Sunday 21 Sep 2014
Police officers are making hundreds of pounds illegally selling their uniforms and equipment on the internet, and criminals are buying them to commit offences posing as legitimate officers. BBC Inside Out South East investigates this illicit trade and its consequences to public safety across the South East of England in the first programme of the new series on Monday 18 October at 7.30pm on BBC One.
Police officers wear uniforms and have warrant cards so that the public can identify them but Inside Out reporter Glenn Campbell investigates evidence that some officers are illegally selling their uniforms and equipment for cash via the internet.
In 2006, a group of men pulled off Britain's biggest cash heist, stealing 53 million pounds from a depot in Tonbridge by using items of police uniform to gain access. Retired police officer, Roy Sutherland, says that without the uniforms, it would never have happened: "It was very much an important aspect of that robbery that police uniform was involved. People produce warrant cards or uniform and people trust them."
Within just a few weeks, Glenn managed to purchase a full, current issue Metropolitan Police uniform and other items including a Sussex Police cap and Kent Police warrant card holder - all for just over £200.
Glenn says: "The ease with which I managed to get hold of authorised police equipment was remarkable. All it takes is a quick Google search to bring up dozens of official police items."
A retired Chief Superintendent, who asked to remain nameless, said that the sale of police uniform was not uncommon. He says: "I investigated several officers who sold their kit... I think it's very widely known you can sell your kit and make lots of money from it."
The programme reveals that the ease of buying uniform has had devastating consequences on people. Max, a pensioner in Brighton, said he was deceived into losing £23,000 in life savings.
Max says: "They showed me their badges and I really believed they were police officers... after it happened, if anyone knocked on the door I wouldn't answer it. I was as nervous as a kitten. I felt suicidal and that's the truth."
Both Kent and Sussex Police stated that the uniform remains the property of the police when an officer leaves the service and any breach of this is taken very seriously. Assistant Chief Constable, Allyn Thomas says: "The equipment does not belong to the officers so it is not theirs to sell. They should know better. And certainly, in light of some of the examples you have given us, we'll certainly review our policy."
Inside Out South East can be seen on BBC One in the South East region of England at 7.30pm on Monday October 18.
The programme is also available across the whole country on BBC iPlayer for seven days following the original broadcast.
Please note that any use of this material should be credited to BBC Inside Out South East.
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