It may surprise you to hear the Home Office is in the final stages of commissioning the latest reality TV series.
In cases where a police disciplinary hearing may lead to the dismissal of an officer, the proceedings will be streamed live over the Internet! Perhaps they should call it ‘Sack a Copper’ TV?
Frankly, I am appalled by this proposal and it appears to be part of the continuing efforts by Home Secretary, Theresa May, to erode public confidence in the police. If it really is such a good idea, then why is it just the police service which has to open up its internal disciplinary proceedings to the public?
Why not apply the same procedures throughout the public sector and especially in relation to misconduct allegations about politicians?
A dismissal misconduct hearing is adversarial, where lawyers from both sides will make allegations about police or civilian witnesses and criticise official police practices or procedures in an attempt to win their case. A lot of the assertion and criticism can be inaccurate or relate to technical issues which can be misleading to a lay observer.
Even where an officer is acquitted of any wrongdoing, members of the public may not agree with the decision or fail to understand why it has been made. The proceedings will simply provide further ammunition to those who spend their lives criticising the police.
It could also lead to staff being reluctant to report wrongdoing, as some may dread their evidence being aired publicly, whilst being subjected to an aggressive cross-examination by a defence lawyer.
However, I do agree with the proposal that the person who chairs a misconduct hearing should be legally qualified. This is likely to reduce the appeals merry go round which follows when officers are sacked. I also agree complainants and, even independent observers, should be allowed to attend hearings. If you look over the past two weeks of news headlines, you will see many examples of good police work where murderers, drug dealers and sexual offenders have been convicted. The live streaming of hearings about inappropriate e-mails or breaches of procedure will become the headline news, with clips going viral on the Internet.
The bad news stories about the police will overshadow the good ones, even more than they do now. The influence and popularity of reality TV is being taken a step too far.