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Comment: a crisis in confidence?


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The Commissioner should have backed her officers unequivocally if she was sure they had done nothing wrong.


Date - 10th July 2020
By - Gary Mason

The Commissioner got it wrong at the Home Affairs Committee session in which the stop and search of a team GB athlete was turned into a political football.

Sometimes managers under enormous public pressure have to back their staff to the hilt in the knowledge that if they don’t, it will inflict significant organisational damage. Policing is in that treacherous territory now.

Unless the Commissioner was not confident that the officers involved had acted lawfully and professionally, of course. In which case the full facts need to be established and published very quickly.

There are no excuses for delay. Two different sets of professional standards staff have viewed the body cam and carrier footage of the encounter and according to Cressida Dick, found nothing that requires action. If there is more to see or to say, then let’s see it and say it now.

If not then a clear statement needs to me made that the officers acted legally and proportionately  in line with their duties and the organisation stands behind them 100 per cent.

Yet apologies have been issued and the Met appears to be bending over backwards to accept there may be lessons that they can learn.

Name an operation in which a post incident wash up didn’t start some conversations but that is not the same as organisational breast beating.

If there are serious improvements that can be made then so be it. But the rank and file will react with contempt if those lessons are along the lines of: don’t upset the chattering classes or “it just looked bad, so we must script it to appear better.”

As we have said in these columns before police use of force and non-compliant street encounters often look unpleasant but that doesn’t make them necessarily illegitimate or excessive.

The office of constable is unique and the powers given are broad ranging and open to abuse. Which is why scrutiny and oversight of those powers is now so extensive. Officers are fully aware they are under more scrutiny than ever and it is not unwelcome by and large. Harder to take is “you went by the book but we are still going to find fault because of other people’s perceptions of what is fair and not fair.”

Body Worn Video and other built in surveillance technology has added an extra safety net both for the public and the officers involved in day to day encounters.

It is a difficult job that the public and politicians ask officers to do and there is a real danger that there will be a loss of collective confidence in what is increasingly a very young and inexperienced cadre to use their powers and discretion decisively and to good effect.

Stop and search and any use of force that does not require a specialist trained team could be dustbinned tomorrow in order to appease the service’s sternest critics. But that would reduce response officers to a neutered force of passive uniform carriers constantly calling in other units to intervene.

The bottom line is - if officers have acted lawfully and professionally they should be fully backed up regardless of who has made the complaint and what the ‘public interest’ might demand.

Otherwise forces are going to really struggle to hang on to the 20,000 new officers who will be making the same judgements over the next three years.

View On Police Oracle

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I agree with the post, however, perhaps there is a  to be learnt?  That individual MOP took a certain view of the actions, is there an update on what was lawfully and proportionately done that could negate that individuals perception of the interaction?   Sometimes it’s not what we’ve done but the way it’s presented?

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