The Telegraph is currently carrying an interesting pair of articles online at the moment. In the first, Sir Norman Bettison, Chief Constable of Yorkshire expresses his fears that elected Police and Crime Commissioners could feel obligated to those people who helped them get elected. The interview has been widely touted as containing worries about corruption, so how disappointing it must be that it’s “corruption with a small ‘c'” that’s in view. Sir Norman is particularly concerned about younger Chief Constables, not ”old and crippled Chief Constables like myself”.
There’s a concept that deserves a little thought – those poor, easily-led, younger Chief Constables. Stand back for a moment and reflect that, as the service is currently configured, Chief Constables must start their career as PCs, and must get promoted to Sergeant, then Inspector, then Chief Inspector, then Superintendent, then Chief Superintendent, then Assistant Chief Constable, designated Deputy, and then they get to be Chief Constable. That’s right, a Chief Constable is 8 whole promotions away from the bobby on the beat, and I suspect that somewhere on that elongated and competitive journey they gain a little experience that makes them resistant to being pushed around too easily.
The second article gives an account of evidence from the Leveson Inquiry, showing how the investigation into phone hacking, and decisions as to its extent, and whether it would be reopened were impacted by what the paper calls “the cosy and potentially corrupt relationship between the police and News International”. It makes for a compelling read.
Also quoted at the inquiry today was the evidence of Lord Blair, including this gem :- “I believe that where the problem may have become significant is that a very small number of relatively senior officers increasingly became too close to journalists, not, I believe, for financial gain, but for the enhancement of their reputation and for the sheer enjoyment of being in a position to share and divulge confidences. It is a siren song. I also believe that they based their behaviour on how they saw politicians behave and that they lost sight of their professional obligations.”
Yes, you heard right. Those pure-as-the-driven-snow top cops again were corrupted by “how they saw politicians behave”. Really? Is this what happens when top cops believe their own hype?
So what should we be more worried about?
1) The hypothetical risk that a Police and Crime Commissioner could be unduly influenced by his campaign backers, and that this would impact on operational policing, despite the protection the Chief Constable has in the Policing Protocol?
2) The apparently real problem of operational decisions being made with an eye on the impact on senior officers’ mates in the press?
3) The apparently widespread idea in senior police circles that if one of their number does something wrong, it can’t be their fault, so we’ll have to find a politician who must have corrupted them?