuse of one's role or position held in the service for personal gain or gain for others'.

Among the most high-profile examples of corrupt officers are Ali Dizaei, a Met commander who was jailed in 2012 for making false allegations against a business associate, and Grahame Maxwell, who tried to help a relative secure a job at West Yorkshire Police while serving as chief constable of the force.

Earlier this month, Scotland Yard officer Thomas Ridgeway was sentenced to 12 months in prison after he admitted selling stories to The Sun for £2,600, using his mother as an intermediary.

Conservative MP Mark Reckless, who sits on the Home Affairs Select Committee, described the number of corruption claims as 'worryingly high' and called for officers to be vigilant in looking out for wrongdoing.

'460 is a worryingly high number,' he told MailOnline. 'It's more than just a few rotten apples in the barrel.'

Mr Reckless, a former member of the Kent Police Authority, added: 'Policing provides a big temptation and opportunities for corruption - we rely on the integrity of officers and really strong prevention and enforcement to keep it in check.'

However, he also pointed out that the large number of allegations reported could reflect an increase in 'self-policing' as officers become more aware of the danger of corruption.

The College of Policing, which sets professional standards for Britain's police forces, vowed to implement new measures to stop officers taking advantage of their position for personal gain.

Assistant chief constable Richard Bennett, head of the organisation's 'integrity programme', said: 'The numbers provided in the freedom of information request are higher than expected and it is unclear if forces were all using the same basis for the data they provided.

'What is clear, however, is that corruption is a very serious offence and the College of Policing is working with the police service to do all that we can to prevent and detect corruption.

Among the steps being taken by the college are the publication of an official code of ethics and a new register listing all police workers who have been dismissed or resigned during a probe into their behaviour.

Mr Bennett added that information on the pay and benefits of senior officers is now routinely published in order to increase transparency and reduce the perception of possible wrongdoing.

Five forces – Dorset, Durham, Humberside, Northamptonshire and the British Transport Police – said that not a single officer or staff member had been suspended in response to a corruption probe since the start of 2009.

The only force which refused to reveal the number of officers suspended on suspicion of corruption was Essex Police, which claimed that the only way to answer the question would be to search through the files of every officer and employee individually.

Former police officers regularly make requests for preferential access to the force on behalf of consultancies and other private firms, according to one of Britain's top officers.

Lynne Owens, chief constable of Surrey Police, said that she was 'bombarded' by messages from former employees and suggested that she could start naming and shaming the offenders.

She wrote on Twitter last week: 'Still bombarded with requests from people who used to work in policing and want access from consultancies, private companies etc. Err ethics?'

When it was suggested that she should make such requests public, Ms Owens said she would 'think about how/if we could do that'.

The chief constable later told the Independent that she is frequently approached by ex-police looking to promote their services, and insisted that she takes care to act ethically in such cases.

A spokesman for Surrey Police said: 'Surrey Police has strict guidelines on procurement of services in order to ensure transparency in our business dealings. 'These guidelines are applicable to all employees.'

Because there is no uniform definition of corruption, it is possible that the various forces used different standards in calculating the figures they provided to MailOnline.

In addition, some forces excluded ongoing investigations on the grounds that disclosing them could jeopardise their outcome.

It is not known how many of the 460 suspended officers were found to have acted corruptly, as most of the forces did not provide data on the outcome of their investigations. The Met said that 31 corrupt officers faced disciplinary action between 2009 and this year, while a further 22 resigned from the force.

Several of the bodies which oversee policing have pledged to crack down on corrupt practices, while the Government is introducing a new offence specifically outlawing police corruption in order to make it easier to secure convictions for malpractice.

'The public expect the police to act at all times with honesty and integrity,' a spokesman for the Home Office told MailOnline. 'That is why this Government is introducing a range of measures to improve the integrity and transparency of the police.

'It is right that the full force of the criminal law is available to punish and deter acts of corruption by police officers. We are creating a new offence of police corruption, solely applicable to police officers, to sit alongside the existing offence of misconduct in public office.'

He also said that in the future officers would be unable to resign in order to avoid facing investigation.

A spokesman for the Independent Police Complaints Commission added: 'The IPCC is being given more resource to carry out independent investigations into serious and sensitive allegations against police.

'In 2013/14 we started supervised investigations into 141 of the corruption cases referred to us by police forces. We anticipate that more of the cases we presently supervise, including allegations of serious corruption, will be investigated independently in the future.'

The IPCC published a string of reports on corruption in 2011 and 2012, in response to claims of inappropriate contacts between police officers and journalists from News International.

The commission revealed that 837 cases of alleged corruption were reported to it by police forces between 2008 and 2011. However, the IPCC does not have the resources to probe most allegations itself, and relies on the individual forces to investigate their own officers and employees.

Among the examples of corruption cited by the IPCC were an officer who illegally sold firearms to members of the public, a policeman who used the force's computer database to stalk vulnerable teenage girls, and another who stole suspects' property while searching their homes.

The Police Federation, which acts as a quasi-trade union for officers, pointed that the vast majority of police act with integrity and are keen to eliminate wrongdoing from the force.

'Police officers and the PFEW do not accept or condone corruption in any form and in fact, the vast majority of cases of corruption are rooted out of the service by police officers themselves,' said chairman Steve White.

'We share the concern of the public that anyone found guilty of such behaviour after suitable due process has no place in the police service and should feel the full force of the law against them. However, it is important to note that suspension does not necessarily indicate guilt.'

The revelations about the scale of corruption come just a few days after it emerged that hundreds of officers had been investigated for breaching social media guidelines.

Among the policemen found to have committed offences were one officer who complained that Muslims did not observe the two-minute silence and a PCSO who posed with guns in a Facebook photo.

Original report here




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