One of the most senior police officers in Britain said he has experienced some of his darkest moments in policing in the past year as he expressed deep regret that rogue officers were not kicked out of the service sooner.
Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, told delegates at the body’s joint annual summit that he had “repeatedly felt deep shame” at the actions of some officers.
Policing has been shaken by a series of scandals involving officers’ conduct, including the murder of Sarah Everard and disturbing messages shared on WhatsApp groups.
Mr Hewitt told the event in Westminster that he was proud of how the service dealt with Covid and major events such as the death of the Queen.
“I have repeatedly felt shame at hearing the actions of some individuals in our service and deep regret that we didn’t get these people out sooner.”
He addressed a damning watchdog report on police vetting published last week that found hundreds, if not thousands, of corrupt officers could be serving in England and Wales.
Mr Hewitt said: “While the inspectorate agreed with the vast majority of the vetting decisions and found the majority of misconduct investigations were effective, that still leaves a deeply concerning number of decisions that were just plain wrong.
“And dangerously wrong, allowing predators or wholly unsuitable individuals to join or stay in policing and do harm to their colleagues or the public. That is simply not good enough.”
Home Secretary Suella Braverman later told delegates: “Far too often, standards have not been high enough and despicable people have been able to enter and remain in the police.”
Highlighting the findings of a recent survey of black officers and staff which showed incidents of “racial microaggressions, discrimination and harassment are common and prevalent”, Mr Hewitt said concerns had also been raised by other ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ people and those who are disabled.
Mr Hewitt, who comes to the end of his four-year term as NPCC chief in March, thanked anyone who had the “courage” to speak out, adding: “I am sorry that you have experienced behaviour that you shouldn’t have faced and that you’ve been let down by the response. I am sorry for the weight and the worry that’s caused.”
He urged police leaders to solve the problems “urgently, fully and for the long term,” adding: “Public confidence and the confidence of our people depends on it.”