Who polices the people who police the police?
Guy with rucksack: "I was terrified."
Group of three girls: "He took out the baton and started hitting people and screaming."
Bloke with red hair: "I was pleading with him to stop. I wasn't even armed."
Police officer: "The red-haired guy was wanted for burglary, but when I approached he said he'd cut me up. I shouted instructions but he failed to comply. I thought he was about to stab me."
Shock horror newsflash: people who complain about the police are angry when their complaints are not upheld!
"Why should the public have confidence in a complaints system when they know that the odds are hugely stacked against having their complaint upheld and are even more stacked against them in terms of the prospect of a police officer who has done something wrong being held to account?" asks former Commissioner John Crawley.
Perhaps he could take a stab at answering his own question.
Apparently the fact that the Independent Police Complaints Commission is not upholding a large number of complaints is evidence of the fact that it's not doing its job properly. Did anyone ever stop to think it might be evidence of either:
(A) There is rarely clear evidence that the police are in the wrong.
(B) In general, most complaints against the police are malicious/unfounded/incorrect.
In my more than five years' service, I've received complaints from members of the public, criminals, lawyers and colleagues, for the following reasons:
- I've arrested more than one person who wasn't guilty.
- I've assaulted someone during arrest.
- I've stolen someone's cash and clothing whilst administering life-saving first aid.
- I've deliberately destroyed evidence.
- I've lazed around in bed when I should be attending court.
- I've waged a racist campaign against an innocent member of the public.
- I've carved a swathe of rudeness through Blandmore, insulting people in various ways from swearing at them, to bullying and browbeating them, right through to criticising their driving.
On a couple of occasions, complaints involving me have gone to the IPCC, and on a couple of others, I've been interviewed under caution by Professional Standards. I've had one or two meetings with the superintendent where I've been warned not to oversleep on the morning of court or forget to put in my statements that I've handcuffed someone. I've also on numerous occasions received letters two or three years down the line informing me that certain complaints have been dropped that I never even knew had been made.
Does all of this mean that the people who investigate police officers are not doing a good job?
Try telling that to the half dozen officers in my area alone who were (deservedly) arrested and charged last year for dishonesty and/or corruption. Or the hundreds who (undeservedly) suffered the stress of PSD or the IPCC storming through their workplace baying for blood.
The fact is, the majority of people who complain to the police are simply complaining because they didn't get their way. They are the same people who dial 999 to report children playing with balls in a play area, and then have a go at the police who arrive to speak to the children without their parents present. The same people who call to report being assaulted, and then lunge at the officers attending with a metal bar. Sometimes they complain merely to try and wriggle out of what they've done wrong, sometimes it's to claim compensation. But very often they don't really know why they're complaining, or what they hope to achieve. They just do it.
I'm bound to have some heated comments from people thinking I am blinkered, or unwilling to accept that the police can ever be wrong. I'm not. I have a dozen examples of times when I've heard complaints that were fully justified, and another few dozen where no one ever made a complaint when they should have done. But I've hundreds, maybe thousands, of examples of where the complaint should never even have gotten as far as putting pen to paper.
But then again, who wants to read a news story with the headline: Police Rarely Found Corrupt And When They Are They Go To Jail?
Result: Officer calls for assistance, ends up hitting red-haired guy 3-4 times with baton, as well as his mate. Half a dozen cops restrain both males. The crowd are appalled and all make complaints. Neither guy is charged with anything.
IPCC verdict: the red-haired guy closely matched the description of a burglar, but his behaviour made it impossible for the officer to confirm his identity. The officer acted in accordance with his training, genuinely fearing for his safety.
The newspapers say: IPCC backs feral police yob.
'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.