The transcripts of the official inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press. More…

Okay. I've heard a couple of my colleagues talk today about their concerns about a reaction en masse from police officers both as individuals and corporately to be more reluctant to engage as a result of certain things that are going on, and experience tells me -- I have seen many revolutions and evolutions in the relationships between the police, both as a corporate entity and on an individual basis, in my career. That's why I say this is not actually a new issue. It's cyclical. It's gone around before and different commissioners, different chief constables in the counties, as well, have tended to take different approaches to it.

I agree that in the 21st century, given all the things that, you know, some astonishing things that have come to light apparently recently and so forth, that it can't go unmonitored, but I think that has to be done in a careful way and a considered way, so as not to stifle completely that very necessary, I think, open ability to engage between the police both, as I said, as a corporate identity and both -- and with those officers within it.

If I could explain, I think it's an endlessly fascinating topic, but in broad terms the police tends to run, and always has done, and probably always will do, on a blame culture, and that's to say that at times like this, the police will invoke a policy of "If there's any doubt attached to this, I won't do it". They'll take the easier option. They will say, "At the moment we're under fire, we're under criticism, so what are we going to do? Well, the safest path is simply to close down as much engagement as possible."

But I think after a while what tends to happen is things then -- matters occur that cause sensible people to think, "Hang on, this isn't working either. We've got to get back to some kind of normality." It's just a question -- and if I was still very active as a crime correspondent, I'm sure I would be having these conversations at the police college, at Scotland Yard, and say to people, "How are we going to redress the balance so that it's more transparent, but without squeezing off that very necessary need to engage at a number of different levels on a huge range on topics?" It's a difficult problem.

I am not sure that requiring all police officers all the time to note and report any meeting with a member of the media is necessarily the answer. I think that I would like to see a situation where we had a more common sense approach based on ethicality, on good judgment, on integrity, where if things have gone a little bit astray in the past, they need to be brought back into line, but it doesn't need to be -- I don't think it needs a draconian approach.

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