As the police continue to become more powerful, Britain’s police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission has been slated in an influential Parliamentary report that accuses the IPCC of being overloaded with cases, leaving cases un-investigated, of having no real power and of too often using former policemen as supposedly “independent” investigators.
Meanwhile, the Association of Chief Police Officers is asking the government to give police even more power, threatening the likelihood of civil unrest as people’s living standards steeply decline as the economy worsens.
The Home Affairs Select Committee report reveals that 1 in 4 police officers (33,000) faced a complaint over the course of last year. Although some were trivial, some were extremely serious including sexual assault and deaths in custody.
As well as London, complaints were up in all police areas with the greatest increase occurring in the Hampshire Constabulary.
The vast majority of complaints were made against police constables, though all ranks up to Chief Constable received a significant number of complaints.
Most complaints are handled locally by the police themselves. For minor complaints, an apology is often all that is necessary but once the complaint becomes more serious, the police start to build barriers to effective investigation of the complaint, trying desperately to hide the truth and to avoid criticism or even prosecution.
This comes naturally to the police who always protect their own and are not afraid to delay, obfuscate, intimidate and lie in order to protect themselves. This has been seen very recently in cases involving Hillsborough, phone hacking and the latest “Plebgate” row where once again, the police appear to have tampered with evidence in an attempt to hide the truth.
This week we have seen Detective Chief Inspector April Casburn, 53 being jailed for having unlawful dealings with the now defunct tabloid, the News of the World. The case should have been dealt with years ago and, given that the woman was head of a counter-terrorist unit, you would have thought that someone would have done something sooner.
In fact, the police didn’t even bother to admit that there was a problem until News International’s own Standards Department effectively forced them to investigate.
If such willingness exist to hide the truth in a case involving such a senior officer in such a sensitive position, why should anyone doubt that the police regularly cover up or change evidence when police constables, the main stay of front-line policing are accused of wrongdoing?
The select committee refers to the police as a body that “…are warranted with powers that can strip people of their freedom, their money and even their life.”
…and TheOpinionSite.org would suggest that is the real problem.
The police in the UK are simply much too powerful and have been made so by successive Home Secretaries that have delegated more and more power to the police whilst telling the public, “It is what the police have asked for in order to do the difficult job they do.”
However, those same Home Secretaries fail to mention the fact that by giving the police more and more power, the politicians themselves cannot be blamed if something goes wrong.
If the police act outside the law, ministers do nothing. They don’t have to.
If a senior MP – such as the former and ousted Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith who fiddled £166,000 in expenses and was let off with an apology – breaks the law, the police are usually leant on and persuaded not to investigate, let alone prosecute.
It is the perfect reciprocal deal in which wrongdoing by those with the most power goes unpunished while the police work secretly to enforce their own position of power over the rest of us. The public can do nothing about it as its only recourse is to the utterly useless and truly pathetic IPCC.
The police regularly monitor private communications, Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites, use covert detection without proper authority and regularly give misinformation to offenders under their control, frequently stating that the offender is subject to some restriction or other when in fact they are not.
If the matter later comes to court, the judge will give in to the police and CPS and still allow such evidence to be used, even though it was often obtained unlawfully.
Police routinely target those groups that are unpopular with the public and are easy to convict with very little, if any evidence; groups such as released drug users, released sex offenders, members of the black community and those who follow the Islamic faith.
These people may in fact be doing nothing wrong at all and be completely innocent but, if they complain against the police, they can expect some kind of reprisal.
Every day, completely innocent people are arrested, intimidated, photographed, have their DNA and fingerprints taken, are put on multiple databases and held in custody in the vague hope that something that the police can use against them will present itself.
If released, they are repeatedly stopped on every possible occasion by the police under the guise of “public protection”.
All of this is possible with no evidence and no witnesses, as the police officer concerned can use his so called “professional judgement” to demonstrate “reasonable suspicion”; a meaningless phrase that is as ambiguous as it is dishonest.
An effective police watchdog with real powers is therefore even more necessary now than ever before. At present though, it simply doesn’t exist.
The select committee report (link at the end of this article) sums up the problems with the IPCC in its introduction:
‘Compared with the might of the 43 police forces in England and Wales, the IPCC is woefully underequipped and hamstrung in achieving its original objectives. It has neither the powers nor the resources that it needs to get to the truth when the integrity of the police is in doubt. Smaller even than the Professional Standards Department of the Metropolitan Police, the Commission is not even first among equals, yet it is meant to be the backstop of the system. It lacks the investigative resources necessary to get to the truth; police forces are too often left to investigate themselves; and the voice of the IPCC does not have binding authority.’
TheOpinionSite.org was not therefore surprised when the police came out and said they did not agree with calls for Statutory Powers enshrined in Law to be given to the IPCC; the very powers it needs most.
At present, the IPCC is utterly toothless and has no powers at all. Anything it “recommends” can simply be ignored by the police.
In a huge understatement, Keith Vaz, the Chair of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee said that public confidence was being ‘undermined’:
“When public trust in the police is tested by complaints of negligence, misconduct and corruption, a strong watchdog is vital to get to the truth: but the IPCC leaves the public frustrated and faithless.
It is woefully underequipped to supervise the 43 forces of England and Wales, never mind the UKBA, HMRC, NCA and all the private sector agencies involved in policing.
Nearly a quarter of officers were subject to a complaint last year. Many were trivial, but some were extremely serious, involving deaths in custody or corruption—it is an insult to all concerned to do no more than scratch the surface of these alleged abuses.
The IPCC investigated just a handful and often arrived at the scene late, when the trail had gone cold. The Commission is on the brink of letting grave misconduct go uninvestigated. It is buried under the weight of poor police investigations and bound by its limited powers. The public are bewildered by its continued reliance on the very forces it is investigating.
The complaints and appeals process is frustrating, time-consuming and frequently flawed. We must end the complaints roundabout and give the Commission the powers and resources it needs to restore public faith in policing.”
In response to the report, Dame Anne Owers, who heads the IPCC and was formerly the Chief Inspector of Prisons, said her organisation needed more resources and more power.
“We can’t do enough independent investigations, we can’t exercise sufficient rigorous oversight about the way that the police deal with complaints. To do that we need more resources, more power.
In short we cannot do the job the public expect us to be able to do, and if we are to do that job then we need to be properly resourced to do it, and we need to be given the powers to be able to do it.”
Having met Anne Owers several times, this writer is not surprised at her genuine frustration.
At present the IPCC cannot even compel officers to answer questions. If the officer decides not to cooperate, he can choose to simply not turn up.
TheOpinionSite.org therefore implores the government to gives the IPCC the statutory powers it needs before it is too late.
It is totally hypocritical of ministers to accuse other countries of human rights abuses when a huge abuse of power is happening in Britain itself and is happening every day.
Whilst police forces around the country, sensing likely public unrest in the months to come, continue to stockpile rubber bullets, make arrangements to use water-canon, train more officers in the use of automatic weapons, arm all officers with tazer guns and illegally monitor communications of law abiding people -all with the full knowledge and support of the government – the lack of any ability to keep these out of control, uniformed thugs in check is being conveniently ignored.
When he was appointed, the head of the Metropolitan Police, Bernard Hogan-Howe said, “I want people to be afraid of the police.”
Well, he has at last got what he wanted. A police service that is often hated, distrusted, massively arrogant, out of control, over powerful and positively dangerous to the very citizens the police are warranted to protect.
Without effective control of the police and the ability for ordinary people to bring them to book, the 43 police forces in Britain will soon become so powerful that democracy will be replaced by tyranny.
Only an ignorant fool would believe that this could not happen today, especially given the awesome powers the police already have and the likely effect of new powers that they are asking for.
Whether British people like to or not, they should now open their eyes as wide as possible. This week on the BBC, a Chief Superintendent referred to his rank as being “…the equivalent of a colonel or brigadier in the army.”; just one example of the police seeing themselves as a military force but there have recently also been many others.
The last European country to have a police force like ours was Germany in 1933. Six years later, Germany’s police force had been transformed and the Gestapo was terrorising civilians. It should be noted that nearly all the Gestapo officers had previously been ordinary policemen.
Wake up Mr Cameron – before it really is too late.