Notifiable Associations, The Code of Ethics and Police Regulations

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Dorset Police

I am in possession of an official police document which states:

The Code of Ethics and Police Regulations
16. The code of ethics relates to officers being associated to groups or activities.
17. 6.3 of the codes states “Memberships of groups or societies, or associations
with groups or individuals, must not create an actual or apparent conflict of
interest with police work and responsibilities”.
18. 6.4 states “The test is whether a reasonably informed member of the public
might reasonably believe that your membership or association could
adversely affect your ability to discharge your policing duties effectively and
impartially”.
19. The College of Policing Integrity and Ethics Team have stated that the topic
has never come up before and that 6.4 above should be considered. They
have not provided any additional guidance.
20. Police regulations do not offer any guidance in relation to this matter. The
Anti-Corruption Unit has considered whether officers should tell the
organisation that they hunt in relation to notifiable associations within Police
Regulations. They have said that it would be inappropriate to proactively ask
members of staff about their associations with hunts on the basis that it’s a
lawful activity.
21. As a comparator, membership of the Freemasons has long been a
contentious issue, there is not currently however legal basis upon which to
require police officers or staff to declare Freemasonry membership. This is
the case for Hunting both locally and nationally.

To paraphrase from the above - as a reasonably informed member of the public, I reasonably (based upon direct personal experience over considerable time) believe that serving officers with membership of or association with foxhunts or foxhunting voluntarily place themselves in situations where such membership or association adversely affects their ability to discharge their policing duties effectively and impartially.

Most particularly and obviously so when such officers are attached to rural crime teams; I am given to understand that rural crime work is taken on voluntarily and in addition to an officer’s core duties.

Laudable though this is, it raises the ethical question of an officer or officers with hunt membership or association being tasked to investigate allegations of lawbreaking by a hunt and hunt members with whom the officer(s) has or have contact outside of official police duties. I regard this in its mildest form as a demonstrable conflict of interest and at worst as raising reasonable doubts as to that officer(s) impartiality; a matter which could be open to misinterpretation by hunt members and supporters as well as those opposed to hunting in any form, legal or otherwise.

1. Please advise what steps have been taken within your force to ensure that a Code of Ethics exists which makes provision for conflicts of interest in matters where allegations of illegal hunting or cub hunting have been made.

2. Please advise if officers seeking to work on rural crime teams should be requested to voluntarily declare any membership of or association with hunts, regardless of hunting within the parameters of the Hunting Act 2004 being legal; such declarations being seen as goodwill and in the spirit of keeping your force from disrepute in the public mind.

S Rhosier

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