THE BLOG
21/10/2013 08:43 BST | Updated 18/12/2013 05:12 GMT

The 'Plebgate' Affair Will Undermine Trust in the Police

What on earth were the Federation representatives thinking in going to a meeting with Andrew Mitchell? They were not negotiating over Police pay and conditions - which is their job - they were dabbling in media politics and it does not look like they did a good job of it. Police should stick to investigating crimes and should stay out of politics if they want to retain public support.

The police versus Andrew Mitchell saga drags on, having started with an allegation that the then Tory Chief Whip called police officers "fucking plebs" words which of course fed into the whole notion of arrogant Conservative politicians seeing themselves a cut above the rest of us.

This dispute came in the midst of arguments over police reforms which the Police Federation are opposing. The whole incident was then subject to an extensive investigation with allegations that some officers lied - the result of that investigation is expected to be announced this week.

For some reason three Police Federation representatives subsequently held a meeting with Mr Mitchell in October last year. After the meeting they came out and announced to the gathered media that he should resign because during the meeting he had not offered an explanation of what he actually said in the original incident . It turns out that Mr Mitchell had recorded the meeting and the transcript revealed that he had in fact offered an explanation of what he had said in the original incident and he disputed the police account of what took place in the meeting.

This allegation that police officers misrepresented what was said in the meeting was then subject to an investigation by police which has apparently concluded that these officers have no case to answer - a result hotly disputed by the Independent Police Complaints Commission who argue that the officers should face disciplinary action. Then we were told that senior police officers had reversed the original finding of that investigation - which was that these three officers did indeed have a case to answer. So far - so bad!

I think I heard one Chief Constable claim recently that this dispute will not damage the reputation of police - I think he must be living in an alternative universe.

I was a police officer for 23 years up until 2006 - since then I have become involved in local politics and instead of knocking on doors to arrest people I knock on doors asking them to vote for me.

If I thought being a police officer was an unpopular profession - I now see that the police enjoy a saintly reputation when compared to politicians - local or otherwise. This point has not been lost on those on both sides of the Mitchell affair.

Whilst I still feel loyalty to serving police officers who have to deal with all manner of challenges that the rest of society can't be bothered with, I increasingly see the police service from an outsider's perspective - and I think this whole saga is going to cause them damage.

What on earth were the Federation representatives thinking in going to a meeting with Andrew Mitchell? They were not negotiating over Police pay and conditions - which is their job - they were dabbling in media politics and it does not look like they did a good job of it. Police should stick to investigating crimes and should stay out of politics if they want to retain public support.

Being a humble local politician I cannot compare myself to those lofty individuals who inhabit Government circles - but I believe that elected politicians should be held to account by their electorate and the elctorate should decide their political futures. Police officers have no business trying to undermine elected politicians - of any Party in this way. If they were not trying to damage Mr Mitchells credibilty then they have put themselves in a position that makes it look like they were.

Andrew Mitchell admits swearing under his breath and he has apologized for that. If that's what he did - he should be judged by the voters for that - not for what the police want people to believe.

Being a police officer can be a thankless task at the best of times - they deal with many of society's ills - often without the required training and resources - but they should stick to their policing jobs and should not get involved in unpleasant and farcical disputes with elected politicians.

What would would happen if the Police ever had cause to investigate Mr Mitchell for something else - anything else - or any other Conservative politician? They would surely leave themselves open to being accused of going after the Tory's in revenge for 'plebgate'. It undermines the trust and confidence of the public in the police.

I would prefer the Conservatives to lose elections - including Mr Mitchell - but the police have no business interfering in that process. What next - targeted arrests of those politicians critical of Police? Whilst I doubt it will get that far - there is great danger in even taking a first step along that road. This sort of activity by police can only have a serious corrosive effect on the trust the public have of police.