Robert Peel (1788-1850) was the founder of the police force in this country. He set the principles which still govern policing today and aim to ensure it is ethical and works in the interests of the people. Here is one of his most famous quotations:
“The police are the public and the public are the police.”
A few days ago, Surrey Police suddenly announced that they had sacked their head of finance for “gross misconduct”. Paul Bundy’s profile was deleted from their website. The only explanation given to the public was allegations that he hadn’t declared personal interests and had mishandled information.
Surrey Police has an annual budget of £222m and significant assets, some of which, it was recently announced, will be sold off. If any other organisation had sacked such a senior manager for a first offence we would know much more about it. The fact that Surrey Police is a publicly-funded organisation and one which relies on maintaining public confidence makes it even more scandalous that this is being covered up.
Surrey’s taxpayers and residents have a right to know what is happening to the top management of their police force. If this happened in a private sector company, the non-executive directors would represent the shareholders to investigate whether the rot spreads further and if the organisation has been dangerously compromised. Surrey Police doesn’t have non-executive directors, or anyone any more to represent the interests of the public.
Last year, the Tory-LibDem Coalition abolished police authorities and replaced them with elected Police and Crime Commissioners. The Surrey Police Authority contained independent, non-political, non-police experts who could examine sensitive cases like the charges levelled against the head of finance. They could have ensured an inquiry which was independent and seen to be independent. They would not have concealed it from the public solely because it was embarrassing to Surrey Police.
In Surrey, like elsewhere, the Police Commissioner election was a farce. The turnout was tiny and most people don’t even know they have a PCC, never mind what his name is. I can reveal, in Surrey, his name is Kevin Hurley, a former police Chief Superintendent. Interestingly, he stood as “Zero Tolerance, Ex-Chief” on the ballot paper despite never being a Chief Officer in the UK. Since his election he has tied his political reputation to that of Surrey Police. If Surrey Police were embarrassed by revelations about why Bundy was sacked, the political fall-out would damage Hurley. Commissioner Hurley is refusing to comment on the sacking.
Deputy Commissioner Harris tried to divert attention from this story when I was discussing it on Twitter with the Chief Constable:
Harris is another ex-police officer and a friend of Hurley. He is trying to use the fact that brave junior police officers have been injured on duty to divert attention from the goings-on at the top of the organisation. I believe this shows a cynicism and lack of respect for rank and file officers in the Commissioner’s office.
I do not accuse Chief Constable Lynne Owens of this, she always acknowledges the sacrifices of the police officers she leads appropriately. However, she did claim that Mr Bundy’s right of appeal was preventing her from being open with the public:
Chief Constable Owens went on to imply that the public’s interest was represented by using a Chief Officer from another force to hear the case.
Unfortunately, there have been many cases of the police investigating the police and serious irregularities, even crimes, have been covered up. Only someone totally outwith the police and known to be totally impartial can represent the public interest here.
My Offer to Surrey Police
As someone who is clearly, and well-known to be, independent of the police force, I offer to read all of the confidential documents relating to this case and talk to everyone involved. If there is genuine legal opinion that it cannot be made public until an appeal is concluded or ruled out, I will promise not to reveal the details until it is legally appropriate. I will, however, tell the Surrey public whether they have been swindled, conned, lied to, had their personal details leaked, or in any other way failed by the organisation in which they place so much trust. If Surrey Police have handled this case properly, then they will have nothing to fear because I have a record of defending them against unjust criticism.
Why me? I am used to handling responsibility. As an airline captain, I’m responsible for the safety of hundreds of people and my actions are insured for hundreds of millions of pounds. I do not take things like this lightly. Also, I was voted to represent the Labour Party in Guildford at the 2015 general election so I already have an electoral mandate.
Surrey Police desperately need to reestablish the confidence of the people of Surrey after this damaging incident within their top management. If they accept my offer to represent the public in this, they will be living up principles of their founder, Robert Peel.