The Men at the Top

There are fifty-two police forces in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. These comprise ten combined forces in England and Wales, two combined forces in Scotland, thirty-one county forces in England and Wales, six Scottish regional forces, the two London forces and the Royal Ulster Constabulary. I wrote in 1981 to every one of the fifty Chief Constables and both London Commissioners. From this survey, and from private enquiries involving more than 200 informants between the ranks of Chief Inspector and Chief Constable in forces all over the UK, I have been able to identify with certainty only fourteen as non-Masons.

These are C. James Anderton (Greater Manchester); Ronald Gregory (West Yorkshire); R. Birch (Warwickshire); A. F. C. Clissitt (Hertfordshire); G. E. Fenn (Cheshire); Robert Sim (Tayside); A. Morrison (Grampian); Sir George Terry (Sussex); Sir Kenneth Newman (Metropolitan Commissioner since October 1982); Peter Marshall (City of London); G. Charlton (Norfolk); Philip Myers (North Wales); Peter Imbert (Thames Valley); and W. G. Sutherland (Bedfordshire).

The consensus among my most reliable, high-ranking informants is that of the remaining thirty-eight Chief Constables, no fewer than thirty-three members are of the Brotherhood. If this is correct, more than sixty per cent of all police chiefs in the UK are Freemasons. According to sources within the Police Federation, the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Scottish Police Federation, the Police Superintendents' Association, police forces all over the country and also within the Police Authority for Northern Ireland as well as retired senior police officers and former Chief Constables, this figure is about ten or twelve per cent lower than it was before the amalgamation of police forces.

Police chiefs who replied to my enquiry but refused to answer the question 'Are you a Freemason?' included C. F. Payne (Cleveland) and Alex Campbell (Dumfries and Galloway). Campbell told me, 'I consider that whether or not a man is a Freemason or for that matter whether he is an Orangeman, a member of the Black Preceptory or a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians is a matter for him alone. Likewise his religious persuasion, be he Protestant, Roman Catholic, atheist or agnostic is a matter for him. I would point out, however, that in my police experience extending over forty-three years, irrespective of the persuasion of senior officers I have found them performing their duties and accepting their responsibilities with complete impartiality.'

Another Chief Constable told me, 'I am well aware of the traditions of Freemasonry and I agree with you there is much misunderstanding, and yet it is not always what exists that is important but other people's perception of what exists. For professional reasons I have never thought it right for a senior police officer in particular to be associated with any political, religious, social or cultural group to the extent where decisions may be seen to be biased or actually to be biased, even if subconsciously.

'I can say that from time to time decisions which have been made concerning advancement or discipline have often been perceived, however rightly or wrongly, as having been influenced by the bonds of Freemasonry. I do believe that sometimes the "reds under the beds" theory can apply to Freemasonry as it can to politics and religion ... It is my impression that the proportion of police officers who belong to the movement becomes higher as you reach the higher echelons of the service. I am not however suggesting that this is cause and effect, but merely noting the phenomenon.

'I think my own views could be summed up by saying that what a man does with his private life in these matters of religion, politics or culture is part of the freedom of our society, but where such beliefs manifest themselves as influencing decisions against people who are outsiders or are perceived to do so this can cause problems for those concerned.'

Another Chief Constable, a non-Mason, said, 'Freemasonry is not so much a problem today in the police service as it was twenty years ago. Even so, it is still a problem. It certainly still has some controlling influence, and any amount of influence is wrong. Over the years a lot of policemen have been Masons. It's not so fashionable today, although it's as strong as it ever was in one or two quarters of the country.

'Its influence in the police was strongest in the days pre-amalgamation of forces when the promotion stakes relied on this kind of thing in the days of Watch Committees and local political influence on the police. This is what I am very fearful of today - that we don't move back into the era of Watch Committees in spite of the fact that some elements of society are calling for a greater accountability of the police. Accountability is OK but if it's going to be accountability with too much political influence then it will lead us back into worse problems with Freemasonry than we have now. If it's bad now, you should have seen Masonry at work pre-1964 and pre-1947.'

One Chief Constable was particularly frank. His reputation, record and standing in the police service lend particular weight to his testimony. He told me, 'I went to London as a Chief Inspector and it was at that stage that I became a Mason, for no real reason other than the people who invited me to join were friends who I respected very very much.

'Masonry did me a great favour because public speaking didn't come easy to me. I'd lose sleep for two nights beforehand, get very tense and then make a botch of it. And Masonry - the fact that one has to get up on one's feet on occasions, the occasional after-dinner speech or vote of thanks or what-have-you - fulfilled a need that in retrospect I see was very very important to me in terms of character building.

'I joined a very small, friendly Lodge in London, and eventually within a period of about eight years I became Master of that Lodge, which was a tremendous thing. I thoroughly enjoyed it. But then when I left London and moved to B— [a provincial city force], because of the sheer logistics involved, I dropped off. I was three years in B— and gradually my attendances were declining until I got the Deputy Chief Constable's job in this force. My predecessor here was also a Mason and was very heavily involved locally. In fact he subsquently became Master of a Lodge not far from where we're sitting now. But I thought as Deputy Chief when I came here, I would not - certainly for the first year - take part in it at all. I received countless invitations to go out - genuine invitations, for no underhand motives but people genuinely wanted me to go out and visit various Lodges. But I declined this for a year. The year became two years, the two years became four years and so I've never ever set foot in a Lodge in the area covered by this police force.

'I've also ceased to be a full member in London; although I'm still a member it's on what we call a Country List. That means if ever I do go back I pay for my meal on the night as opposed to paying a large annual subscription.

'I've not stood back because I've got any guilt complex or conscience at all about Masonry, but because of what people think of Masonry. If one is in the position to (a) influence promotions and (b) take decisions on discipline, then quite obviously one is open to the allegation that Masonry is a factor in one's decisions - although I can assure you that I've locked up Masons in my time and sent police officers and others to prison, and been very pleased to have done it.

'Masonry is fairly strong in the police service. In my service, which will be twenty-five years next year, therefore relatively modern, I can honestly say that I don't know of any occasion when Masonry has been a fundamental issue in promotion or any other aspect for that matter.

‘I think it's not wholly to be unexpected that police are quite heavily involved because we are very conservative by nature. Like attracts like. Freemasonry is a very conservative organization, all about the Establishment, all about the maintenance of the status quo, which is bound to attract a certain sympathy with police officers.

'A lot of nonsense is talked about promotion and so on, and the way I always answer that is this: if you and I went to the same school together, or played for the same Rugby club, or our fathers did whatever together, and then we come to a situation where I am interviewing you and A. N. Other for a job, I've got to make a judgement on your characters, and I've got to take a gamble. I've got to choose the best man to manage this branch or the best man to do this job, or what-have-you. And the more I know about you that causes me to be in sympathy to your cause - the school, the Rugby club, the golf club, Freemasonry or whatever it may be, the more I will be inclined to take a chance - life is all about taking chances when you give appointments - on you as opposed to the man that I know nothing about.'

I wrote to every senior officer at New Scotland Yard in 1981 when Sir David McNee was Commissioner. With the exception of two Deputy Assistant Commissioners, Sir David and all his men ignored my letters to them about Freemasonry. One of the DACs wrote: 'I understand that several of my colleagues have not answered your letter of 21st August. Lest you get the wrong impression that this relates to Freemasonry I am replying just to state that I am not, never have been or ever will be, a Free Mason.'

His colleague told me, 'I am not a Mason, so it is possible to get promotion right up to Commissioner without being one. But it is unlikely. Nearly all of my colleagues and seniors are Masons. It's not enough to say that senior police officers are the kind of men who like Freemasonry, or that the sort of men who join Freemasonry are senior officer material. A lot of people at the Yard have got into positions they shouldn't be in purely and simply because they've got Masonry behind them. But if you think anything can be done about it, you're wasting your time.'

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