One-in-Four Top Policemen are Freemasons MPs Told
Up to a quarter of chief constables might be Freemasons, MPs investigating Masonic influence in the police have been told.
The acknowledgement of the possible extent of lodge membership among the most senior police officers came as the body representing rank-and-file policemen agreed "a significant" proportion of its members are probably masons. But while both the highest and lowest grades were prepared to acknowledge widespread membership they disagreed sharply on proposals that police should be obliged to declare their affiliation.
Challenged last night about the extent of Masonic membership among the Association of Chief Police Officers, Paul Whitehouse, who is vice chairman of ACPO's personnel committee and Chief Constable of Sussex, said it was "unlikely to be more that 10" of the organisation's 43-strong membership in England and Wales. However, he made it clear that the precise number was unknown and ACPO president, Dyfed-Powys Chief Constable Ray White, later told the House of Commons Home Affairs select committee that he believed the number was lower.
Mr. White said: "My perception is that the figure would be considerably less than that. I would be surprised if there were more than five out of the current 43 chief constables."
Without a register of membership it was impossible to know the exact number for sure, he added. He told the committee it was important that the public's confidence in the police was not undermined by persistent allegations of impropriety by officers who were Masons. "We think the time has come to lay the ghost to rest," he said.
However, Fred Broughton, chairman of the Police Federation, which represents 126,000 ordinary policemen in England and Wales, described ACPO's announcement of its position last October as a "pre-emptive strike" by the senior officers, and argued that the register proposal was an unjustified threat to the right to privacy.
Mr Broughton said later: "This debate is not about whether it is right or wrong to be Freemason. It is about the civil liberties of police officers. The Police Federation has fought for many years to remove unnecessary restrictions on the private lives of police officers. We are against any further restriction unless it can be established, by way of evidence rather than anecdote or innuendo, that there is a case for doing so.
"We invite the committee, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, to conclude that police officers who are Freemasons can continue to be trusted to remain true to their oath of allegiance."
In a written submissions to the committee, the Federation said it accepted "that there is probably a significant number of our members who are Freemasons and we see no good reason why this should be regarded a matter of censure".