BEFORE Line Of Duty first aired in 2012 the murky world of corrupt cops must have seemed like risky territory for ratings-obsessed BBC executives.
The drama’s impact has been undeniable — but the real police remain as reluctant as ever to discuss the true extent of bent coppers.
A Freedom of Information request revealed in 2019 there had been 189 convictions of police over the previous five years.
Police in Northern Ireland recorded the most offences, followed by Greater Manchester. But many forces do not publish data for misconduct.
One recently retired officer said: “Until all our police forces come out and provide figures the public will believe we are happier hiding the reality of police corruption than dealing with it.
“No wonder shows like Line Of Duty are so popular. We should be using its success to encourage more openness.
“But instead, many forces are battening down the hatches, trying to push the subject off the public agenda.”
As fans hang on for season six of the hit drama — and catch up with re-runs — here are some cases of police corruption where real life was stranger than fiction.
IN Line Of Duty, “H” is the codename for a senior officer, or possibly a group of officers, who control bent coppers on behalf of an organised crime gang.
Real-life corruption has reached the upper ranks of the police also.
Met Commander Ali Dizaei was jailed in 2012 for perverting the course of justice, using his position to frame a man.
He became the most senior copper in 30 years to be given a prison sentence.
That represented a spectacular fall from grace for a man who had been in charge of 5,000 officers across West London.
A few years ago, I tracked him down and persuaded Dizaei to meet me. He insisted HE had been framed by corrupt, racist officers afraid he would spill the beans.
It was hard to work out whether this was a smokescreen or if he really had been caught up in something so toxic it had cost him his career.
CAREER-crook Hunter, played by Brian McCardie, spread murder and mayhem through Line Of Duty’s anti-corruption unit AC-12.
But his crimes pale beside those of real-life bank robber and cocaine baron Mickey Green, who had close links with corrupt police here and in Western Europe in the Eighties and Nineties.
The West Londoner employed a stable of bent coppers to stay one step ahead of the law. It is alleged he got corrupt detectives to frame his criminal rivals too.
Green is believed to have bribed his way out of a drug-smuggling charge in Spain.
He already had links to Italian Mafia and Colombian drug cartels, pulling off huge cocaine deals with the world’s most dangerous drug baron, Pablo Escobar.
One ex-detective believes Green had enough evidence of corruption to bring down many senior officers in the South East, making him untouchable.
IN series three, DC Arnott (Martin Compston) is accused of being the gangland informant and corrupt cop known as “The Caddy”.
Arnott also finds himself framed for the murder of Lindsay Denton.
In real life, officers working to expose corruption risk facing trumped-up charges because they are considered “rats” by colleagues. . . sometimes even including law-abiding officers.
They know these allegations come with the territory.
One of my sources told me that, in the summer of 2019, an anti-corruption officer on one force was accused of sexually abusing his niece.
It later emerged she had been pressured by criminals to make the complaint.
The case was dropped when the niece withdrew her statement to police.
That came after her father was recorded referring to the accusations as false. The father later admitted he had convinced her the abuse had taken place.
“That man (the father) should have been prosecuted, at the very least, for wasting police time,” the same detective believed.
“But the officer in question begged his superiors to drop everything – all for the sake of his family.”
The officer never recovered from the ordeal and was eventually moved from the anti-corruption unit to a desk job.
The same detective added: “He split up with his wife and his kids can’t get what he was accused of out of their heads. Poor b*****d.”
ZEALOUS Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) heads up Line Of Duty’s AC-12 unit.
I have encountered a handful of Hastings types over the years but one stands out.
I first met “Biffo” in the mid-Seventies, when he was chief of detectives at a suburban police station and I was training as a journalist.
Biffo wore his heart on his sleeve, was softly spoken, respectful to women and prepared to talk over a pint with the “enemy”, as journalists were considered by police at the time.
There is no way Biffo was on the take. Like Hastings, he earned incredible loyalty from his detectives as he was ready to put himself on the line for them.
Biffo later headed an anti-corruption unit in a notorious period in police history.
“No one else wanted the f***ing job,” he told me.
“But I saw it as a challenge and I knew the bosses would keep well away from me. Most of them hated my guts and wanted me to screw it up.”
Like Hastings, Biffo was brilliant at getting inside the heads of his colleagues.
“I know instinctively when something’s wrong,” he said. “I don’t get angry with people who lie to me. I keep it gentle, low-key.
“Then they usually tell me the truth. You can’t run an anti-corruption unit on fear. You need to pull together if you’re to smoke out the bad apples.
“I can see a lot of me in Hastings. But he needs to watch his back. He’ll be sacrificed if his superiors get twitchy.”
A FORMER policeman I have known for more than 25 years, nicknamed “The Grinder”, makes Line Of Duty’s corrupt John Corbett – played with such force by Stephen Graham – appear relatively harmless.
Grinder has always claimed he is NOT corrupt and that he was only labelled as such by scheming colleagues.
That came after he infiltrated a gang of renegade crooked officers in a bid to help his superiors bring them to justice.
Instead, those officers claimed HE was the corrupt one.
Most of that group took early retirement before any charges were brought, so it is impossible to know for sure who was telling the truth.
When I visited Grinder at his villa last year, I could immediately see that he had earned a lot more money over the course of his career than most ordinary police officers could claim to.
Behind the wrought-iron gates was a substantial property with a long driveway, swimming pool and tennis court.
I wasn’t a bent copper like they all tried to make out
There were CCTV cameras dotted around, while two rottweiler guard dogs bounded out of the back door.
Grinder, now in his seventies, said: “I don’t deny I had to pull a few stunts back then.
“But I wasn’t a bent copper like they all tried to make out.
“The ‘rules’ of the game were very different back then.
“You had to do certain things in order to put the bad guys away.”
A GANG similar to Line Of Duty’s Organised Crime Group was led by Liverpool hood Curtis “Cocky” Warren.
After being acquitted of drugs charges in 1993, Warren crowed at customs officials: “I’m off to spend my £87million from the first shipment and you can’t f***ing touch me!”
Having police on the payroll was crucial to his criminal empire.
Among them was Elmore Davies, a senior copper with Merseyside Police who was jailed for trying to get one of Cocky’s acquaintances off a firearms charge.
Cocky also used corrupt officers to help him land huge shipments of cocaine from Colombia.
A former Liverpool detective said: “Cocky made sure a lot of his bent coppers joined him on actual dealings with the Colombians.
“That meant they couldn’t wriggle out of involvement.
“They were completely incriminated, just the way Cocky wanted.”
Warren was jailed in 2009 and is still behind bars.
Some in the Liverpool underworld fear his eventual release will spark a gang war with corrupt police at its heart.
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