The public could be forgiven for having its faith in the police service shaken in recent times, as – sadly – every year seems to bring with it if not a scandal, then a piece of questionable behaviour.
From the institutional failings highlighted by the Macpherson Report into the death of Stephen Lawrence in the 1990s, through revelations and allegations about the police’s role at the Hillsborough disaster, to the plotting that the plebgate scandal uncovered, to more local issues such as officers’ behaviour over the run-up to the serious attack on Andrew Toseland at a block of flats in Gosport, those who seek to create a dossier of distrust can do so easily.
Obviously, there are plenty of honest and decent officers who every day do what they signed up to their constabulary to do – protect the public and keep the peace – but the regular flow of stories about a minority of bad apples in the force leaves a bad taste. And equally obviously, the disciplinary case we report today, in which three officers have been sacked, is not of the magnitude of some of the tragedies outlined above. But all can shake one’s faith in the police.
However, we commend Hampshire Constabulary and its chief constable Andy Marsh for being so open about today’s news.
We understand that not all the details can be revealed due to the potential appeal process, but it is right that the force comes out to make an example of those who have, lest we forget, been found guilty of gross misconduct in their behaviour, and make it clear that in future it will not be tolerated.
Being so transparent gives confidence that the previous problems detailed above, faced by police forces up and down the country, can be left behind. It helps to delineate clear standards of what is and what is not acceptable.
And for those of us outside the police, it is reassurance that a publicly-funded service is being accountable to the public and, crucially, in public.
The dark days of the 1970s, when many police officers were literally a law unto themselves are, thankfully, long gone. The welcome attitude of openness we report today suggests that, fortunately, we will never have to see them again.