Hillsborough is a monument to the ruthlessness with which the Establishment – government, police and media – will readily use a black propaganda campaign to inveigle others into taking blame to deflect from their own mistakes which have led to disaster. The police and the emergency services, sspecifically those carrying responsibility to ensure crowd safety, were the very ones to lie and twist the evidence to hide their own neglect and incompetence by throwing the blame on to supposedly drunken and disorderly working class football fans. These falsifications were then repeated by various public figures (including Boris Johnson) and most culpably of all by the Sun in is infamous front page. If this were an isolated episode, it would still merit full and proper retribution. But it is actually only the last, though certainly the most serious, of a long list of previous police cover-ups. And it is now the principles, integrity and quality of the police service which needs to be put under the microscope.
The police reaction to the shooting of the electrician Jean-Charles Menezes was the fabrication of a whole series of lies designed to show there were reasons to regard him as a terrorist. Similar inventions were used to excuse the killing of Ian Tomlinson at the G20 protests. Similar stories again were put about by the police to distract frm their killing of Mark Duggan which triggered the Hackney and then the national riots. Previously there had been the framing of the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four. Then there was for years the deliberate ignoring by the police of the abundant evidence of phone-hacking because of a dishonest and collusive relationship with News International. And since I first exposed the devastating evidence of deaths in police custody in the 1980s, there has been a continuous stream of suspicious deaths which have been covered up, with hardly any police officers prosecuted and none convicted.
The regulation of the police has always been weak, and the election of police commissioners is unlikely to improve that much. Previous prime ministers like Thatcher and Blair actually undermined police accountability by treating the police as allies in their own political projects, Thatcher to suppress the trade unions and Blair to show that New Labour was more pro-police than the Tories. The Independent Police Complaints Commission has been merely reactive and generally feeble, most recently over the Tomlinson killing. The appointment of someone from outside the police service (Tom Winsor) ac chief inspector of constabulary is hoever a move in the right direction. But much more is needed. There should now be a Commission into the Standards and Management of Policing to focus on the in-built conservative, process-dominated and defensive culture of the police service which leads to their treating all criticism as a threat to their authority.