Globally citizens perceive police integrity as one of the principal corruption problems in their societies. Bribe-taking, random arrests and corrupt avoidance of investigations are all commonplace in many countries. Such police corruption has been hard for societies to tackle in the past.
The probity and high standards of the police are essential to protect citizens and carry out their duties in the community. A breakdown in the integrity of the police, even if only by a small minority, is hugely damaging to public confidence in that institution and society. This is true of the UK, with scandals such as phone hacking, ‘plebgate’ and Hillsborough exposing major corruption problems in UK policing, and in a similar vein to politics, public trust is in the force is fast eroding.
The Leveson Inquiry and associated police criminal investigations revealed some shocking details about the cosy relationship between politicians and the media the bribing of police officers and the lack of will to hold the media accountable even when laws had clearly been broken. Most recently we have seen new evidence of police corruption and deception following the murder of Stephen Lawrence.
Following these scandals the government has taken action by setting out plans for a new criminal offence of police corruption. While this is an encouraging step we believe that laws are not enough. It is important to go beyond criminal offences and reactive measure and also look at ethics and behaviour.
In November 2013, we called for a more comprehensive approach on the breadth of issues in UK police ethics. Critically TI-UK believes that corruption should be explicitly prohibited, and the myth of so called ‘noble corruption’ should be de-bunked i.e. that the means of corruption can be justified by the ends. The potential for miscarriages of justice and impunity from such situations is clear. You can read more about our recommendations here.
In November 2012 DSP launched Arresting Corruption in the Police – a report presenting corruption risks in police forces and examining the mixed success of reform efforts in ten countries.
Alongside this we built on our typology of defence sector corruption to present a new police corruption risk typology which defines five main categories with its corresponding corruption risks. This means the report may be used not only for comparative examples but also as a practical tool for those in the police and civil society who want to push for reform.
In the report, we use the typology and look at stories of police reform failure and success. In China, efforts failed because they did not secure long-lasting change. Instead they were focused on superficial measures against individual officers – the “bad apple approach”.
TI-UK staff recently participated in an inspection of Police Integrity and Corruption across the 43 forces of England and Wales.
You can read more about the TI-UK Defence and Security Programme’s work on police corruption here.