Saturday, 18 May 2013



Making public interest disclosures is an area that the IPSG deals with regularly. The IPSG has accumulated considerable experience over several years.

"Shooting the messenger" has been developed to help you understand what may be happening to you if you are in this situation. The process can be typical of larger organisations however; clients who are a member of a police service can be at a greater disadvantage due to the additional powers and resources available to the employer.

We can help you and urge you to make contact at the earliest opportunity should you be experiencing any of the following behaviour.

Shooting the Messenger

While one should try to be positive about the subject of accountability and the various policies, procedures and agencies that exist to encourage the reporting of wrongdoing, in reality your disclosures will not be welcomed.

This assertion is corroborated by the lack of support from forces and the IPCC when the chips are down.

It is important for a police officer or member of police staff to be aware of what they might expect in the worst scenario.

If you are thinking of whistle-blowing we would ask you to contact us so that we can ensure any such disclosures are covered by the Public interest Disclosure Act.

Police officers and staff are at a distinct disadvantage as they are unable to make a ‘complaint' against a colleague in the police service and do not have the same rights as a member of the public who can appeal to the IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission).

It is a worthwhile exercise when thinking about reforms to ask why police forces respond in the specific non-accountable ways that they sometimes do.
 One could roughly arrange these by the degree of defensiveness to which a force/employer feels driven.

Hot air

The force will appear at first to share your concern. Many fine words will be generated, insubstantial memoranda may fly about, a meeting may be convened, and promises will be made. No action will be taken, except perhaps the most trivial. At a later date any conversation not recorded on paper may be strenuously denied.

Send to Coventry

A change of mood comes over certain managers and colleagues. Initially this is quite subtle. Greetings, smiles and friendly banter are less frequent. At first you brush it off. Then it becomes more pronounced. Eyebrows are raised, you are avoided and left out of events and decisions, sarcastic
comments are made. If you mention it you may find that your mental health is questioned.

Close ranks

It is clear that what you said to one colleague or manager has been passed on, and possibly distorted, to his or her peers. When you approach a manager further up the line it is clear that they have been forewarned. Your concern has somehow created an anti-you group. You are identified as a
'trouble-maker' by most people with any authority, and any attempt to raise your concern is now pre-empted and prejudged. Some of your colleagues feel that your complaint demeans them by implication.


When you raise your concerns formally you find that your letters are unanswered, the manager is never available, promises to 'get back to you' are broken, you are passed on to someone who eventually sends you a letter thanking you for raising the concerns and the matter has been investigated. You may be told directly not to send any more reports or letters.

Biomedical diagnosis

It is suggested that you have been under a 'lot of stress lately' and that you ought to visit the occupational health department, seek counselling or visit your GP. You are asked if you are 'coping'. It emerges, unknown to you, that you have been informally diagnosed as anxious, depressed, paranoid, having a personality disorder, or as being 'neurotic'.


A colleague is passing on information about you (and has, perhaps, been asked to do so). You are the object of close observation, fault-finding, and perhaps your e-mail and telephone conversations are being monitored. Some of your work goes wrong or astray and you wonder about sabotage. If you mention this it is taken as further evidence that you are unable to cope or 'paranoid'.

Grind down

Work becomes more difficult. Your workload increases, you get the unpopular cases or incidents. Your attempts at promotion are made difficult and your appraisals are unfairly written and do not accurately reflect you performance. You may be transferred to another station or department and your request for leave and time off are refused without valid reasons

Sticks and carrots

An intermediary, usually a non-independent person is chosen to act as a facilitator and will call you aside for 'a chat' and you may feel that at last youare getting somewhere. Your career prospects may be discussed, the suggestion being that you drop your complaints. Alternatively, or if you refuse to accept the carrot, veiled threats will be made such as 'Are you sure you wouldn't be happier working elsewhere?' These become overt threats such as 'You are jeopardizing your future' and 'you won't be working here much longer'. If you raised concerns about colleagues, you may find that you become a victim of harassment.

Character assassination

Aspersions will be cast on your character, your personal conduct, your personal past, your political views, your class or ethnic origin, or your sexual orientation. These may progress to accusations of your own misconduct including criminal, theft of documents, lying, disloyalty, breach of confidentiality, and the like.

First strike

Official counter-complaints may be formulated against you in a disciplinary hearing before your own concerns are addressed or instead of addressing them. You may be made a scapegoat. Disciplinary or grievance procedures may be used and abused as a pre-emptive or retaliatory measure. The force
will attempt to get their revenge in first.

Second strike

If you manage to get through the first strike, your force may abuse their powers and decide to maliciously investigate you on suspicion of a criminal offence, your home may be searched and you will be interviewed in a custody suite to cause you the maximum amount of distress.

You may be charged and relevant evidence is witheld from the crown prosecution service.
You may be wrongly convicted and spend many years trying to clear your name and obtain evidence which has been destroyed.


If you remain in the force; your presence is no longer tolerable. You may be wrongly suspended and then dismissed or there may be a reorganisation in which your post is made redundant.

Forces are also able to  use A19 of police Pension Regulations to legitimately remove officers who have completed 30 years service.

Cosmetic reshuffle

If your concerns were of a serious nature, especially if an inquiry took place, then there will be some changes at your workplace of a cosmetic nature. Some posts may be reshuffled, but it is unlikely that policies will be revised or that managerial heads will roll. Certainly no acknowledgement will be made that there is any connection between your raising a concern and the changes which followed.

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