Marc Wadsworth and Deborah Hobson – The-Latest - EXCLUSIVE
Campaigners say revelations that hundreds of London’s police have criminal convictions is “a national scandal” and that officers found guilty of serious offences should be fired.
An investigation by The-Latest has revealed that 636 officers have been found guilty of criminal offences since 2002. They have been convicted of crimes ranging from sex attacks and assaults on members of the public to drink driving and speeding in the past eight years.
Seventy nine officers were jailed, 73 of whom were sacked or forced to resign. Others who were sent to prison are believed to have left before they were convicted.
Most of them kept their jobs despite being successfully prosecuted. The majority of cases involved traffic offences.
Suresh Grover, director of The Monitoring Group, said: “I think it’s a national scandal. There is clearly a crisis in the Met. This should be tackled immediately. Police officers with criminal convictions should be disciplined and the worst offenders dismissed from the police service. How else can the public have confidence in the police upholding the highest professional standards that we have a right to expect of them? Criminals in uniform should not be tolerated.”
The Monitor Group paved the way for the Macpherson inquiry which led to an overhaul of the Met following its blunders which resulted in the murderers of Black teenager Stephen Lawrence walking free.
Police insiders say officers found guilty of serious traffic offences such as drink driving would normally be sacked. Eight officers were convicted of corruption, three of drugs offences, 43 of violence offences, 21 of sexual offences, five of perjury, 23 of theft and 17 of misconduct in public office.
In February, former Met borough commander Ali Dizaei was jailed for four years for misconduct and sacked. He was the highest ranking officer to be imprisoned in living memory.
A hundred and thirty seven officers retired or resigned either before or after they were convicted; 112 got a written warning and 124 received advice. Most of the officers - 447 - were convicted for traffic offences, including 119 for drink driving and 98 for driving without due care and attention. Five were convicted of causing death by dangerous driving and seven of dangerous driving. A hundred and sixty one were found guilty of speeding and 20 of driving with no insurance.
All officers convicted of a serious crime face the possibility of a Metropolitan Police Authority hearing to decide if they should lose part of their pension. Last year 39 were convicted of a crime - nine faced such a hearing.
But the overall number of officers facing formal misconduct hearings - which can lead to the sack - fell significantly last year. This is believed to be due to new procedures introduced in 2008 aimed at reducing a "blame culture" and instead helping officers to develop as individuals in the job.
A Met spokeswoman told The-Latest: “The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) takes any allegations of wrong doing by officers or staff very seriously. Where appropriate, allegations of criminal behaviour or misconduct are investigated by officers from the Met's Directorate of Professional Standards."
"The MPS will take firm action against any officer that receives a conviction. Any officer convicted of a serious offence which brings into question the MPS's ability to have confidence in their integrity can expect to be dismissed."
"We take robust action in such cases so that the public can have confidence in our commitment to ensuring the professionalism, honesty and integrity of all our officers and staff."
"It is important to note that the number of officers who have received convictions is an extremely small number in proportion to the total number of officers in the MPS which is over 33,000 and that the vast majority of our officers and staff carry out their service to Londoners in the manner the MPS and the public expects."
"The significant majority of the convictions have been for traffic related offences and have mostly occurred when officers have been off duty. “
However, Michael Corley, campaigns manager for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said: “The police will have their own procedures for dealing with transgressors - just like any other organisation or employer."
“But ultimately, the individual must take responsibility for actions which might not only affect their life but the lives of other road users - as well as families, friends and colleagues.”
The Met police has not provided data about officers who may have joined the force with criminal convictions in their replies to a Freedom of Information request because, they claim, some of the information is contained in manual records and they say that to search for the information would exceed the limits for cost and manpower in the current law. Also, they say that reprimands and penalty notices for criminal offences may not always be communicated to the Met police and recorded on its systems.
Radical reform of police forces in the UK has been promised by the UK's new coalition government led by Prime Minister David Cameron. Home Secretary Theresa May said the plans were "the most radical reforms to policing in at least 50 years". They include the introduction of directly-elected police commissioners with the power to sack chief constables, along with the prospect of elected US-style prosecutors and the creation of a National Crime Agency to "tackle organised crime and protect our borders".
The beleaguered Met police, whose officers are supposed to “serve and protect” the 7.2 million people of Greater London, has been the subject of blistering attacks in recent days from the public, civil rights groups like Inquest and the family of Ian Tomlinson. The 49-year-old newspaper vendor and father of nine, died after being hit by a police baton and violently pushed to the ground by an officer at last year’s heavily policed and high profile G20 protests in the City of London, reported by The-Latest.
The Crown Prosecution Service’s decision not to bring charges against Police Constable Simon Harwood, a member of Scotland Yard’s territorial support group who was caught on camera attacking Tomlinson by a member of the public, has been widely criticised.
The failure to make the police accountable for Tomlinson’s death has renewed debate about the nature of policing in the UK and the increasingly fraught relationship between the police and public.
Deborah Coles, co-director of Inquest said: “The eyes of the world will be looking on with incredulity as yet again a police officer is not facing any criminal charges after what is one of the most clear-cut and graphic examples of police violence that has led to death.”
The harrowing case of Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes, and the injustice of this young man shot in the head seven times at Stockwell tube station by the Met police in 2005 is still powerfully felt by a citizenry more willing to challenge and question the actions of the police than ever before.
De Menezes was falsely identified as one of the fugitives involved in the previous day's failed terrorist bombing of the British capital. The tragedy took place two weeks after the London bombings of July 7 2005, in which 56 people died. No police officer has been prosecuted for De Menezes’ death.
The perception that state officials will do all that they can to cultivate and perpetuate a wholesome, blameless image of the police is very real, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to suggest lawlessness exists among some officers.
This week the coalition government set out plans for communities to "reconnect" with police forces which have disappeared behind their desks, engulfed by a flood of red tape.
But the radical reforms are already being dismissed by Labour as "policing on the cheap" and a fig leaf for cuts in the amount of officers.
Government plans include:
• "Virtual" get-togethers of police and public on social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter
• A bonfire of health and safety regulations that tie police in red tape
May said her reforms, part of her boss Cameron's "Big Society" project, would "transfer power back to the people" and make police into “crime fighters not form writers”.
Read more here.
Shocking revelations about a Greater Manchester repeat offender policeman who was jailed for 18 months this year after inflicting "deliberate cruelty" on a 19-year-old woman in custody highlights the dangers to the public which can be inherent when officers are allowed to remain in their jobs after conviction for a criminal offence, particularly when it involves violence.
Police Constable Jason Hanvey was filmed by CCTV cameras in October 2008 holding Amy Keigher's face on a desk while threatening her. Hanvey was also accused of grabbing her hair, putting her hands in handcuffs and pulling them over her head for more than a minute in what the judge at his trial described as a "cruel position".
Hanvey was convicted of assault by magistrates 12 years ago for hitting a male suspect in the face at another police station but was allowed to keep his job because of previous good behaviour.