Police officers with previous criminal convictions should not be automatically rejected from the force if they are excellent at their job, according to the Police Federation.
The body, which represents all rank-and-file officers, has reacted angrily to a Freedom of Information request by the Liberal Democrats, which revealed 1,063 serving police officers have criminal convictions.
The majority of offences were minor, but the data also showed 77 officers with convictions for violent offences have kept their jobs. A further 59 have convictions for assault 14 for violence against the person two for battery and one for wounding.
However, Paul McKeever, chairman of the Police Federation, warned firing officers that had already been punished for a minor offence would not restore public confidence.
“Not only do these figures serve to undermine confidence in policing by failing to appreciate the nature of these convictions, but they effectively ignore the thousands of successes achieved by the police each day,” he said.
“Are the Liberal Democrats effectively suggesting that a person caught and already punished for a minor offence should then be rejected from the police, even if they possess excellent credentials? Surely it should be that individual cases are dealt with at the discretion of chief officers, not by this type of ill-conceived policy chomping?” he added.
The Liberal Democrat figures, out today, also found 96 serving police officers have convictions for offences of dishonesty: 36 for theft five for perverting the course of justice three for fraud and one each for dishonesty and forgery.
Yet in the past five years, just 37 have been dismissed from the force for dishonesty, while 210 have been dismissed or required to resign as a result of other criminal convictions
Liberal Democrat shadow home secretary Chris Huhne said it was “worrying” that police officers convicted of serious crimes involving dishonesty or violence have been allowed to keep their jobs.
He added: “Hiring and firing must ultimately be the decision of the chief officer, but it would be sensible for the Home Office to issue some guidance.”