Meet the real-life Line of Duty team in Norfolk and Suffolk

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 23/03/2021 - Programme Name: Line of Duty S6 -

DI Steve Arnott, DC Chloe Bishop, and Superintendent Ted Hastings are in the business of investigating bent coppers in the popular BBC drama Line of Duty - Credit: BBC/World Productions/Steffan Hill

There's one thing, and one thing only, that Line of Duty's Superintendent Ted Hastings is interested in - and that's catching bent coppers.

But what is life really like working in Suffolk and Norfolk's 'AC-12'?

Mother of God - the series six finale of the hugely popular police drama Line of Duty is nearly upon us.

Supt Hastings, DI Steve Arnott and DI Kate Fleming have kept fans of the long-running show hooked as they battle OCGs and attempt to expose another 'H'. 

Life in the Anti-Corruption and Intelligence Unit (ACIU) within Suffolk and Norfolk police's joint Professional Standards Department (PSD) isn't quite so dramatic, according to Detective Inspector James Brown, who leads the team.

He admits though that he doesn't watch the programme. 

Det Insp James Brown leads Suffolk and Norfolk police's Anti-Corruption Unit

Detective Inspector James Brown, who leads Suffolk and Norfolk police's 'AC-12' unit - Credit: Suffolk police

"Some of my colleagues in the team do but I tend to stick to the non-fiction programmes, if I do get a chance to watch TV, such as 24 Hours in Police Custody and the detective-type ones, which are very good," he said. 

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"As with any police work, there's a huge amount of desk-based office work sat behind a computer.

"That is an unfortunate part of our job. We use a lot of computer systems in our work as well. 

"There is activity that we undertake outside of the office. It's a lot of meeting with officers, spreading that message around vulnerabilities and trying to prevent corruption.

"But ultimately, when we are conducting investigations, some of our work will involve some of those tactics that may be displayed in that programme I understand - but not quite to the same extent."

Det Insp Brown says the work of anti-corruption covers a wide range of areas and involves keeping an "open mind" to all allegations. 

"I think people think about corruption as perhaps being the criminal passing the police officer a brown paper bag of money in return for some information," he said. 

"But obviously, it's far wider than that. I'm not saying that doesn't happen because on very rare occasions, that probably has happened - but there's a whole host of other other areas of business that we deal with.

"I think one of our main priorities, certainly nationally, is around officers or staff who abuse their position to form relationships with the public.

"Thankfully, it is rare, but when it does happen, it has a massive impact on public trust and confidence in the police.

"So that's one of our key areas of focus, not just in terms of trying to prevent it, but also trying to detect it as well.

"We continue to work very closely with the vetting unit, because ultimately, they're our first line of defence, if you like, to try and prevent individuals or unsuitable individuals getting into the police service in the first place."

Line of Duty series six

Series six of the hugely successful BBC drama Line of Duty is drawing to a close - but what is life really like in an anti-corruption unit? - Credit: BBC/World Productions/Steffan Hill

For Det Insp Brown and the anti-corruption officers, prevention is very much better than cure, with an emphasis on educating officers around vulnerabilities. 

"You'll appreciate that I'd much rather prevent corruption or misconduct happening in the first place than I would to be actually investigating it, because I think if we get to the stage of investigating in some way then we've failed," he said. 

"So we'd much rather try and prevent it. That involves training and providing inputs to new staff and new recruits, and to supervisors on the sort of associated risks around corruption and some of the vulnerabilities that people leave themselves open to, which could lead to that sort of behaviour.

"Police officers and police staff hold a fairly unique position in society. But with that, comes a certain level of vulnerability sometimes, which perhaps wouldn't ordinarily be there for other members of the public.

"So if you think about financial vulnerabilities, if perhaps an individual goes through a relationship breakdown, and suddenly find themselves financially vulnerable because of that, it might be a concern for us, particularly if they've been carrying debt, which is potentially unmanageable.

"Social media is another vulnerability. We encourage people, while they can have a social media profile, that they have to be very careful around around how they use that.

"Another area we deal with is what we call disclosable associations. Unfortunately, lots of police officers and police staff may have friends or relatives who may themselves have got in trouble with the police.

"With an ordinary member the public, it wouldn't affect them but with someone being in the police service, we have to make sure that any associations that they have are appropriate."

Line of Duty series six on BBC One

DI Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and DCI Joanne Davidson (Kelly Macdonald) in Line of Duty series six - Credit: BBC/World Productions

Det Insp Brown said despite their unique role, investigating their own, the anti-corruption unit is largely supported by its police forces in Suffolk and Norfolk. 

"I would say most individuals in the organisation support the work we do because 99.9% of our employees work really hard, and they do a really difficult job," he said. 

"And they know we're not out out to penalise people and punish people. Certainly they've made all mistakes, because everybody makes mistakes in their job don't they?

"If they make mistakes, and they are open and transparent about it, and can learn from it, we're certainly not there to penalise them.

"Obviously, there's a big difference between that and people who are deliberately corrupt.

"I think the majority of our of colleagues support the work that we do in that, if there are people who are deliberately corrupt, who are going to damage the reputation of the work good work they do, they want to see us remove those individuals as well.

"So while there is a certain amount of banter, I've never faced any sort of hostility at all. I wouldn't expect to either.

"It's probably not a role when you join the police that you thought you'd end up working in, because, ultimately, you try and keep professional standards and the anti-corruption unit at arm's length in your general career.

"It's not a role that I would say I enjoy, but it's certainly a role that is is very interesting at times."

Do fictional television shows such as Line of Duty give the public a false impression of the extent of corruption within police forces around the country? 

"There's definitely that risk," Det Insp Brown says.

"I mean, hopefully, it gives an insight into the work that we do, and I suppose that if it encourages the public to report concerns to us then that can't be a bad thing.

"But what I wouldn't want to do is to leave that taste or flavour that corruption is rife within the service, because it isn't. It really isn't.

"Thankfully, it is very rare and the vast majority of our colleagues work really hard in some really difficult circumstances.

"So I certainly wouldn't want the public to be left with that impression because that's far from the case but ultimately it's a drama. They have to weave all sorts of lines into it to keep people guessing."

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