Walls of Silence

I left the Metropolitan Police less than half way through the career I had hoped to have. I left because I couldn’t set foot inside a Police Station without feeling sick, faint and unable to function.  I left because I felt I was a lone voice with no supporters, even though I had made my stand on behalf of some of those others.  I left because I was unable to fight the wall of silence and still function as a Police Officer.  My career ended prematurely and my confidence was hit so massively that my whole life changed. 

I stood up for what I believed to be right.  A more senior officer disagreed with me and so began a battle of wits which ended in him winning.  I went on to win the war but it was an empty victory.  My career had gone and with it my sense of identity. The details of that sorry story are private and I have never spoken of them publicly.  The senior officer who directed a huge campaign against me, died from illness a year later and it is difficult for me to speak of him with respect, so I try not to speak of him at all.  The cowards who fell into line and did his bidding?  Well, I’d love to talk about them, but what’s the point? It was years ago and everyone has moved on.  Most of them will have left the Met by now, the main players’ careers having benefitted from the cushy postings they all got after the Tribunal.

Essentially my fight was for the public I dealt with, to give them a better chance of real change in their lives.  However, my solutions meant that my CID department would lose out on the figures, most particularly clear-ups, which made them look good on paper in those meetings everyone is now trying to stop.  That the public would get a better service didn’t matter.  That my life was irrevocably changed didn’t matter. That I was scared I would lose my house because I couldn’t afford to pay for it anymore and that I had a one year old child, mattered not.  The only thing that mattered was the figures and the senior officer in question advancing his career on the back of them.

If you were to read the papers for the Tribunal that happened two years later, you wouldn’t know that was the issue at all. The Met churned out allegation after allegation about me.  As an officer, as a person, as a mother, as a wife. They sought to sully my character and obfuscate the real issues. They managed to do the latter, if not the former.  At my Tribunal I was cross examined for two and a half days by the Met’s barrister, who accused me of lying, of starting work late, finishing early, failing to complete work.  She produced information about calls that I had made from the Police Station and she ‘found’, on the morning of questioning, files that had been missing and therefore unavailable for me to use in my defence.

I sat in that Tribunal with only my husband and my barrister.  The rest of the room was filled every day by my ex-colleagues and ex-friends.  Every one of them gave evidence against me. Every one of them sweated as they did so. I know this because I was seated within touching distance of them as they spoke. They looked as sullen and under pressure as I did. They had been through their own awful challenges.  The wall of silence was imposed upon them all. The weight of expectation, to fit in, was extreme for them.  No one wanted to go the way I had. Yes, together they could have stood tall and strong but they had already been divided.  That’s the way it works.  Who can trust whom? No one really knows.  So they each found themselves walking a very fine line between their values and the expectation of the men above them.  The men with the power, who had already decided what people needed to say in evidence, who had already made their minds up about me and who didn’t care for those they used as pawns any more than they cared for me.

 

I had my medical records picked over in public in that room. I had been sent to see psychiatrists from both sides – the Police side to try to prove I was unfit, my side to counter any evidence gained by the Police side.  I was repeatedly asked if I felt like killing myself – I was a brand new mum and my future had fallen to pieces because I stood up for what I believed was right.  I didn’t feel like skipping through a field of spring flowers. It was a horrendous experience and I will never forget it but ultimately I am glad I went through it.  Why? Because I told the truth.  Repeatedly.  I was cross examined for a ridiculous length of time.  It didn’t matter.  I couldn’t be tripped up because I just kept telling the truth. It’s what I promised when I took my oath and the fact that by then I had been stripped of my office and my warrant card didn’t mean that I had stopped living by that principle. Not a single colleague spoke to me when we shuffled in and out of that room, or along the corridor. We took up residency at opposite ends of the waiting room and avoided looking at anyone for fear of an honest moment.  Such was the pressure that the men in power had exerted on all of us. 

So, when I see others (still) being treated in a similar way, I find it difficult to countenance.  When I see that wall of silence come down, when I know how that individual will be feeling, when I know most of the people behind the wall don’t actually want to be there, when I see the whole process starting yet again, I despair.

The imposition of PCCs was supposed to usher in a new era of transparency, to sweep away the years of secrecy. But recent events have indicated that, despite this change in governance, nothing has really changed.

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2 Responses to Walls of Silence

  1. Drinky says:

    When someone never makes mistakes, there are never any lessons to learn and never any reason to change their behaviour. Your story sounds all too plausible, and is no doubt still a practice that carries on today. Sounds like a micro example of a much larger problem.

    Sorry you went through something eye-opening like this Cate. If the Met can treat one of their own like this, it makes one wonder what lengths will be gone to to achieve a result against someone for whom there is no love (someone with the nickname thrasher comes to mind).

    Incidents like this are two-a-penny in other jobs – one of those things that, if they don’t kill you, should make you stronger.

  2. Dave Hasney says:

    Reblogged this on Dave's Bankside Babble and commented:
    No comment required…just read, think and ask yourself if, as a police officer, you ever fitted anywhere into similar sorry tales?

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