Rank and file officers criticise police force for making TV documentary

Rank and file police officers have criticised a police force for taking part in the TV documentary To Catch A Copper.

Members of the Avon and Somerset Police Federation said they were “angry” and felt “let down” over the decision to participate in the programme.

The three-part Channel 4 series provides a behind-the-scenes look at Avon and Somerset’s professional standards department as they look into cases brought against their own officers.

The federation, which represents constables, sergeants, inspectors and chief inspectors, surveyed its members to find out their views on the documentary – with more than 400 responding.

“I was deeply saddened to see how our Chief Constable (Sarah Crew) felt the need to highlight our shortcomings to the public, seemingly turning her back on how this was to affect her own officers and staff,” one told the federation.

“I feel disappointed in the constabulary. I feel the backlash from this will be devastating and has made me think of leaving frontline policing,” one officer said.

Another said: “I’m absolutely appalled by the decision to allow this show to take place and the Chief Constable’s decision to make this happen makes me feel embarrassed to work for Avon and Somerset.”

One officer said: “I was proud to join as a police constable, but now I feel utterly betrayed and unsupported.”

Another added: “This series has destroyed the force, ruined morale and made our jobs harder.”

Iain Prideaux, vice-chair of the Avon and Somerset Police Federation, said: “These comments come as no surprise – and they are difficult to read.

“Morale has been severely dented and even officers’ family members have said how concerned they feel toward their loved ones.

“Police officers have no issue with being held accountable for their actions, we are the most accountable of public services.

“But whilst putting policing under a microscope there should always be ample fairness and balance.

“The federation will continue to speak up for our good officers. We do it today and will continue to do so.

“Colleagues deserve due process in all legal and conduct proceedings. There should not be a presumption of guilt but an open mind, free from bias, and a thorough examination of all available evidence.

“We continue to ask that there be more balance in the coverage and commentary around our colleagues.”

In a statement, the force’s Chief Constable Sarah Crew said: “I’d like to reassure everyone that when we entered into this relationship with the documentary makers, the federation were consulted, were fully supportive and involved throughout the filming, as you can see from the programmes that have aired.

“This documentary is resulting in open and honest discussions with our officers and staff, where a whole range of views and opinions are being discussed in open forums.

“These conversations are important and they will be ongoing.

“I’ve also had a constructive meeting with representatives of the police federation to listen to and understand the views being expressed to them.

“It’s important to note the vast majority of reactions I’ve received directly, from members of the public, from people in positions of influence and power, and from the media, have been positive.

“They say we are being courageous and that through this radical transparency it shows we’re committed to exposing, understanding and then addressing the barriers which are significantly impacting on people’s trust and confidence in us.”

The Channel 4 series, To Catch A Copper, is airing on Monday nights from January 29.