The failure of some police officers to open themselves to control through private hearings about misconduct was “immensely disappointing,” said a former prime minister.
Theresa May, who put in place measures to improve transparency, including requiring that such hearings be held publicly, said too many still take place behind closed doors.
The former Home Secretary commented on an analysis by The Times newspaper that found that of the more than 40 reports of misconduct published in the past month relating to officers and staff in England and Wales, almost half were anonymized.
The newspaper also reported that the numbers obtained under Freedom of Information showed that 1,147 hearings have taken place since 2018.
The Times said the armed forces were unable to say whether 502 of them were held publicly or privately, and of the remaining 645 hearings, one in four were held privately.
Ms. May said the impression was that the armed forces put their reputation first.
She wrote in the newspaper: “It is extremely disappointing to learn that more than six years after the measures were put in place, a number of police forces appear unwilling to open to scrutiny.
“According to the findings of this investigation, there are still too many private hearings going on and the process of notifying the public of the results of those hearings is still worryingly opaque.
“It leaves the impression that the police, whose job it is to protect the public, gives the institution’s reputation priority over the judiciary.”
She said the problem was not new but “a deeply rooted and long-standing problem,” citing examples such as Hillsborough and the investigation into Stephen Lawrence’s murder.
Pc Wayne Couzens was released from the Metropolitan Police at a private hearing in July after being convicted of the murder, rape and kidnapping of Sarah Everard.
At the time, police said that the need for transparency in misconduct proceedings was “clearly outweighed” by the risk of interfering with criminal proceedings in the case, and Chair Deputy Commissioner Helen Ball had decided that the misconduct hearing should be heard privately .
After examining the allegations, they concluded that despite Couzens’ admission of guilt, there was a “real risk” of undermining the criminal process, police added.
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