Half of police forces failing to seek out officer corruption

Corruption not endemic, says police watchdog, but forces must be more proactive in seeking it out

Metropolitan Police in London
(Image credit: Danny E. Martindale/Getty )

Corruption is not endemic in the police service of England and Wales, but many forces lack the capability to proactively seek out corrupt officers, the police watchdog has said.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) said police forces have the necessary capability to deal with most corruption when it is brought to their attention, through public complaints for example, but only half of forces are seeking out intelligence on corruption proactively.

A report from the watchdog found that the "overwhelming majority of officers and staff are honest and professional" but noted that cases of corruption within policing can have a "disproportionate effect on public confidence".

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Out of 4,580 internal investigations into officers and staff in the 2013/14 financial year, more than 60 per cent resulted in "no further action". The remainder ended in disciplinary actions or the accused retiring or resigning.

There were 134 dismissals, representing around 0.07 per cent of police officers and staff in England and Wales. Wrongdoing included drug-related offences, theft, sexual misconduct, information disclosure, "relationships with the media" and racial discrimination.

HMIC wants forces to gather and analyse intelligence on their own officers and staff to identify trends or risks of corruption before the problem "manifests itself more fully". This would include analysis of business interests, gifts and hospitality, although the BBC's Danny Shaw points out that some officers are currently refusing to accept anything from members of the public – including cups of tea – for fear of being accused of corruption. "The report, rightly, says that's going too far," says Shaw.

The report found that only a third of forces showed a detailed understanding of the current and emerging corruption threats they faced.

Chief Constable Jacqui Cheer, national policing lead on police standards and ethics, said: "Corruption is neither endemic nor widespread in the police service. However, the actions of a few corrupt officers can corrode the reputation of the vast majority who work hard every day to protect the public. We will continue to improve our approach so that those who are not fit to be in the police are held to account and removed."

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