Police culture will change, says Home Office minister

Policing minister Damian Green says three Police Federation representatives should apologise to Andrew Mitchell for their role

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The "culture" of policing will improve, with independent overseers given "more powers" to investigate wrongdoing, a Home Office minister has pledged.

Damian Green said the "Plebgate" investigation was "one incident among many", citing the Hillsborough cover-up and the death of Ian Tomlinson.

But only a small minority of officers had acted inappropriately, he added.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission was working to ensure greater "openness", Mr Green said.

A Sunday Times poll by YouGov suggests 66% of the public trust the police, down from 71% in August.

'Apology'

The figures come after several controversies involving police over the last few years.

In August the Metropolitan Police apologised to the family of Ian Tomlinson over his death at the G20 protests in London in 2009, with one officer using "excessive" force.

Last year David Cameron apologised for a police cover-up over the Hillsborough disaster, in which 96 football fans died in 1989.

And, on Wednesday, the chief constables of West Mercia, Warwickshire and West Midlands Police are due to appear before the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee to explain the handling of a meeting between officers and former government Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell.

The MP resigned after he was accused of calling Downing Street police "plebs" when they prevented him from riding a bicycle through gates leading into Whitehall in September last year.

The meeting with officers, working as representatives of the Police Federation, was held during the weeks following the claims.

A transcript of a recording Mr Mitchell made shows that, while he admitted swearing, he denied using the word "pleb" or insulting the police. But, after the meeting, three senior police officers said he had refused to elaborate on what had happened and should quit, which he later did.

Mr Green said the officers' comments had been "palpably untrue", adding: "He deserves an apology."

Mr Green added: "Andrew Mitchell clearly can command the resources that other people might not be able to prove that what individual police officers said about him wasn't true. So that's the key underlying issue."

'Surprising'

Mr Green said: "If police officers behave badly then it's really serious for the police. But it's a very small minority who behave badly. By and large the police do their job well."

Citing the Sunday Times poll, he added: "Two-thirds of people still have confidence in the police, which is quite surprising given the spate of stories."

However, the government was increasing resources for the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and was changing police recruitment to ensure people with a background from outside the service could enter at a senior level.

Mr Green said: "The fact that people will bring a new attitude and background will help the police service. It will open it up."

He added: "The IPCC needs more powers and resources, We are giving it both. It's not just a question of following rules. It's a question of having a culture of openness and transparency."

Former Metropolitan Police detective Peter Kirkham told the BBC's Sunday Politics there was not a "culture of deceit" among officers.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles told BBC One's Sunday Politics he had "always believed" Mr Mitchell's account of Plebgate.

"I'd be honoured to sit with Andrew Mitchell in the cabinet," he said.

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