Shocking numbers obtained by the Observer show that approximately one in 100 police officers in England and Wales faced criminal charges, including for sexual offences, in the last year alone.
One ObserverThe investigation found that the Police Federation, the staff association for police officers, received 1,387 requests for legal assistance from members facing criminal charges in 2022.
The data also suggests that the number of police officers facing criminal charges has skyrocketed by 590% since 2012. In that year, only 235 requests for legal support from the Police Federation were made by its members.
The Police Federation of England and Wales represents around 140,000 former police officers and spends millions of pounds a year on legal fees, which help defend those accused of serious misconduct or even criminality. The organization is a statutory staff association, meaning all police officers become members by default when they join any force in England and Wales.
One campaign group said the federation was always ready to “defend the indefensible” and was a “major obstacle” in dealing with racism and misogyny in the police.
Last week it was revealed that a former federation president, John Apter, would not face prosecution over two sexual assault allegations leveled against him. Apter was suspended by the Police Federation and Hampshire Police in December 2021.
The type of criminal charges faced by police officers can range from misconduct in public office and posting grossly offensive messages on a public network to more serious offenses including assault, sexual offenses and even murder.
The new data comes amid a growing number of cases of serious crime committed by police officers. Earlier this month, former Met officer David Carrick was sentenced to life in prison after raping, assaulting and inflicting “irreparable destruction” on at least 12 women.
In 2021, another police officer on duty, Wayne Couzens, used his police ID and handcuffs to kidnap, rape and murder 33-year-old Sarah Everard. This month it was revealed that police missed clear chances to identify Couzens as a potential sex offender and a danger to women in the days, months and even years leading up to Everard’s murder. Last month, Metropolitan Police Chief Sir Mark Rowley said he was “mad” that he had failed, as Commissioner, to sack “toxic” officers suspected of serious crimes after it was revealed that 150 officers were under investigation for misconduct. sex or racism.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has now written to the Home Secretary asking her to urgently pass new laws allowing police chiefs to fire rogue police officers on the spot. Although the Home Office is currently reviewing policing dismissal processes after the failure to remove Carrick as an acting officer, Khan is frustrated that existing laws mean the Met is still being forced to employ officers who have committed serious crimes.
Last week, it was revealed that a Met officer caught publicly masturbating twice on a train was still serving after police could only issue another written warning.
The Met admitted last month that it was investigating 1,000 allegations of sexual and domestic abuse involving about 800 of its officers. Khan wrote to Suella Braverman on Friday, saying “it is incomprehensible to the public that under current regulations the Met should be required to reinstate officers convicted of a crime.” A Home Office source said Khan’s intervention was an attempt to “cover up years of failure in which, as Commissioner in Charge of the Metropolitan Police, he has done very little”. There are months to go before an overhaul of the police disciplinary system, but Khan warns that “deep changes in police investigation processes, conduct and misconduct are urgently needed”. Khan, responsible for setting the Met’s strategic direction and budget, writes: “This transformation must be supported by a radical overhaul of the legislative framework to empower police chiefs and give them the tools they need to take fair executive action. and effective means of removing anyone who fails to meet the high standards expected by the police, community and public.”
O Observer The investigation also found a sharp increase in the number of misconduct and serious misconduct complaints filed by the Police Federation. The net total related to the two soared from 418 in 2018 to 598 last year, a 43% increase.
Misconduct allegations are less serious and relate to violating workplace rules, while serious misconduct relates to more serious acts, including criminal actions, that may warrant immediate dismissal.
The two officers who shared photos of murdered sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman and described the pair as “dead birds” faced misconduct charges, before being arrested for misconduct at a public office.
The data in question, disclosed in a Freedom of Information request, refer to requests for support from members made to the Police Federation. O Observer understands that a claim may relate to a person facing multiple criminal charges at the same time.
While members could, in theory, make multiple requests for support in the same year, the Police Federation has not disclosed whether or how often this was the case.
The group declined to comment on any of the Observerother company findings or disclose what, if any, types of more serious criminal charges did not receive legal support from the organization.
The numbers are likely an underestimate, given the number of officers who may never face official criminal charges or who face official charges but do not seek help from the Police Federation.
A spokesperson for police reform activists Netpol said: “For as long as we can remember, the Police Federation has portrayed its members as victims, quickly dismissing most complaints as frivolous and condemning critics of police misconduct. On the rare occasion that officers are fired or, like Wayne Couzens and David Carrick, convicted of the most heinous crimes, the Federation is quick to distance itself from these ‘bad apples’, despite growing evidence of a burgeoning and largely unchallenged police force. culture of racism and misogyny.
“Senior officials insist they intend to restore the damage to public confidence created by a wave of negative stories. In light of this, the Federation’s willingness to continue to provide material support to a growing number of police officers facing criminal charges, many of them for sexual offences, becomes a major obstacle to achieving this. However, more than any other staff organization it is genuinely representative of the current state of policing in Britain: incapable of understanding why change is necessary and, without enormous external pressure, always ready to defend the indefensible”. A spokesperson for the police reform campaign group StopWatch added: “We would not be surprised if the numbers are underestimated, the Federation rarely holds a mirror to itself because of accountability.