January 19, 2023 9.30 am This story is over 15 months old

“Trust has been severely damaged”: Chief constable’s open letter about David Carrick

Colleagues,

This week has been one of the darkest weeks for policing that I have known in 29 years of being a police officer, and I am certain that it has been uncomfortable viewing for many others.

To see policing described in the way that it has, after the behaviour and offences committed by former Metropolitan Police officer David Carrick have emerged, has already, and will continue to have far reaching consequences for us all.

Crucially, it has emerged again that serious criminal offences have been committed by a serving officer, who has used his position of trust, as a means by which to commit offences and control his victims.

It used to be unthinkable that such crimes could be committed by a serving member of a police force, but sadly, I think that for some members of the public, this behaviour is no longer considered unbelievable.

We have to change that.

Therefore, instead of providing the planned message about priorities for this year and what we have coming up, I want to share with you how I personally feel about where we are as a service more generally.

Here in Humberside, I feel that we have a collective responsibility to reflect and recognise that the events in London also directly impact on us and how our communities see us.

Indeed, this is already having an impact.

I feel that the case of Carrick, along with other prominent cases that regrettably precede it, means police legitimacy is hanging by a thread.

Regrettably, in Humberside Police, we are not immune from having our own instances of unacceptable conduct.

However, whilst our finalised criminal and misconduct cases are testament to our robust approach in tackling these issues head-on, I believe we must all do more to restore police legitimacy, trust and confidence in the eyes of the communities we serve.

Why?

  1. It is not the 1st, 2nd or even 3rd recent case nationally
  2. He was one of us – like it or not
  3. He held the office of constable for many years and committed criminal acts against women that are unimaginable, using his employment as a police officer to facilitate and intimidate his victims
  4. No colleagues appear to have spoken up – despite many dots being potentially being present that should have been joined up
  5. Some colleagues knew what he was like and would not have been surprised when this came out – are we 100% confident that this would not happen here?
  6. This is yet another incident where a serving officer has abused his position and power
  7. Over the years, I have heard many colleagues talk about these issues involving only a small minority in policing – and whilst this may be the case – I believe we have now lost the right to say this until misogynistic, predatory and discriminatory behaviour is more effectively identified, challenged and prevented
  8. So, the argument that the barrel has a few rotten apples in it just cannot be used anymore
  9. This is both a national and a local issue.

No force is immune from their own cases in terms of standards, culture and behaviour by officers and staff towards colleagues and members of the public and we are not an exception.

So, where does this leave us here in Humberside Police?

As I approach my 6th year as your Chief, I have repeatedly acknowledged the positive changes in culture and performance that we have delivered together. I have never been reluctant to acknowledge these improvements, always highlighting that it is through your individual and collective hard-work and commitment that these results and transformation has been achieved.

There is much to be proud of, and the great many individual and team acts and results that I know you are proud of, are unquestionable.

However, all this hard work is being (and will continue to be) drowned out unless we recognise and accept that some members of the public now think we cannot be trusted to protect them.

Furthermore, if every female colleague within our own organisation is not completely free from being subjected to a culture of objectification, lewd and sexist comments and misogynistic actions and behaviours, this trust will continue to erode.

Please do not think that I am tarring everyone with the same brush, far from it, I am not.

I completely accept that the vast majority of colleagues reading this will immediately feel that none of the incidents locally (or reported nationally) represent them or how they conduct themselves.

However, I need us all to move from a position of being the silent majority, to being active guardians of our culture and behaviours before we lose all police legitimacy with our communities and the permissions and the ability to police by consent.

I genuinely believe that this is a real risk.

Last year, our own force misogyny survey told us that female colleagues are still experiencing behaviours that we must all collectively start to identify and challenge more quickly and robustly, and we committed to do that.

However, the volume of finalised misconduct cases, where predominantly male colleagues have been found guilty of gross misconduct and criminal offences relating to the abuse of their position for sexual gain, inappropriate sexual behaviour and conduct towards colleagues and victims, is unacceptable.

In my personal opinion, this provides evidence that this is not just an issue for the Metropolitan Police Service, it is a broader policing issue.

I know there are wider issues in society, and the proposition that policing reflects this to some extent has been made. I have also heard colleagues cite how other sectors (such as teaching, nursing, and doctors) have all had their individual cases where their position of trust has been used to cause harm.

However, I strongly believe this is a hollow and indefensible position to take. One that fails to recognise the unique position that policing has in a liberal democracy.

As member of the police service, many of us have the right to take away another person’s liberty, by the use of force if necessary, and detain them for up to an initial 24 hours.

This power is conferred to us on the basis that everyone of us is completely trusted.

Right now, I feel that this trust has been severely damaged.

So, without scaremongering (as that is genuinely not my intention) I need us all to reflect and understand how the impact of events in London, affect our communities and how we are perceived here in Humberside.

I genuinely believe that the future of policing by consent is under threat, unless we regain public trust and confidence in the behaviour of every single one of us.

It has been reported that women and girls are saying they would not approach a male officer in the street if they needed help, citing that they are not certain they can trust them.

I am certain that this is not a situation any of us wish to be in.

Moving forward, from where we are now, we have to recognise that one single incident can tarnish the reputation of many, unless we start to recognise where we are and what we need to all do to alter these perceptions.

So, what is my ask?

  1. I am acutely aware that there is a risk that in reading this, you will feel that we are all being tarred by the same brush – myself included. But I urge you to look beyond that initial reaction and consider how we can own what is being said about policing in order to make changes
  2. We must adopt a zero-tolerance approach to any behaviour that does not put the public first – always
  3. It is never appropriate to tell victims of crime that they are attractive, or that you are single and available or to make attempts or arrangements to see them again for anything but a legitimate policing purpose. Doing so is an abuse of your position and is a serious misconduct and criminal offence
  4. It is not appropriate to treat female colleagues in a way that you would not want your own daughters, sisters and mothers to be treated by male colleagues they worked with
  5. We must all commit to challenge behaviours if we see them, hear of them or are subjected to them. Colleagues must also know and believe that it is safe and the norm to do so.
  6. It is not enough to simply not behave like this.

In the same way that we should all be anti-racist (as opposed to simply not being racist ourselves) we must be proactive in identifying, challenging and reporting any unacceptable behaviour displayed by colleagues within Humberside Police – whether
this behaviour is displayed on or off duty, in public or in private.

I am immensely proud of being your Chief and proud of the results and the transformations that we have all delivered from where we were 6 years ago.

But hereon in, I need everyone to understand what is at stake.

Every interaction, response, and treatment of members of the public (and one another for that matter) must always be professional and must always put the public first.

The Home Secretary has already announced a review of police misconduct procedures, in response to the position policing finds itself in.

Therefore, I wish to be clear in reminding all colleagues of my expectations and that I expect these to be upheld by every member of the force: –

1. I expect every interaction that we have with the public be one that you would be happy for your own family members to have received
2. I expect us all to treat every caller, every victim and every investigation in a way that restores public trust and confidence
3. I expect every member of staff in Humberside to call out and challenge behaviours that are misogynistic, unwelcomed and not consistent with treating one another with professionalism, dignity, respect, compassion and empathy
4. I expect all supervisors, managers and senior leaders to be responsible for setting and raising standards of behaviour, creating a culture where colleagues are supported and valued and held to account for the service they give to the public
5. I expect us all to demonstrate to our communities that we can be trusted, through our actions and not words, so we can all do the job that we joined to do – serve and protect the public

As Chief Constable, I am here to support you to achieve this. However, high support must be accompanied with high challenge. So, I need to make it clear that I will also be relentless in supporting colleagues who are subjected to behaviour that is incompatible with the purposefully high standards expected within policing.

I will also be relentless with any colleagues who betray our trust if the conduct and behaviour that is reported is proven.

I remain convinced that the overwhelming majority of colleagues are equally sickened and dismayed by the details that have emerged this week and with any cases we have experienced here in Humberside.

So please demonstrate that this belief remains true by actively supporting me in ensuring that our culture is one that naturally sees, calls out and deals, with any behaviour that further damages the trust that our communities have in us.

We all have a part to play in restoring public trust and confidence over the coming weeks, months and years.

This work starts now.

We all need a determination to get policing back in the news for all the good work you are all doing each day and we all have a role to play in delivering this.

Please don’t forget that should you feel unable to speak to a colleague, manager or myself, you can speak out securely and anonymously through our Bad Apple system.

Thank you for your continued support.

Lee Freeman KPM
Chief Constable


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