uPSD was established in May 2012 after it was discovered, over the previous three years, that the Professional Standards Department of West Yorkshire Police (WYP) was, and had been, a haven for arguably the biggest gang of villains ever to operate inside a police force. A series of newsletters was published and circulated to criminal justice professionals and media outlets which highlighted police officer misconduct and, following the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections in November 2014, uPSD’s website was launched. It quickly established a national following amongst other justice campaigners.
During the PCC elections the founder of uPSD, Neil Wilby, acted as campaign manager for retired WYP detective, Cedric Christie, and the entire election campaign was resourced from Wilby’s offices situated between Wakefield and Huddersfield. Indeed, it was the location for a seminal BBC Look North interview with the independent candidate being questioned relentlessly by their politics editor, Len Tingle. The single ticket upon which Christie sought election was to drive out corruption from within his former force. The association between the two campaigners was there for all to see, both with a common aim. Between them they almost pulled off an impossible win. Having only campaigned for three weeks before the election and with no political experience between either them, or their election agent Eric Major (a retired WYP officer), they took the poll to a second count and, in doing so, thrashed the established Conservative and Liberal candidates, who were both well known councillors and former police authority members. In the end, it was the well-oiled Labour party election machine that got their candidate into power: Mark Burns-Williamson.
The uPSD website now has over 120 pages and has been responsible for some notable exclusive and thoroughly alarming exposures of the most serious criminality and misconduct by officers of all ranks in WYP. Since Neil Wilby first challenged the force in June 2009 there have been six Heads of Professional Standards and four Chief Constables put through the mill, the most notable demise being the infamous, and disgraced, Sir Norman Bettison. The working hypothesis after all these changes is that lessons would have been learned and the PSD house at WYP put in order. But that is not how things work when you are dealing with an institutionally corrupt force such as this one, that has been very publicly tainted across decades of incompetence, criminality and cover-up. Knowing they have no oversight whatsoever from either the elected PCC or the equally discredited Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) another artful whitewash was conceived. Central in the plan was the appointment of Mark Gilmore as Chief Constable by Burns-Williamson. Gilmore had worked previously at the force as an ACC between 2009 and 2011, a tenure that ensured he knew in which cupboards the WYP skeletons were hidden – a very big pile of bones indeed by this time. Phase two was to appoint a high-profile detective as ‘The Great White PSD Hope’ and Phase Three was a whitewash report that covered over the most damaging allegations that had been levelled against them, not least by the organisation that was becoming their bete noir – uPSD. The Crawford Review, commissioned by the PCC’s office, was a wicked piece of deception with a pre-ordained outcome that, to all intents and purposes, gave PSD a clean bill of health and the means by which the force and the PCC could downplay the damaging effect, both regionally and nationally, that the uPSD was creating. The reality was, and still is, that the crisis within the Department continues to deteriorate both in terms of incompetence and ingrained corruption. A Phase Four was also crucial: the complicity of the local and regional press so that the impact of the uPSD could not be amplified. It is incredulous to record that none of the Yorkshire Post, Yorkshire Evening Post, Halifax Courier, Huddersfield Examiner, Bradford Telegraph & Argus, Wetherby News have ever referred to uPSD, its website or the effect it has had on their police force. Only the Wakefield Express have managed it, following a nationally represented peace protest in the city in February, 2013.
The plan did, however, begin to fall apart