Police forces making progress on tackling corruption
Police forces have made significant progress in putting in place the processes to prevent and tackle corruption, according to a report launched today by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), and this is in part due to strong leadership being demonstrated by senior police officers.
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The report, ‘Integrity Matters’, sets out HMIC’s findings on the capability of police forces in England and Wales to tackle misconduct. HMIC found no evidence to suggest that corruption is endemic within the police service in its inspections: the overwhelming majority of officers and staff are honest and professional. However the report found issues of concern around consistency and some forces lacked the capability to proactively seek out and prevent corruption.
HMI Mike Cunningham said:
“When we spoke to police officers and staff it was clear that chief officer teams are demonstrating their commitment to addressing misconduct and corruption. Police officers were also quick to tell us that they see corrupt colleagues as a betrayal of the vast majority who are honourable, decent and hard-working.
“We found no evidence to suggest corruption was endemic but we know only too well that the corrosive nature of corruption means that even a single case can be damaging to public confidence.
“Police forces have made great strides in tackling misconduct and corruption and now they need to continue that work to focus on proactive, prevention work. At the moment over half of police forces are not seeking out intelligence on corruption proactively; this is a clear area for improvement where they can continue to demonstrate a culture of zero tolerance for misconduct and corruption.”
The findings of the report reflect the strong push to challenge corrupt officers and staff and those who do not act with integrity. The College of Police’s Code of Ethics, the register for chief officer gifts and hospitality and the disapproved register which prevents the re-employment of staff who have resigned whilst facing gross misconduct charges or have been dismissed for gross misconduct have all contributed to tackling integrity and corruption.
However, HMIC found that it was impossible to accurately determine the extent of corruption as there is no single agreed definition of what corruption is and forces are not obliged to record if a complaint or allegation of misconduct involves corruption. Whilst there are various criminal offences in place, police corruption means different things to different people.
Police forces gather information about misconduct and potential police corruption from public complaints, internal misconduct reports and intelligence. Only a small proportion of public complaints and internal misconduct reports relate to corrupt activity. However police forces must continue vigilance as cases can have a disproportionate effect on public confidence. Currently around half of forces do not have the capability to actively seek out and develop intelligence on corruption.
Police officers themselves are encouraged to raise concerns about unethical or illegal activity amongst their colleagues and HMIC found that they were prepared to do so. It was encouraging to find that leadership on this issue was generally considered to be very good, with over three quarters of 17,200 officers and staff surveyed agreeing that the senior team encourages officers and staff to challenge activities or behaviours that are unethical, unacceptable, or illegal. However, only just over half of the officers and staff surveyed said they trusted the confidentiality of internal reporting systems and this may affect the information and intelligence that forces receive.
HMIC is confident that police forces are addressing misconduct and corruption, despite budget cuts the majority have maintained or increased staffing levels in professional standards departments and anti-corruption units. Last year there were over 3,000 investigations into offences most likely to have involved corruption which resulted in up to in excess of 900 police officers and staff either facing disciplinary sanctions or leaving the service.
However, the way that corruption is dealt with within police forces varied considerably. Public concern generated by a number of recent reports into police corruption means that the police service should have a clear understanding of the threat posed by police corruption and a standard approach to prevent and tackle it.
This report makes 15 recommendations which can easily be acted upon by police forces and which will lead to greater clarity and consistency in prevention and identification of corruption.
HMIC will continue to examine forces’ ability to tackle misconduct, including corruption, as part of the PEEL inspections.
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- In March 2014 HMIC was commissioned by the Home Secretary to have a more detailed look into the police service’s capability to counter corruption, as part of its 2014 inspection of police integrity.
- Cases HMIC considers are most likely to include corruption are:
- Unauthorised disclosure of information;
- Sexual misconduct;
- Theft including fraud and dishonesty; and
- Drug related offences.