Ethical policing is a modern buzz phrase, but there is no trust and confidence in the police without it. South Yorkshire is not the first area of the country to have a policing ethics panel, but it is one of the first.
The Panel has been established by Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, with the full support of the Chief Constable, David Crompton, to provide independent and effective challenge and assurance about the integrity, standards and ethics of decision-making in policing. Members of the Panel all reside in South Yorkshire and have a wide range of skills and experience which they will use to help improve transparency, accountability and trust in South Yorkshire Police.
Of course, the Panel recognises that any work it does, will be in the shadow of some of the most troubling episodes in policing over the last 30 years. It will not shirk from addressing the lessons which can be learnt from the Hillsborough Inquests, or from the Professor Jay Report on child sex exploitation in Rotherham, or indeed from the continuing bitterness in some communities about the way in which the1984-5 miners’ strike was policed.
But the purpose of addressing the lessons is to ensure that they inform the way in which policing is carried out in today’s environment. A national Code of Ethics has been written for all police forces. It has been adopted by South Yorkshire Police and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner. The Panel will support and monitor work to embed the Code across all the functions and activities of the force, and also those within the Commissioner’s office.
There are many policing challenges – for example, the diversity of our communities, surveillance activity, the treatment of vulnerable witnesses and suspects - which raise ethical issues, and the Panel will consider them.
Policing is difficult. It can involve making instant decisions in challenging – sometimes dangerous – situations. In the current climate of financial austerity there is an additional challenge: the police are expected to do more with less. Decisions about where and how to spend resources can themselves raise ethical questions, and the Panel will be ready to advise.
Andrew Lockley, Chair
South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner’s Independent Policing Ethics Panel