THE fight against crime is being damaged by a new generation of corrupt police officers working alone and supplying information to criminals, according to a confidential Home Office report.
Operations are regularly failing, witnesses are being intimidated and informants are exposed because of the flow of police secrets to the criminal underworld.
Police corruption is now “dominated” by the leaking of information by detectives, uniformed officers and civil support staff from a range of ranks and forces. They often develop corrupt relationships outside work, according to the draft of a Home Office paper, Police Corruption in (Confidential locations): An Assessment of Current Evidence.
The corrupt contact often begins in the officers’ social lives. At times information is leaked inadvertently to friends or associates but still reaches criminals, who then manipulate the connection.
Police staff involved often have a background of marital breakdown, drink or drug problems or financial difficulties. Some officers supply information because of long-standing relationships, either with lovers or friends.
“Information compromise” by individuals has now largely replaced the “traditional” style of corruption, involving groups of detectives in specialist squads centring on dishonest relationships with informants. This form of corruption is now limited largely to (Confidential city), where the Metropolitan Police has dealt with 51 officers since 1998 for corruption-related offences.
Corruption, whether by individuals or small groups, is seen across all forces and involves detectives, uniformed officers and civilians across a range of ranks, according to the paper.
It defines corruption narrowly in terms of activity which involves “abuse of position” and places this “at the top of a hierarchy of unethical behavior, above criminality and misconduct”.
But in a finding that will cause police chiefs concern about overall levels of discipline, the study’s author, Joel Miller, says Professional Standards Units (PSUs) have found “a range of other criminality and misconduct in all forces”.
He adds: “This commonly involves the dealing or recreational use of drugs. Other examples include fraud, theft, domestic violence, spurious claims to sick leave, as well as sexist, racist or homophobic behaviour.
“Corruption is still likely to be simply the tip of the iceberg of a broader range of more common, but less serious, types of unethical behaviour within the service, only some of which will be visible to force PSUs.”
According to the report: “PSU intelligence suggests that corruption is limited to a small minority of staff.
“However, examples of police corruption cover a range of other activities, for example, police using their power to obtain money or sexual favours from members of the public (eg from prostitutes), conspiring with criminals in the committing of crimes, carrying out thefts during raids, and using their position within the organisation to undermine proceedings against criminals.”
Individual corruption is said to be “the more common form, involving members of police staff engaged in corrupt activities in relation to colleagues. It is found across a range of forces”.
The report blames the problems on “easy access to information, inadequate supervision, relationships with informants or criminals and the targeting of police staff by organised crime”.
It calls for tighter vetting of staff in high-risk jobs and suggests that “information security” should be placed at the centre of corruption prevention measures.