Here our Editor Phil Parry looks at some extraordinary events involving the police, now and in the past.
Earlier he has described how he was helped to break into the South Wales Echo office car when he was a cub reporter, recalled his early career as a journalist, the importance of experience in the job, and making clear that the ‘calls’ to emergency services as well as court cases are central to any media operation.
He has also explored how poorly paid most journalism is when trainee reporters had to live in squalid flats, the vital role of expenses, and about one of his most important stories on the now-scrapped 53 year-old BBC Wales TV Current Affairs series, Week In Week Out (WIWO), which won an award even after it was axed, long after his career really took off.
Phil has explained too how crucial it is actually to speak to people, the virtue of speed as well as accuracy, why knowledge of ‘history’ is vital, how certain material was removed from TV Current Affairs programmes when secret cameras had to be used, and some of those he has interviewed.
He has disclosed as well why investigative journalism is needed now more than ever although others have different opinions, and how the current coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown is playing havoc with media schedules.
It is rare for a police officer to be sacked for dishonesty.
In my long experience in dealing with the police, misdemeanours are hushed up, and the officer in question is quietly moved to a desk job before being allowed to retire on a fat pension.
Yet that hasn’t happened with PC Sally Thomas of South Wales Police (SWP).
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) heard that PC Thomas was dishonest as well as unprofessional, and today the office said that she has been “dismissed without notice”.
This was after the hearing into her case had been told of her “Discreditable Conduct”.
Apparently the case followed an “incident” in Maesteg after a woman complained about her arrest and detention.
“Force” was used during the woman’s arrest, and for some strange reason PC Thomas didn’t tell the custody sergeant about a head injury.
Yet video evidence from recorders worn on the body, along with other evidence, undid her.
If ever there was an argument for universal use of camera recorders worn on the bodies of EVERY police officer, then this case is it.
In another incident elsewhere, a Metropolitan Police officer was suspended after a video appeared to show him briefly applying pressure with his knee to a suspect’s neck area during an arrest in London.
The suspect, who is handcuffed and on the ground, shouts “get off my neck”. The met said the video was “extremely disturbing”, and that they had suspended one officer and removed another from operational duty.
This case, too, has been referred to the IOPC, to decide if they want to investigate.
I applaud this official ‘get-tough’ approach, it does however beg the question of how many other incidents never see the light of day.
Perhaps PC Thomas’ main crime, or the alleged one of the Met officers, was not doing what was done but getting CAUGHT!
In all my dealings over many years as a journalist, with the police, it has often struck me they aren’t, actually, terribly bright!
Unless investigating officers had CCTV or a confession they were often stumped when it came to solving a high-profile crime.
On one occasion for the BBC Wales TV Current Affairs programme I presented Week In, Week Out (WIWO), a crucial piece of prosecution evidence in a miscarriage of justice case was a so-called ‘confession’ secured by a senior police officer.
WIWO has unfortunately been closed down after 53 years, but in the past we had countless dealings with the police (in a professional capacity of course!).
This officer had supposedly crouched down between the cells of two suspects in a murder case and ‘heard’ them effectively admitting to the crime.
Except the ‘confession’ he scribbled down was in such excruciating police-speak it was easy for us to discredit.
It wasn’t quite ‘proceeding in a northerly direction…’ but you get the idea!
The officer was presented with a large plastic ear by colleagues at his leaving do.
On a BBC TV Panorama I fronted, the leading investigative officer was meant to be unassuming in the community, yet he drove around in a fast car with personalised number plates.
On the same Panorama programme a serving police officer we fingered in a murder case locked and bolted the door after us when we went to see him, using a large series of bolts running all the way down the inside of his front door.
How that was meant to protect him from being exposed in a TV programme or accusations in the town of murder, God only knows!
On another Panorama about ASBOs (when they existed) I was filming with the police in Manchester, but it became clear they had a problem when it came to identifying individuals.
On a wall inside the police station where we were based, was a large poster with the pictures of suspects they were trying to track down, and above it a headline screamed: ‘WHERE ARE THEY?’
I said to the senior police officer with us, pointing at the poster: “I know where she is. She lives over there and we’ve just been to talk to her!”
Talking was often a problem for the police officers I saw, and they regularly got their words mixed up.
Once when I was a cub reporter on the South Wales Echo in 1985, one officer became confused between ‘innuendo’ and ‘insinuation’ after a colleague asked him a particularly leading question at the scene of a crime.
“Now don’t you be giving me any of your ‘insinuendos’”, he answered rather magnificently.
But there is no ‘insinuendo’ about what has happened to PC Thomas.
She’s been sacked because she was dishonest…
Phil’s memories of his extraordinary 36-year award-winning career in journalism (including his dealings with the police) as he was gripped by the rare disabling condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order the book now! The picture doubles as a cut-and-paste poster!