I have resisted the temptation to comment on the Plebgate affair until now. It seems to me that a petty squabble between an MP and the police at the gates of Downing Street is not really worth a mention. But I observe a component that many commentators seem to be missing which I believe is important. The police service must work with the consent of the public: their job is impossible without. The nature of the powers afforded them are such that public confidence in their motives must be solid. The police service spend a lot of public money on PR. So, it follows, we expect (demand?) police officers to be squeaky clean and honest.
When the police are accused of wrong-doing, they close ranks. Given the dangerous job that they do, often in difficult circumstances, it is understandable that an “us and them” mentality can creep in. But this is so damaging to public confidence, trust and consent. Individual officers are only human, will make mistakes, errors of judgement, even tell lies. Covering up these failures and presenting a united front massively exacerbates the situation. Have they still not learnt the lessons of Hillsborough?
Free masons swear an oath to come to the aid of a brother mason in need. Is closing ranks a symptom of this oath? I have long believed free masonry to be incompatible with any public office, particularly policing. I am still waiting for the law makers to recognise the sense of this. There are no masons amongst the law makers, are there?