SHOOTING THE MESSENGER
Whilst there are various policies, procedures and agencies that exist to encourage the reporting of wrongdoing, in reality your disclosures will not be welcomed.
The Home Office has previously encouraged police officers to report wrong doing however; when officers have done the right thing they have not been protected by the Home Office and found that they were on their own.
I personally have gone through every stage of the pretty much standard response by a police force to an officer breaking the blue code of silence and commonly known as shooting the messenger.
Each and every senior officer depicted in the above photograph has facilitated or been actively involved in the treatment of my wife and I due to their actions or failure to act. Some senior officers simply tried to abrogate responsibility by passing matters to the force solicitor.
In my own case rather than dealing with the disclosures that I made, I would receive intimidating correspondence from the force solicitor threatening legal action against me rather than deal with issues raised which are of public interest.
This appears to be a cultural and institutional response, in the early stages I would receive similar threatening letters from former DCC Ian Readhead which seemed timed to arrive on a Friday to guarantee ruining your weekend.
The photograph of past and present senior officers was taken at the unveiling of a new memorial for officers who had passed in the line of duty. I wonder how many officers have passed who have taken their own lives, I for one would welcome that there should be one memorial wall for all as has recently been achieved by years of campaigning in Australia.
During my case two police federation representatives who had been supporting me were targetted and made ill, one attempted suicide and self harmed and the other contemplated suicide. Another officer and a collegaue and former colleague in the Met police committed suicide and it became apparent how internal investigation departments were unnacountable and appeared to be used by forces to suppress whistleblowers at any cost.
When the chips are down I found there was a lack of support from all quarters, you will find that you are on your own and unless you have substantial resources you are likely to be unrepresented and known as a "Litigant in Person".
Correspondence from the Home Office advises officers who have written to them to take their matters to the Employment Tribunal rather than the Home Office taking any positive action to deal with the allegations of corruption which have been raised.
In this blog I will go through my own employment tribunal case and show how such actions under the Public Interest Disclosure Act provide little or no protection for police whistleblowers.
It is important for a police officer or member of police staff to be aware of what they might expect in the worst scenario.
Police officers and staff are at a distinct disadvantage as they are unable to make a ‘complaint’ against a colleague in the police service and do not have the same rights as a member of the public who can appeal to the IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission).
It is a worthwhile exercise when thinking about police reforms to ask why police forces respond in the specific non-accountable ways that they sometimes do. One could roughly arrange these by the degree of defensiveness to which a police force/employer feels driven.
The force will appear at first to share your concern. Many fine words will be generated, insubstantial memoranda may fly about, a meeting may be convened, and promises will be made. No action will be taken, except perhaps the most trivial. At a later date any conversation not recorded on paper may be strenuously denied.
Send to Coventry
A change of mood comes over certain managers and colleagues. Initially this is quite subtle. Greetings, smiles and friendly banter are less frequent. At first you brush it off. Then it becomes more pronounced. Eyebrows are raised, you are avoided and left out of events and decisions, sarcastic comments are made. If you mention it you may find that your mental health is questioned.
It is clear that what you said to one colleague or manager has been passed on, and possibly distorted, to his or her peers. When you approach a manager further up the line it is clear that they have been forewarned. Your concern has somehow created an anti-you group. You are identified as a ‘trouble-maker’ by most people with any authority, and any attempt to raise your concern is now pre-empted and prejudged. Some of your colleagues feel that your complaint demeans them by implication.
When you raise your concerns formally you find that your letters are unanswered, the manager is never available, promises to ‘get back to you’ are broken, you are passed on to someone who eventually sends you a letter thanking you for raising the concerns and the matter has been investigated. You may be told directly not to send any more reports or letters.
It is suggested that you have been under a ‘lot of stress lately’ and that you ought to visit the occupational health department, seek counselling or visit your GP. You are asked if you are ‘coping’. It emerges, unknown to you, that you have been informally diagnosed as anxious, depressed, paranoid, having a personality disorder, or as being ‘neurotic’.
A colleague is passing on information about you (and has, perhaps, been asked to do so). You are the object of close observation, fault-finding, and perhaps your e-mail and telephone conversations are being monitored. Some of your work goes wrong or astray and you wonder about sabotage. If you mention this it is taken as further evidence that you are unable to cope or are ‘paranoid’.
Work becomes more difficult. Your workload increases, you get the unpopular cases or incidents. Your attempts at promotion are made difficult and your appraisals are unfairly written and do not accurately reflect your performance. You may be transferred to another station or department and your request for leave and time off are refused without valid reasons
Sticks and Carrots
An intermediary, usually a non-independent person is chosen to act as a facilitator and will call you aside for ‘a chat’ and you may feel that at last you are getting somewhere (In my case this was DI Sara Glen; now the Deputy Chief Constable for Hampshire Constabulary). Your career prospects may be discussed, the suggestion being that you drop your complaints. Alternatively, or if you refuse to accept the carrot, veiled threats will be made such as ‘Are you sure you wouldn’t be happier working elsewhere?’ These become overt threats such as ‘You are jeopardizing your future’ and ‘you won’t be working here much longer’. If you raised concerns about colleagues, you may find that you become a victim of harassment.
Aspersions will be cast on your character, your personal conduct, your personal past, your political views, your class or ethnic origin, or your sexual orientation. These may progress to accusations of your own misconduct including criminal, theft of documents, lying, disloyalty, breach of confidentiality, and the like.
Official counter-complaints may be formulated against you in a disciplinary hearing before your own concerns are addressed or instead of addressing them. You may be made a scapegoat. Disciplinary or grievance procedures may be used and abused as a pre-emptive or retaliatory measure. The force will attempt to get their revenge in first.
If you manage to get through the first strike, your force may abuse their powers and decide to maliciously investigate you on suspicion of a criminal offence, your home may be searched and you will be interviewed in a custody suite to cause you the maximum amount of distress.
You may be charged and relevant evidence is witheld from the crown prosecution service.
You may be wrongly convicted and spend many years trying to clear your name and searching for evidence some of which has been destroyed.
If you remain in the force; your presence is no longer tolerable. You may be wrongly suspended and then dismissed or there may be a re organisation in which your post is made redundant.
If your concerns were of a serious nature, especially if an inquiry took place, then there will be some changes at your workplace of a cosmetic nature. Some posts may be reshuffled, but it is unlikely that policies will be revised or that managerial heads will roll. Certainly no acknowledgement will be made that there is any connection between your raising a concern and the changes which followed.