Tom Parry of the Daily Mirror reported today that hundreds of police officers are being sacked in disciplinary hearings behind closed doors. His report stated that data from three years of cases show Britain’s 52 forces sacked 477 officers, demoted 52 and reprimanded hundreds more. The offences included assault, leaking ¬confidential details and carrying firearms while drunk. Many were suspended on full pay at a cost of £2.7million a year.
Some critics say more ¬disciplinary hearings should be made public yet since 2004, when bosses were given the power to order public hearings, there has been just one. The second public hearing will be that of PC Simon Harwood who will face a public Metropolitan police disciplinary inquiry, where he stands accused of inadvertently causing or contributing to Ian Tomlinson’s death at the G20 protests.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson has been accused by the Ulster Unionist peer Lord Maginnis of being prepared to ‘surrender’ PC Harwood and of making Harwood a ‘fall guy’. Lord Maginnis, is quoted as having said: “It’s worried me that you, as a leader of the police, were prepared to sacrifice a constable who I believe should have the full support of the police service. The idea that you are going to surrender him to the vagaries of the press, who have been calling for his blood, horrifies me. I do hope the police will give some tangible support to that young constable who I believe must not be a fall guy.”
Lord Maginnis. Let me ask you this question,
“If PC Harwood has caused or contributed to the death of Ian Tomlinson who was not involved in the protests, was compliant and was not a threat to anyone, why do you feel that he should enjoy the full support of the police? Should the case not be investigated and if sufficient evidence found that a crime has been committed, should he not be charged as would any normal member of the public or do you believe that serving police officers should be allowed to use undue force and physical violence without fear or reprimand for ‘the greater good’?”
With respect to police officers being sacked in disciplinarily hearings behind closed doors I suppose the argument is that this is done so as not to undermine public confidence and faith in the police service. Personally I believe that if police officers found guilty of criminal offences and dismissed was publicised a lot more then it would increase public confidence by demonstrating to the public that police are not above the law and do get punished when they break the law they are employed to uphold. Furthermore it would send a strong signal out to all serving officers that in the event of them taking the law into their own hands, far from being protected by their force they would be punished as would any other ‘criminal’ and that there is a high price to pay forgetting that they are servants of the people and not masters over them.
So come on, lets have some transparency here for the sake of public confidence and also to remind police officers that there are rules to adhere to.