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We enjoyed this joke in the Guardian newspaper yesterday 3 January 2012. A bit early for April Fool’s Day (1 April), but a cracker none the less. It enables us to view the phrase “cops and robbers” from a new angle.
At least 944 serving police and community-support officers in England and Wales have a criminal record, according to the newspaper.
The story, attributed to the Press Association news agency, was based on figures released by 33 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales in response to freedom-of-information requests .
The officers in question are said to have convictions for offences that include “burglary, causing death by careless driving, robbery, supplying drugs, domestic violence, forgery and perverting the course of justice,” according to the report. “Among those with criminal records are two detective chief inspectors and one chief inspector.”
You couldn’t make it up.
The trouble is: it wasn’t made up. Yes, it’s true. No joke at all.
Thank goodness that, at least in our edition of the paper, the Guardian managed to tuck the story away in a single paragraph in the relative obscurity of an inside page. Think of the anxiety that might have been created throughout the land had this news actually been outed with the razzmatazz that it merited. Best keep these things low-key, don’t you think? No point in rocking the boat unduly.
We are still wondering, however, about the other 10 of the 43 police forces in England that did not, apparently, provide data on the number of officers with criminal convictions in their ranks? And what about Scotland and Northern Ireland?
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
However, the opposite side of the coin is that the vast majority of police and community-support officers in England and Wales do not have a criminal record.
According to the Home Office statistical bulletin dated 22 July 2010, there were 143,734 full-time equivalent (FTE) police officers in the 43 police forces of England and Wales as at 31 March 2010.
Moreover, it is arguable that police officers should not be the only category of convicted criminal that is not entitled, after serving their sentence, to purge the stigma of their crime?
Editorial note: Humblest apologies to our Latinphobic readers – of whom we know to our cost that they are legion – for the quotation from Juvenal (Satires, No. 6, line 347). How it got past the subs we cannot imagine. [For your diary: a blog is pending on the subject of Latin, Greek and allied controversies]