Tuesday 15 June 2021

Normalising Institutional Corruption

The Metropolitan Police are guilty of institutionalised corruption. Not an editorial from Socialist Worker but the damning conclusion of the independent report into the murder of private detective Daniel Morgan and the subsequent litany of police failures. As the panel's introductory statement makes clear, despite being established by Theresa May during her lengthy stint at the Home Office the inquiry met repeated obstructions. For one, it was set up without the power to compel the Met to release documents. Second, from the moment Daniel's body was found the police went into damage control mode: the investigation of the murder and finding the culprits were a poor second to protecting the Met's reputation. We learn the Met dragged its feet for 15 months before it began cooperating, and stringent conditions were placed on the inquiry's access to the HOLMES serious crimes database - it was seven years before investigators were granted unsupervised entry.

Okay, so what now? Conveniently forgetting her own last minute delay to the report's publication, in the Commons this afternoon Priti Patel said the government cannot and will not ignore the findings. She also said she'd written to Cressida Dick, criticised by the inquiry for throwing up barriers to its work, and asked for a detailed response to the panel's recommendations for rooting out the culture of arse-covering. Worryingly for anyone interested in supposing the thin blue line is whiter than white, the report also criticised the under funding of anti-corruption efforts and singled out budget cuts for the persistence of improper vetting of recruits. Given the popularity of Line of Duty and the fictional penetration of the force by organised crime, that fact alone might make the law-and-order brigade nervous. Evidently, given the multiple failures on her watch Dick should not have the luxury of considering her position. She ought to be sacked.

I'm sorry to say there's little chance of that happening. The Met has always been a compromised institution. There was never a golden age of Z Cars/Dixon of Dock Green proprietary. Honest coppers, bent coppers, all that has changed since the brazen corruption of the 1960s and 70s, when a significant number of police were either on the organised crime pay roll, or were a firm unto themselves shaking down criminals and enjoying a slice of their takings, is the character of corruption. Police on the take appear to be much less of an issue, but the police closing ranks, scratching backs and covering up wrongdoing, as the Morgan report shows, this continues unabated.

Nor is it about to change, because government operates on exactly the same principles. Having successfully shirked their responsibility for 128,000 deaths, the one move to have characterised the Tories since the general election is the body swerve. Rishi Sunak should be out on his ear for last summer's reckless Eat Out to Help Out. Matt Hancock ought to have fallen on a sword - any sword - for PPE failures, the Serco test and trace shambles, and shipping tens of thousands of elderly people into care homes where Covid exacted its grim toll. And Priti Patel for breaking the ministerial code while happily encouraging thuggish policing for straight up political positioning. At the very top not only do we see politicians behaving without accountability, the constant drip drip of Tory corruption is more a summation of the cronyism and back-scratching that characterises the UK's state institutions than anything else.

There will be headlines and handwringing. Perhaps Patel might see if fit to make an example of Dick, but likely not. Either way, nothing will change. Authoritarian policing is here to stay. Since Johnson's rhetorical toying with breaking the law in the lead up to the general election and over ignoring the withdrawal agreement, despite designing as well as signing up to it, the behaviour of Tory politicians are more than ever geared around what looks good and confers the right feels to their expansive and coherent support base. Ethics in politics, always a dubious proposition, aren't even worth lip service. All that matters is stoking the fires of support, and that means no institution, especially if their purpose broadly aligns with the project of an indefinite stay in office, is about to be held to account for incompetence and corruption. Lest it shines more of a light on the Tories themselves.

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Anonymous said...

'Authoritarian policing...'

One thing worth noting over the past 40 years is the switch from the 'consensual model' to the 'colonial model'.

The British police quietly changed the principles that underlie their approach to policing the population to the model used in the former colonies, an observation that has yet, I believe, to have been formally made. Of course, the colonial model was rolled out on occasions previously (eg the miners' strike) but now it the model employed across the population as a whole.

Ken said...

Re: anonymous, the once anonymous police blogger from Blackburn did muse about what point the British police looked like police and then started to look like death star troopers.

Unknown said...

There's has been some academic writing on this e.g. https://journals.openedition.org/mimmoc/1286

Anonymous said...

I totally disagree with the above comments.

The last 20 years has been one of the police abdicating their responsibilities.

Try reporting a noisy neighbour now (this was easy 20 years ago) or getting the police to deal with lockdown rule breakers, people causing mass deaths for christs sake.

You have to scream hate crime for them to do anything these days.

I really wish the police would be far more draconian on this anti social behaviour than they are.

The police will respond now, nothing to do with us call the council, the council say nothing we can do. Pass the buck to the left hand side....

Clinesteron Beademungen said...

Anon, you seem to believe that the police are there for your benefit. Nothing could be further from the truth. The police are an arm of the establishment, they exist solely to protect it and its interests - that is their prime responsibility. Your interests are not theirs.Remember the miners strike? That showed the police doing their job. Persecuting or even prosecuting your noisy neighbours is just a distraction, or at best a propaganda exercise.