Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The tip of the iceberg

The Police Complaints Authority review of Operation Austin has revealed another horrifying fact: police examined complaints from more than 50 women relating to historic sexual offending by police officers. Of these, 25 were considered serious enough and supportable enough to justify further investigation. Many of the cases had "remarkable similarities" to that of Louise Nicholas. In other words, the four or five prosecutions we've seen represent the tip of the iceberg, the tiny bit poking above the surface, beneath which lurks a vast mass of historic police misbehaviour which we will likely never see, and whose perpetrators will never be held to account for their crimes. While I'm sanguine about the difficulties of historic prosecutions, as someone who expects the very best behaviour from those trusted to protect us, it's a horrifying thought. How many of these offenders are still in the force? How many are in senior positions? And how can we bring about the necessary changes in police culture when we still have this cancer lurking below the surface?