What happened to two Women Police Constables was rotten and appalling. Many questions await answers. The suspect was apparently out on bail while awaiting trial for a murder. There was a reward posted of £50,000 which had been in existence for over a month. Those two facts do not tally. The Assistant Chief-Constable named the suspect in a press conference and to these ears sailed very close to prejudicing the trial. The media furore was way over the top. Why?
For the families and friends of the two women there is only the deepest sympathy. They had no idea when they went out yesterday morning what they were heading into. Every policeman or woman must have the thought that they may not return in the same condition as when they set out. Many of our police are decent and honourable. But there is a ‘but’ and it is a big one.
There were moments in the media firestorm when it felt like the Police PR Machine had been cranked up to full power. It is hardly surprising although it is barely a week since the revelations about Hillsborough finally surfaced. And what revelations they were. 96 football fans died because of police incompetence. They were then besmirched and tarnished by a smear offensive which was largely accepted by an uncritical media. This smear campaign was orchestrated at the very top of the force.
There are 43 Police forces in England and Wales. At the moment (not counting Hillsborough) there are 9 senior officers (Chief Constable/Assistant Chief Constable) suspended. That is serious.
Leveson and the initial inept (corrupt?) investigations into hacking have unearthed a very unhealthy relationship between tabloid journalists and the police. Another three people have been arrested today.
Far too many people die in police custody. And each time it happens the inept Police Complaints process finds that no-one did anything wrong. In many cases that may be true - but in all of them?
The death of Ian Tomlinson is an example of a culture that is dedicated to covering up the truth. The first inquest completed by Dr Patel - who has since been sacked, ruled that Tomlinson died of ‘natural causes.’ This verdict was subsequently overturned when a visiting businessman passed on to the Guardian footage of Tomlinson being hit by a baton and then pushed to the ground by PC Harwood. His id badge had been removed and the three officers with him at the time said they did not know who he was.It eventually emerged that Harwood had a history of rage-related incidents, had left the Met prior to being disciplined, joined the Surrey police and then transferred back into Met.
When Jean Charles Menezes had the misfortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, he was killed on a tube train by an over-zealous officer. Bad enough, but there was worse in the synchronised accounts by officers involved to paint a rosier picture. The first investigation into the death of Steven Laurence was ruined by a senior officer’s corrupt relationship with known villains involved.
Chuck in governments of all persuasions using the police to repress demonstrations and free speech, including the use of ‘agent provocateurs’ or undercover officers - to the point of trials collapsing and miscarriage of justice claims - and it is not a pretty picture.
A civilised society needs a decent police force to help it maintain its decency. Many of our police officers are just that but there are rotten apples who not only have not been weeded out but they have gone on to higher positions.
After the court cases into corruption, denigration, cover-up and tabloid payments for info have been heard, there needs to be a public inquiry into our police. We need a decent force to police with consent. They are not agents of the state. They are friends of the citizen ......aren’t they?