The Police: It's a turbulent time
Its important to note that most, if not all, of the examples mentioned in this article are investigations and not convictions. The police are expected to be held to the same legal standard as everyone else, and as such they are given the same protections, including 'innocent until proven guilty'.
The important question that this raises? Why?
I think we have two possible explanations. Firstly, the move towards PCC's really has 'politicised' the police as many have argued. PCCs have only been in their positions for a few months so it is difficult to blame the individuals appointed, but one could argue that the effect of the coalition government's decision to hold these elections has changed the culture at the top of the police service. I cant remember a time where ACPO ranked officers have been so often in the news. So, could this politicisation have put our senior officers under the spot light like never before?
Accepting this argument for a minute, it would be difficult to say that this scrutiny is a bad thing. If we have police officers, of any rank, behaving improperly then the scrutiny is in the public interest. The issue then becomes that of standards. Where conduct is not criminal, how high should we set the bar for non criminal behavior...aka misconduct. How serious should that misconduct have to be for an investigation to be launched? Some would say that any misconduct should be investigated, and its difficult to disagree with that on the face of it.
To accept the argument that the introduction of PCC's has caused this, you would have to concede that this behavior didn't happen before. This is difficult to assess with the advent of increased transparency. 20 years ago the public had little idea of what happened at the top of their local force.
The second reason for this rush of IPCC investigations is funding. Could the huge budget cuts, and the review of pay and conditions for officers, cause them to change the way they view their role? I think its fair to say that a lot of police officers have felt let down by the government. I often hear officers say that they no longer view the police service as a vocation...a career for life. Some officers feel like employees. Some feel like they are making less and less of a difference.
This clearly effects the culture...but i think its a stretch to suggest that previously honest and hardworking police officers behave any differently just because the culture has changed.
So it's clear i dont think that PCC's, or funding cuts, have lead to the series of dismissals, suspensions, and investigations that we have seen over the last couple of years. Could it be that the police service is caught in a self fulfilling prophecy?
More scrutiny, leads to more pressure on officers, leads to bad decisions. It's well established that individuals under high stress make poorer decisions. So if this is the case, how can we solve it?
Less scrutiny surely isn't the way forward. The actions of the police effect peoples lives, and where things don't go to plan it's important that the lessons are learned to prevent it happening again.
So maybe the issue is the form that that scrutiny takes? "the case has been referred to the police watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC)" is something we so often read.
Could the problem be with the IPCC? or the way it operates? I literally have no clue.