Page last updated at 18:14 GMT, Wednesday, 11 March 2009

'It grates' says sacked policeman

Police sign (generic)
Matt Dossett looks back on his time in the force with affection
A report that more than 1,000 police officers with criminal convictions are still in the service has shocked at least one former officer.

"We let ourselves down," says Matt Dossett, who was dismissed after 10 years in the police when he and five colleagues were convicted of a public order offence.

But, he adds, when he reads of the offences other officers have committed who stayed in the job, "it just grates".

"I read that someone was convicted for kerb-crawling or a serious assault and they get to keep their jobs - and we were just told, 'Look, you resign and get a reference.'

"When you think that things like that have happened you think, 'Maybe I should have fought it - maybe I should have stood my ground a bit more - when you realise there's people still in the job with much more serious convictions."

The incident happened when he and a group of other officers went on a night out in Nottingham in November 2004.

Went too far

"We used to go to Nottingham because it was out of the way," he says - so as not to run the risk of bumping into anyone who might know them.

But this time they got involved in an altercation with a woman on the last train back to Boston, Lincolnshire.

"We'd all been drinking," says Mr Dossett, 33. "We were victims of our night out."

He insists, though, that section five of the Public Order Act means that just "by your presence you can be guilty".

If you can't be honest how can you be a police officer?
Matt Dossett

The six who were prosecuted remained at work for six months before they were suspended from duty, he says.

Mr Dossett had received a commendation for rescuing five people from a house fire. A sacked colleague had been commended for taking a firearm off a suspect.

He does not contest the decision to make him quit the police. A police officer "must take the moral high ground," he says.

But he says what he was convicted of was, essentially, swearing in public - for which he might have expected a 80 fixed penalty notice. In fact he and his colleagues were fined 400 each.

"Kerb crawling - that's prostitution," he says. And of perverting the course of justice - "That's a serious offence - you can go to prison for that. We were never looking at going to prison."

Took stock

"Theft - that's a dishonesty offence," he adds. "If you can't be honest how can you be a police officer?"

"I'm quite happy; believe me, I'm not just saying that," Mr Dossett stresses.

He was able to resign with a reference from the police, "took stock", got some more qualifications, and now works in information technology.

He remembers his time in the police with affection: "I feel I could put the uniform on tomorrow and go back to work. I'm still in touch with a lot of my old friends."

But of the latest figures on criminal convictions which did not end in dismissal, he says, "When I see stories like that it gets my back up, still."

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