South Yorkshire Police, the force still dogged by the legacy of Hillsborough tragedy and the Battle of Orgreave, is to set up an independent ethics panel to improve the trust and confidence it has from the public.
Police commissioner Shaun Wright says the panel, thought to be the first of its kind in the country, will “open up to scrutiny, and public debate, the transparency of decision-making and standards of ethical behaviour within South Yorkshire Police”.
It is seen as an effort to make the force more transparent in the face of intense scrutiny caused by local and national policing controversies, some of which date back to the 1980s.
The panel will be made up of “five outstanding individuals from South Yorkshire who can bring together their collective experience and knowledge, from one or more of a variety of professional backgrounds”. It has not been revealed whether individual officers’ decisions will be looked into, but a chairman of the panel has been chosen.
In a document for prospective members, the panel is described as “an essential element of good governance providing independent and effective challenge and assurance around the integrity, standards and ethics of decision-making”.
Neil Bowles of the local Police Federation said: “I wouldn’t be surprised if other forces start looking at it. Our chief is keen to make South Yorkshire Police looks as clean as snow because of the legacy issues we have got.
“I wouldn’t be in favour of them looking at case reviews of individual officers’ decision-making but if they look into organisational issues I have no problem with it.”
South Yorkshire Police has come under close scrutiny in recent months, with the new inquest into the deaths of 96 Liverpool football fans during the Hillsborough disaster expected to last until well into next year.
A decision is expected soon on whether the Independent Police Complaints Commission will launch a full investigation into the events of the 1984 Battle of Orgreave, where officers clashed with striking miners.