A summary of my Hillsborough thoughts…
By the very nature of the business mistakes in policing are absolutely guaranteed. However the first rule that every wise old cop knows is: Never try to cover up your mistake and never ever EVER try to cover your mistake using a lie.
What is becoming clear is that is exactly what has happened with Hillsborough and it will continue to be a damaging scandal for many years to come.
My initial reaction is that it would be disrespectful for me to defend the Organisation considering that the families of the 96 finally had a positive result in the Coroner’s Court after 27 years trying. This should be their moment of victory – a brief respite to take comfort that there has at last been an official acknowledgement of unlawful activity before continuing their battle for justice.
I’m not going to defend the Organisation but I am going to defend the ordinary, honest, every day, working class cops and paramedics who went to work 27 years ago to help people and ended up in the middle of a tragedy that will haunt them for ever.
People starting accusations with, “all coppers are….” or “all coppers connected with Hillsborough are…” is the same type of shameful bigotry we see directed at minority groups all the time and it’s disrespectful, damaging and offensive to the thousands of good honest people that put themselves in the line of danger to keep us safe in our beds at night.
Let me be clear I’m not defending the Organisation’s lack of integrity in respect of Hillsborough. I am, in fact, absolutely blaming the Organisation – although I’m certainly not singling out South Yorkshire Police. I am blaming the UK Police Organisation of 1989 for promoting an internal culture of fear, bullying and intimidation that punished mistakes rather than one that promoted a culture which supported and rewarded openness and honesty.
‘Bad culture’ is like a festering sore that becomes infected and spreads through an organisation like a contagious disease. However, the source of the infection doesn’t spread from the bottom upwards – rather it spreads and contaminates from the top downwards.
Sadly it’s becoming apparent that ‘bad culture’ still lingers on in some parts of policing and so people like me can’t just blame the ‘bad old days’. I really hope that we look beyond the all-purpose “lessons have been learnt” and other blah blah generic rhetoric. This thing really needs forensically unpicking with an openness and honesty that has been sadly lacking for 27 years.
One thing I’m convinced of is that cultural problems within the Police are absolutely the responsibility of the people at the top of the Organisation and the politicians above them.
I still passionately believe that we have the finest Criminal Justice System in the world and now, more than ever, we need to demonstrate that and restore Public confidence in the Police Service. Great leadership, demonstrating absolute integrity will be a good start.