Not a great week for the police…

The Sarah Everard murder is the stuff of nightmares. A serving police officer, Wayne Couzens showed a warrant card and used handcuffs as he kidnapped Ms Everard before her rape and murder. Thankfully he was caught fairly quickly and he will spend the rest of his days behind bars. But the Met has a lot to do to restore public confidence in the police, especially amongst women.

If you have not watched it yet the BBC documentary Bent Coppers: Crossing the Line of Duty is an excellent investigation into corruption in the Met. You can watch it on the iPlayer.

In the Republic a retired senior Garda officer was arrested this week, from the Irish Times:

News that a former senior Garda officer had been arrested emerged on Wednesday, after five searches were carried out by detectives from the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Garda’s serious crimes squad. During that operation, properties in Dublin were searched and approximately 30kg of cannabis, valued at about €600,000, was seized along with 47,000 in cash.

The Irish Times understands some other searches this week by detectives working on the same investigation targeted a small number of serving Garda members.

One strand of the investigation is focused on whether confidential information about Garda operations was passed to criminals involved in the drugs trade. The retired officer has been questioned at a Garda station in Dublin’s south inner city.

Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland, our past continues to haunt us.

The family of murdered RUC constable Colleen McMurray have accused the Provisional IRA and the British government of being “joint participants” in her murder. From the BBC:

The report said the original Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) investigation was undermined by its own Special Branch division, which did not provide information about potential suspects.

This included Person A, an IRA member who had been recruited as an informer shortly before the attack.

He was regarded as an explosives expert and was involved in the development of the technology used to trigger the mortar using a photographic flashgun.

Person A later claimed publicly that he had provided his handlers of prior warning of the attack.

Lastly, in last weeks Sunday World Hugh Jordan had a report on the former RUC officer suspected of involvement in the murders of three innocent Catholic brothers 45 years ago.

X was once a member of the infamous Glenanne Gang and was convicted of bombing a Catholic-owned pub.

Reavey brothers John Martin (24) and Brian (22) were gunned down as they watched the TV show Celebrity Squares in their family home at Whitecross on January 4 1976.

Their younger brother Anthony (17) managed to crawl to a neighbour’s house for help, but died in hospital days later.

The shooting at the Reavey home sparked a carnival of slaughter which saw 16 people lose their lives in 24 hours.

Just 20 minutes later, three members of the O’Dowd family were shot dead when serial killer Robin Jackson led a UVF hit team into their home at Ballyduggan, near Gilford, Co Down. The attacks were co-ordinated.

I do not want to name the accused here, but he is named in the Sunday World article. The most shocking part of Hugh Jordan’s story is about a Glenanne Gang attack on the Catholic-owned Rock Bar near Keady, Co Armagh, on June 5 1976. The attack was carried out by serving RUC officers.

Later that night, Constable Ian Mitchell returned to the pub to take statements from eye-witnesses about the terrorist crime he had helped commit. It was another two years before the RUC top brass admitted it had a personnel problem in south Armagh.

Every murder in the troubles was a tragedy but the activities of the Glenane gang are particularly grotesque. An estimated twenty-five British soldiers and police officers engaging in the mass murder of an estimated 120 people is a story that needs to be fully told. Even worse are the separate allegations of police conspiring in and covering up the murders of other police officers.

The question of how to deal with the past needs to be sorted one way or another. I am sympathetic to the argument that we need to move on, but that is easy for me to say as I did not lose anyone in the troubles. I also acknowledge that the pressure for answers is mostly on the security forces, the IRA has not exactly been forthcoming about explaining what it was up to when they killed over 1,700 people. Or indeed the Loyalist groups who killed over 900 people.

Thankfully, the police are a lot more accountable these days. It should be acknowledged that hearing about these investigations and arrests is a positive development, in the old days, they would be brushed under the carpet. In the US the conviction of Derek Chauvin over the murder of George Floyd is a landmark case in police accountability. With everyone carrying a video camera in their pocket it is easier than ever to expose bad behaviour. Police forces have tried to bring in more women and people from diverse backgrounds. There is also less of a culture of turning a blind eye to bad behaviour. But we can never be complacent, trust is easily eroded.

I should also make it clear the PSNI is a transformed force from the old RUC and should be considered separately from these legacy cases.

Being a police officer is an incredibly tough job. It is unfair to let the bad ones taint the reputation of honest officers. In the end, it comes down to structures, leadership and accountability. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Clarification: to be clear this is a round up of media stories about the police. I am not saying there is any connection between any of the cases.

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