The Daily Telegraph seems to be running a campaign to dilute the accountability of the police to police authorities on the back of the Ali Dizaei case. Yesterday, they ran a story headlined:
Commissioner must appoint senior officers following ‘disastrous’ Ali Dizaei case
and this was followed up this morning by:
Metropolitan Police chief set to pick own team under Tories
The main thrust of this is rather undermined by a letter – also in today’s Telegraph – from Len Duvall AM, my successor as Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority from 2004 until the advent of Mayor Boris Johnson, which points out that the present Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, had sat (as Deputy Commissioner – the then Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, having given him a hospital pass/decided not to sit on the Panel himself) on the Panel that had appointed Ali Dizaei as a Commander and as Len puts it:
“The Met already has a significant say in the appointment of their senior officers. The police role on interview panels is clear. They can and do give their professional opinion on the suitability of candidates. This was no different for the appointment of Ali Dizaei, and the record of his interview will confirm that he was certainly not appointed against the Met’s wishes.”
It is certainly ironic that the issue of who should appoint senior police officers has suddenly become so prominent again.
I know that Sir Paul has strong feelings on these matters. He is entitled to his views, but the Dizaei case does not strengthen his argument.
Indeed, the Metropolitan Police’s record (largely before Sir Paul’s time) over Ali Dizaei is rather a strange one and certainly does not suggest that the judgement of senior Police officers over the years has been either consistent or a model of exemplary soundness. There was, of course, the botched Operation Helios investigation. But even furthur back, there was the decision to accept Ali Dizaei’s transfer into the Metropolitan Police. I am told that the officers who interviewed him recommended that he should not be accepted into the Metropolitan Police, but that this was over-turned against their advice by a more senior officer.
Len Duvall’s letter also points out:
“…. in the time I chaired the Metropolitan Police Authority, the resistance I encountered when trying to deal with controversial officers invariably came from the Met itself; not politicians or other MPA members.”
And my memory is that on all the senior police appointments panels that I have sat on there was no occasion in which the panel failed to act on clear advice from the Commissioner (or his representative) that an individual should not be appointed.
More significantly, I also remember (occasional) instances where a previous Commissioner pressed very hard for particular candidates to be appointed and that this swayed what would have otherwise have been the judgement of the Police Authority members in favour of those individuals. Some of the appointments made as a result of such pressure have been notably less than successful.