My over-riding feeling is we don’t have many bent cops – this despite knowing even in local dealings they can provide very shabby service and will lie to protect themselves at the expense of severe distress and unlawful conspiracy against victims. The real problem is how to get the majority into a position to do the better job they want to do. The constraints that have grown against this are probably typical of the work most of us do. The biggest lies outside of our jobs in economic matters.
Whether you think police or other agencies are corrupt will largely depend on what happens in direct dealings with them and what you glean from ‘admass’ reporting, literature and any contact you have with more academic material. I’m not aware of an objective reporting or body of knowledge to refer to as I might refer to books and papers on molecular biology. There is academic work and in that you will find reference to a ‘rotten orchard’ and a lack of accountability. This is not material I would regard as scientific, though I’ve seen some good arguments made. Jack Regan and Dirty Harry figures were unknown in the reality of my police work, but dubious practices like those in Charlie Owen’s novels and his characters strike a chord. I’m sure I worked ‘Horses Arse’, GMP’s missing ‘H; Division. GF Newman wrote long ago, and is worth a retrospective.
The IPCC have just published a 36 page interim report on corruption – it;s on their website and converts to less than a side of A4 – once you strip away the undergraduate dissertation part it says little and manages a few lies in the form of bureaucratic-speak. They aren’t up to the job and even say 87% of us think they should investigate police corruption – a classic of village idiot consultancy. We would be unlikely to ask members of the public who should conduct hot fusion research and this area is as complex in its own way. The public have as little idea on the requirements of major corruption enquiry as of the technologies of a tokomak (and I don’t know how to spell it).
The thing about corruption is that perpetrators can usually only practice if they can hide what they are doing, though there are counter-examples. And who better at hiding evidence than police officers (bankers? accountants? lawyers? politicians? press?) The Americans prided themselves on having no moles as we were being embarrassed by Philby, MacClean and Burgess, but in reality weren’t finding them.
My own view is we get off already off-kilter in trying to bring accountability in our public sector. We are generally failed by our public enquiries, judge-led this and that and so on. One tedious enquiry after another on Iraq hasn’t even really the full scale of the Blair-concocted horror – we can’t get past secrecy and closing ranks. The Murdochs and others put up the standard CEO excuse recently – that what went on went on without their knowledge. They never make this admission when taking bonus payments.
In a sense we have no right to dare ask for investigations into police corruption when there are no police investigations worth speaking of into much wider banking and other business-financial corruption. It is quite likely that our privilege and selection systems prevent the kind of people we need to do ‘regulation’ having any access to the work, and there is much evidence around the world of a ‘political class’ of jobsworths dominating them.
We need fresh ideas and to take into account of such realities that the kind of bureaucratic structuring of organisations around corruption prevention as a focus will be a disaster – and that there are plenty of examples of this to learn lessons from. Elected police commissioners seem a good idea until you look at the politicians we already get. We’ve had them on police authorities with no good effect I’m aware of. Most of us already hold politicians in much greater disapproval than our cops.
One big problem in the mess is getting proper investigation done and done under open challenge. Judicial review is open only to the rich (with a few token counter-examples) and it is possible to think of (cheaper) expansions of this that could organise new forms of enquiry with high degrees of power to demand evidence and get to it before cover-up opportunities, and reversing normal credibility issues and police or other organisational players colluding. Much ‘corruption; is not criminal, but comes about through poor cultures, supervision and so on. I would guess this is the biggest problem in our police, but we shouldn’t have to guess on the extent of criminal corruption. The figures should be listed in the police record of recorder crimes as a special appendix and cases of miscarriages of justice should be available, in full, for public scrutiny – the opposite is the general case. The idea, of course, is for the question of whether our police are bent not to arise because we would have reason to know either way.
The general way to prevent corruption is to involve countervailing interests. I would put forward Nico Bento as the paradigm case of our failure to do this with almost everyone involved duped or corrupt (who knows which in the absence of full public scrutiny?). Welsh officers are on trial at the moment for a case dating to 1988 and I heard interview tapes being played the other day. It now appears we throw away relevant evidence ‘as a matter of course’ in considerable haste. There is no reason in this digital age, and this hardly helps us believe our CJS wants to come clean..