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Thursday, June 10, 1999 Published at 10:51 GMT 11:51 UK


Police corruption 'undermining public confidence'

Most police officers are honest and hardworking, the report says

Public confidence in the police is being undermined by acts of racism and corruption, according to a report published on Thursday.

The BBC's Jane Peel: "This isn't the first time the police have been criticised"
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has concluded that more needs to be done to heighten standards of integrity in the UK's police forces.

The inspection, one of the most wide-ranging ever carried out, was ordered in response to falling confidence in the police service.

[ image: The Stephen Lawrence murder case affected public confidence]
The Stephen Lawrence murder case affected public confidence
Concern over the integrity of the UK's police forces has risen in recent months, particularly in the wake of the inquiry into the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence.

The inspection report said the vast majority of people working in the 44 forces of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, were "honest, industrious and dedicated."


But it identified several areas of concern, including examples of rudeness and discrimination towards members of the public.

Jack Straw: This is a move to raising standards
It said more than 6,000 complaints of rudeness were recorded in 1997.

The report said: "In an environment where bullying, arrogance, rudeness, racist or sexist behaviour is tolerated, corruption and other wrongdoing will flourish, and is more likely to remain unreported."

It highlighted one case where two constables used their batons to restrain a young man they claimed was drunk and violent.

A video tape discovered later showed the man was walking home quite innocently when the officers called him over to their car and squirted his face with a water pistol.

Racist banter

"The youth not surprisingly complained and the constables assaulted him with their batons," said the report.

Most ethnic groups criticised the police and nearly all the forces visited were "complacent" about any problems between police and minority communities, according to the report.

A young Asian fireman was stopped and searched by police who said they thought the mobile telephone in his pocket could have been a weapon.

The report also highlighted unacceptable behaviour in the workplace with a "low level of sexist or racist banter" going with the job, according to some officers.

One policewoman told an industrial tribunal she had been told by a colleague: "If you are not prepared to be groped and called a tart, you should not have joined the police."

The inspectorate said the public were concerned about the gap between police and the community.

One inner-city church group described officers as an "occupying force".

The report also highlighted:

  • A lack of regulation in vetting new officers

  • Unclear guidance on "perks" and "gratuities"

  • Inaccessible top leadership

  • Inadequate training for dealing with informants

  • Evidence of "trawling the margins" to improve performance figures

The report said some police chiefs were out of touch with front line policing.

It also called for encouragement for whistle-blowers who reported corrupt colleagues.

HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary David Dowd said urgent action was needed to address the problems highlighted.

But he added: "We must not lose sight of the fact that this inspection has confirmed that the overwhelming majority of individual police officers, civilian support staff and members of the special constabulary are dedicated, hardworking, compassionate, and have the integrity needed for the job.

"By accepting and welcoming this report, the police service will demonstrate that it is not defensive.

"Rather it is open to justified criticism and is willing to change."

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