When Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Condon made his
rallying call to stamp out corruption in the force recently, one man had
more cause than others to wonder what kind of PR Pandora’s box Condon
Dick Fedorcio, newly-appointed director of public affairs and internal
communication at the Met, steps into the PR top slot at a pivotal time
for the force.
On the one hand, it can boast of falling crime figures, and can bask in
the glory of its adroit handling of the crowds at the funeral of Diana,
Princess of Wales. On the other hand, the Met appears uneasy with itself
- facing allegations of corruption in its ranks and low morale among
bobbies on the beat.
As a result, the image it projects is sometimes muddled, or
’Like any organisation the Met’s reputation or image is, to a certain
extent, determined by how people interact with it,’ says Fedorcio. ’The
annual research we do shows that confidence in the police remains at
very high levels. I have no reason to believe that confidence will
The Met has undeniably made great strides with its community relations,
adopting a far more sensitive and responsive approach than was the case
in the early 1980s.
Issues of concern are brought to the attention of senior officers
through a network of 41 Police and Community Consultative Groups across
’They are doing the right things,’ says Neville Wade, an independent PR
consultant to the Crimestoppers Trust for the past five years. ’They are
talking to community groups and generating dialogue. They’ve still got
to do more to get police officers to be more open with the
But they’ve set procedures in place to make that happen and have much
more of an open door policy now.’
But, given London’s large population of ethnic minorities and the
controversial use of stop and search tactics, the Met continues to be
viewed with hostility by some sections of the community. ’I should think
if you’re a young and black in London you’d have a different view of the
Met to someone who was white and middle class,’ says Daily Telegraph
crime correspondent John Steele.
The Met is, however, making some progress in cleaning up its own act,
and by extension improving its image among Londoners.
’I think the Met takes complaints very seriously indeed,’ says Police
Complaints Authority press officer Richard Offer. ’Of fully investigated
cases in the Met, one in three leads to some form of disciplinary
action, whereas the average in the rest of the country is one in
But although this could illustrate how keenly the Met is cracking down
on any hint of wrong-doing, it could also show that there is simply more
occurrence of it in London than in the rest of the country.
Condon has launched what amounts to a crusade against corruption.
Although it is at nowhere near the levels that plagued the force in the
late 1960s and early 1970s - in the five years after Sir Robert Mark
became commissioner in 1972 and launched a clean-up, 478 officers left
following or in anticipation of disciplinary proceedings - Condon
believes it remains a serious problem and would like greater powers to
deal with corrupt officers.
’We do need something to be done about the corruption that’s as upfront
as the condemnation of it has been,’ says Metropolitan Police Federation
chairman Mike Bennett. ’All we seem to be doing is publicising that we
have a problem, rather than showing how we’re solving it.’
The Federation is the staff association representing the Met’s 27,000
officers. But Bennett is scathing of the Met’s 70-strong PR department,
accusing it of being a ’lapdog’.
Furthermore, Bennett believes that the external image the Met has been
trying to project does not square with the reality of the internal
Valid and serious concerns have been overlooked in communications with
staff, he claims. He cites an internally circulated report which
questioned the investigative abilities of detective constables, and the
question of tenure - a scheme introduced in July under which officers
are to move jobs on a regular basis as examples. Many officers have
found this unsettling.
’You can’t have all these problems internally and preach to the world
that we’re winning the war,’ argues Bennett. While he would not wish the
communications department to put out stories highlighting discord in the
ranks, he does believe the Met has to tackle some of its problems more
Gary Mason, editor of the independent publication Police Review,
criticises the Met for putting an end to its monthly briefings of crime
correspondents and also believes the force has been lacklustre when
confronted with awkward news, becoming ’very, very defensive of anything
that might be construed as negative’.
The Met’s communications team has its work cut out. As Fedorcio says,
the Met is ’never out of the news’, and much of its time is spent
reacting to events. His response to criticism is to state simply: ’look
at the future.’
But as with the best detectives, Fedorcio will have to make time to put
his problem-solving skills to the test. Bad news and bad feeling in the
ranks should be glossed over no longer.