Monthly Archives: March 2013

British Policing: The fallout from #Bettison

Independent Police Complaints Commission

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) says it “finds a case to answer for gross misconduct” against the former West Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison – sad for him but even sadder for British policing

IPCC Media Release: …This case should also serve as a salutary reminder to chief officers everywhere of how much public confidence in policing is damaged when the conduct of leaders is called into question…(ipcc.gov.uk)

The impacts for the ‘offender’ may be limited, at least in punitive terms, now he has retired from policing but there are bigger issues involved here. Save from Bettison’s monumental fall from grace, after what was previously a distinguished career, his actions will also have ramifications for policing as a whole.

The result of the investigation may (thankfully) go someway towards placating the angst of Hillsborough Disaster families, members of the public who have been looking for answers for a lifetime but as always with cases like this one, there is also a greater impact upon our society.

Bettison, like any other public servant not least a high-ranking one, carried a great deal of responsibility on his shoulders during his career. This, responsibility was not simply for the operational and management decisions in policing but also, the maintenance and furtherance of public support for that role in our society.

The Bettison case is not just a sad end to what was supposed to have been a long and distinguished career; it’s yet another nail in the coffin of the British concept of policing by consent. Public support for that process is often based upon perception rather than fact. Views and opinions that are formed from a combination of political rhetoric, journalistic interpratation, contrived public relations activities and the personal performance of individuals.

Every person who dons that uniform (of whatever rank) must remember; they are not just a police officer but also an ambassador for the policing process. Their performance and interactions with others will always form the basis of how policing is perceived and judged by the public – a fact that many self-serving, self-promoting police officers would do well to remember!

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