Tonight’s episode of Panorama on BBC1 was entitled ‘Cops behaving badly’. The theme of the programme was that hundreds of police officers facing misconduct proceedings are escaping punishment by quitting their forces. An investigation found that at least 489 accused officers among 47 UK forces were allowed to quietly resign over two years.
There were 1,915 guilty findings against officers for misconduct over the same period, between 2008 and 2010.

The figures were discovered following a series of Freedom of Information (FoI) requests by the BBC Panorama programme.

It also emerged today that a chief constable who admitted gross misconduct is in line to receive more than £200,000 in compensation after his police authority decided not to renew his contract. North Yorkshire Police Authority will have to make the payment to Grahame Maxwell because he is required to leave his £133,000 a year post before the award of his full pension entitlement after 30 years of service.

The revelations that some police officers facing misconduct hearings are resigning quietly have led to campaigners to call for stronger accountability among forces.

Lawyer Jocelyn Cockburn, who specialises in cases involving complaints against police, warned of the risks of letting officers leave through the back door.
‘If they are allowed to leave the police without any stain on their character then there is the chance they will go and work in another force, and that does happen,’ she said.

One fifth of officers who were given punishments were dismissed or required to resign, the programme found.

Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Peter Fahy, speaking for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said police resignations in the face of misconduct allegations can be in the public interest.

He told the programme: ‘There is a judgment about, do you want to wait for a long drawn out disciplinary procedure, which you know is likely to end in the officer losing their job, or if that officer is willing to resign, is it not in the public interest again, to get them off the payroll and to avoid the cost and expense of a hearing?’

And it is that statement by Chief Constable Peter Fahy that I find quite astonishing! If what he is saying is correct then should we allow an accountant employed by the council guilty of fraud to resign as opposed to “wait for a long drawn out disciplinary procedure that is likely to end up with them losing their job and if they are willing to resign then presumably it’s in the public interest to get them off the payroll and avoid the cost of a hearing.” And we should do the same for:
• A school teacher who strikes a pupil
• A drunk council van driver who kills someone
• A child care worker in a nursery who abuses a child
• A nurse who deliberately contaminates a saline drip

The ironic thing is that these serving officers who have most likely “committed a crime” (otherwise they would defend themselves against the allegation) are allowed to go quietly and keep their pension yet many retired police officers who had served their force with exemplary service records has had their pensions slashed as part of a money saving exercise. (Northumbria et al 2009)

Furthermore with confidence in the Police at an all time low, to see Police officers who have committed offences publicly punished for their crimes would not only raise public confidence in the Police but also send out a message to all serving officers that you are not above the law and that your employers will not protect you or try to cover it up if you take the law into your own hands. Surely this would raise policing standards!

My final comment goes to Chief Constable Peter Fahy. If you really do believe that Police Officers who commit offences should be allowed to resign in order to have charges against them dropped yet the public should be tried and if found guilty sentenced by the court, then I think Sir, perhaps you have lost your way. You ought to remember that you are a servant of the people, not a master over them.