If the passive tense were a senior police officer, the overtime bill would be massive as it is deployed so often that it would have many hours of overtime every week.
Today, the assistant chief constable of Manchester Dawn Copley was using it extensively as she explained the police report on Rochadale. And her words had an uncanny echo of those used by North Yorkshire assistant chief constable Paul Kennedy to explain the failure to investigate Jimmy Savile.
Copley unveiled the passive tense in all its evasiveness right at the start when she said that “we openly acknowledge that mistakes were made and victims were let down.” Using the passive tense enables her to avoid saying which individuals made mistakes and who let down the victims.
Later on in her statement, she says: “This report, and the previous SCR, identified that at the time in 2008-10 there was a strong target driven focus, predominantly on serious acquisitive crime. At best this was distracting for leaders and influenced the areas that resources were focussed on.”
The use of the passive tense and structuring sentences without subjects enables her to evade stating who imposed the target driven focus. The following sentences blames consequences on the policy without saying who is responsible for that policy.
Then we move on to apologies. She said that “we apologise to the victims.” In a similar vein, Kennedy said that “North Yorkshire Police apologises to the victims who made the brave decision to come forward during the past 18 months.”
In neither case is it possible to work out what they are apologising for or on behalf of which individuals they are apologising.
Then we can look at paragraphs from the two statement which are almost uncannily similar.
After her apology Copley continues “…. and we give them our assurance that lessons have been learned, changes have been made and we are determined to use this to continue making improvements.”
Look how Kennedy’s statement is so similar in structure. He says that the investigation “concluded that there was no evidence of misconduct but there was evidence of organisational failure, with a number of lessons to be learned which have now been rectified for the future.
And of course no-one in either case has been found guilty of misconduct. Kennedy said that “there was no evidence of it” and Copley said that one officer who had a case to answer had retired before the completion of the investigation.
So what can we conclude? If you look at my earlier blogs which explain how language is used to evade and avoid, you will see that the following verbal tricks were used: excessive use of the passive tense and sentences without subjects; institutional failings rather than individual responsibility; lessons learnt; and action already taken in anticipation of the report.
I suspect that the police would be suspicious if someone they were investigating answered questions in such a way.
The full statements
Assistant Chief Constable, Dawn Copley said: “I want to start by saying we openly acknowledge that mistakes were made and victims were let down.
“For our part in that we apologise to the victims and we give them our assurance that lessons have been learned, changes have been made and we are determined to use this to continue making improvements.
“This matter was referred to the IPCC in December 2010. They decided to supervise the investigation which was then conducted by our Professional Standards Branch
“The first investigation report was based on the findings of an internal review which had already taken place. The IPCC rightly challenged this and further investigation work was required. GMP then proposed amended terms of reference, which the IPCC approved and these have now been met in full.
“The investigation has examined the conduct and actions of 13 officers who were involved in Operation Span and the policing of Rochdale Division. These ranged from constables to the Divisional Commander.
“This report, and the previous SCR, identified that at the time in 2008-10 there was a strong target driven focus, predominantly on serious acquisitive crime. At best this was distracting for leaders and influenced the areas that resources were focussed on. This has now changed significantly. CSE remains a huge challenge for GMP but it is now one of our top priorities and our understanding and experience of dealing with these types of cases has increased significantly.
“It is unusual for internal investigation reports to be released into the public domain. However, we recognise the significant public interest in this case and felt it was important to take the unusual step to issue this report and to demonstrate to the public that this has been thoroughly investigated, addressed and lessons have been learned.
“IPCC supervision has ensured that all relevant investigation has taken place and they have agreed that the terms of reference have been addressed.
The IPCC also been fully aware of the sanctions and outcome for officers, which we agree are at the appropriate level.”
A total of 7 officers were served with misconduct notices and were formally interviewed about their actions and decision-making, their handling of investigations and victim care. Many more officers were interviewed and all fully cooperated with the investigation.
The seven officers who were served notices include the former Divisional Chief Superintendent, a Superintendent, plus two Detective Chief lnspectors, two Detective lnspectors and one Sergeant. All received management action in respect of their performance with the exception of one Detective lnspector who the investigation found had a case to answer for misconduct. This officer retired prior to the completion of the investigation.
All officers have been spoken to, the investigation findings shared with them for their personal development and learning and the misconduct and performance issues have been individually addressed.
“Ultimately, despite the issues highlighted in this report, nine men were jailed for a total of more than 80 years for their part in the abuse and we should not lose sight of that.
“Huge developments have been made in child protection and there are many dedicated professional and volunteers involved across all agencies. In Rochdale, the multi-agency Sunrise team has made huge strides.
“In addition, Project Phoenix is a multi-agency response to CSE across the whole of Greater Manchester. This is made up of teams of police officers, children’s services staff, health workers and other supportive professionals who have come together, using their collective expertise to safeguard vulnerable young people at risk of exploitation and relentlessly target those who would try to exploit them.
“Since 2010 we have had a number of CSE operations that have targeted offenders across the force, including Doublet which has so far seen us make bring 55 charges against 10 people.
“It is clear that mistakes were made in this investigation. We have, and continue to make significant improvements because of the lessons we have learned. We urge victims to come forward knowing that we will take them seriously and thoroughly investigate what has happened to them. People who abuse children will be traced and brought to justice.”
North Yorkshire police, explaining in December 2014 their failure to investigate Jimmy Savile properly.
North Yorkshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Paul Kennedy: “The findings of Operation Hibiscus clearly suggest that there would have been sufficient evidence from 35 individual victims for the Crown Prosecution Service to consider criminal charges against Peter Jaconelli and Jimmy Savile, had they been alive today.
“It concluded that there was no evidence of misconduct but there was evidence of organisational failure, with a number of lessons to be learned which have now been rectified for the future.
“This included actions such as clearly defining search parameters when checking historical records and ensuring that the appropriate department conducts such searches.
“Furthermore all operational meetings must be recorded, ensuring a full audit trail of decision-making throughout the process for openness and transparency.”
“North Yorkshire Police apologises to the victims who made the brave decision to come forward during the past 18 months.”