The author of this article makes some very interesting points that are hard to argue against but I do feel he has misunderstood a very important issue. There is a huge difference between what happened at the gates of Downing Street and the comments the three Police Federation Representatives gave outside Andrew Mitchell’s constituency office.
If it turns out that police officers lied about what happened when Mr Mitchell was apparently not allowed to cycle through the vehicular gates that protect our nation’s most famous cul-de-sac then I’m sure they will be punished accordingly. In fact the Crown Prosecution Service have announced this week that they now have all the information they require to make a decision on criminal charges, or otherwise, for those involved. Whatever happened that night and however rude Mr Mitchell was it cannot be judged right by anyone if false reports have been filed and, worse still, then been leaked to the newspapers.
The meeting between Mr Mitchell and the three Police Federation Representatives however is, in my opinion, an entirely different affair. They were not really there as police officers: they were there representing police officers. Please don’t misinterpret my distinction here. I don’t think what they did was right: I just think it is radically different from what happened in Downing Street. If what I’ve read is true, it seems they gave a totally misleading account of the meeting they had with the MP. I agree that puts their integrity in doubt but I can’t equate that to what happened in Westminster.
As for their respective police forces punishing them, let me try and give an analogy. If a train drivers’ union leader were to mislead everyone about the dialogue at a meeting with, let’s say, a group representing train passengers would he later be punished by the transport company who employ him? I’m sure he wouldn’t. He might be sacked by the union though.
Whether you agree with my analogy or not, it seems wholly wrong to me that after the Independent Police Complaints Commission had declined to lead the enquiry into these events, their deputy head should speak out effectively criticising the result. If they decided to leave the investigation to the police they shouldn’t, in my opinion, comment at all on the end product.
I do agree with the author of this article in his assessment of the damage the whole affair has had on the reputation of the police. It does look, to an outsider anyway, that certain elements of the police (possibly encouraged by their ‘union’ the Police Federation) took the Andrew Mitchell incident as an opportunity to ‘beat up’ a government that they were very angry with. If that’s true it is an abuse of power and morally wrong.