Why I’m introducing a 10 minute rule bill to require police officers to declare memberships of certain societies and organisations.
Policing culture within the UK has, rightly, been under heavy scrutiny in recent years. High profile allegations of misogyny, racism and homophobia have stuck in the public conscience, alongside claims of corruption and collusion.
In response, the Government, along with the major policing bodies, have committed to reforming our police service so that the publics faith in fair and accountable policing can be reestablished.
But if we are serious about reforming police culture, and I think we should be, then we must leave no stone unturned.
That is why on Wednesday 31st January I introduced my first 10 Minute Rule Bill into Parliament.
For the uninitiated, A 10-Minute Rule Bill is a parliamentary procedure that allows MPs to introduce a proposal for new legislation, giving them ten minutes to speak in favour of it, after which other MPs may raise objections or express support. While the procedure doesn't guarantee the bill will become law, it gives MPs an opportunity to draw attention to issues they wish to promote or maybe feel are overlooked in the day-to-day legislative agendas of the major political parties.
Simply put, my bill would require police officers and certain police force employees to declare their memberships or affiliations with certain societies or organizations.
My concerns are that secret societies, sometimes portrayed humorously in popular culture like The Simpsons, often exist beyond the realm of parody and in many instances have wielded undue and unscrutinised influence in areas of public life. While we tacitly accept these networks exist, the foundations of our nations policing model are built on the understanding of public trust and consent. Without transparency, how can we be confident that our public servants are acting fairly or honestly?
Closed groups, whether traditional Old Boys Clubs or modern-day WhatsApp groups, have existed within the police, and my proposed Bill will go further in addressing the need for transparency in the relationships between our public servants and these closed organisations.
Let me be clear that it is not my intention is not to impede any individuals' right to join clubs or societies or discourage members from entering certain professionals but to provide a mechanism for public scrutiny.
As someone who has spent two decades as a teacher and now as an MP, I have seen what can go wrong when organisations shun scrutiny and think they can get by marking their own homework. All organisations have a responsibility to change their culture for the better, by being honest and transparent about matters relating to governance and day-to-day operations.
Embracing transparency and accountability within policing will create a better, safer environment, not just for members of the public, but also our police officers who will be empowered by a trusting and confident public to serve our communities better.
This issue is a policing one, not a party political one and I thank my colleagues who have sponsored this bill, who come from 3 different parties.
If passed into law, I am hopeful that my bill, which gets its next reading on Friday 1st March, will serve as one of those many stones in desperate need of turning.