Many years ago a fresh faced young man drove up to the barrier at the Police Training School and told the chap on the gate he had arrived for his first day as a police officer. Little did he know at that time what was to follow in the next 20+ years… the highs and the lows. It was me.
Once a police officer many friends and acquaintances would joke about my new role. “Be careful what you say. He’s a copper you know”. It was all in good banter and in all my time as a young officer I was never disowned by anyone in the local community where I grew up. Many were in fact proud of me for taking on the job. Over the years that pride has ingrained itself into me too. The other question that would arise was “Would you shop your Granny?” This was a popular question and essentially meant would I arrest my Dad or my brother. My response was always the same. “I would hope that out of respect for me and the career I have chosen to follow that they would never put me in a position where I had to do something”. Fortunately they never have.
As my career developed my attitude to work and morals were built and nurtured by the support of my family, friends and later my wife and children. They see me providing a public service. They see me as a man of integrity and honour. They see me as a man who stands up and does his level best to protect the weakest members of society and deal firmly with those who cannot play by societies rules.
As a result of this I developed a strong set of principles. These were eventually put to the test when dealing with a drink driver who ended up at custody suite off my normal patrol area. I was in the custody area when another prisoner was brought out of his cell to use the phone. He had been banging all the time I had been there and the custody sgt and constables behind the desk had been bemoaning his behaviour. During his phone call an incident occurred. I didn’t witness it. I heard it. Shortly after the prisoner was taken back to his cell. Out of my sight down the cell wing what sounded like an assault took place.
I was in a very uncomfortable place. I finished with my drink driver and got out of there as fast as I could. I had no supervision when I got back to my office so went home and started 2 rest days. I kept it to myself for 24hrs but it was tearing me up inside. I had to discuss it with someone and my wife was that person. I went through a process of trying to rationalise what I had heard. Was I mistaken or was I correct? If I spoke up against these officers would I be ostracised by my whole team and colleagues? If I didn’t speak up would I be tarred with the same brush and be just as bad?
I was in a horrible place and when I returned to work I decided to ring the whistleblowers line. I will cut a long story short. The officers involved ended up at a discipline hearing and during the investigation process I identified myself to the complaints team. You may ask why I would do such a thing. I had anonymity. The reason was because I had decided that if I had the conviction to say they may have done something wrong from what I had heard, then I sure as hell had to have the conviction to stand up in the hearing and say it to their faces. I did just that.
During this whole process I had concluded that I was not about to put my job, my career, my pension and the respect of my family and friends on the line for police officers who could not behave and/or control themselves.
That ethic remains as strong and true to me now as it did then.
We have had many cases where police around the country have acted in a reprehensible manner. I have walked the streets and patrolled my beat and taken the fallout from members of the public about incidents that have happened 100’s of miles away where officers have acted in a loathsome manner. I am not proud of those officers. I’m ashamed. I’m ashamed because they undo all the good work the majority of us are trying our hardest to do.
The Hillsborough Report was published yesterday. I have not read the document but over time I think I will. I therefore speak from the perspective of that which I have heard and read in the media so far. I am appalled at the allegations being levelled at the South Yorkshire police and other agencies who have covered up the true events of that day in 1989. I don’t support them. I deplore their actions and those culpable need to be investigated and dealt with appropriately.. via due process.
The actions of such officers tarnish us all and transcend through time to today. As an honest cop I am fed up of holding up my principles and morals for inspection only to have them cast to the ground and shattered by individuals intent on giving the police a bad name. There was no room for you then and there is no room for you now. Get out of the job.
In the meantime I will go back to work in a few days and no doubt deal, yet again, with the fallout engendered by the actions of officers and others 23 years ago.