In his regular column, Durham Police Chief Mike Barton explains why he will no longer be doing any of his Christmas shopping in cosmetics shop, Lush

I AM no expert on cosmetics, bubble bath or all those other things that people like to splash on. The only time I become directly acquainted with cosmetics shops and the like is in the run up to birthdays and Christmas.

One such shop I have visited is Lush. Recent events have somewhat changed my view.

I will now shop elsewhere.

I don’t suppose the shareholders of Lush are quaking in their boots, I’m not a regular or profligate shopper there. I find their recent advertising campaign decidedly off-side.

They have printed a montage of a police officer wearing a helmet, with the strap line “paid to lie”. I understand that the underlying message the campaign was seeking to publicise was the problem in which some undercover police officers over the last two decades have engaged in sexual relationships with people who did not know they were undercover police officers.

All police forces are cooperating with the enquiry into this issue, chaired by Sir John Mitting, which I am sure will find this pattern of behaviour to be completely unacceptable. Over the last two years I have been part of work which has explicitly reset how these operations should be run.

My objection to the advertisement by Lush is the insinuation that all police officers, and in particular police officers in uniform, were part of this controversy. That is not the case and, whilst I am in accord with Lush that what went on in the past is absolutely unacceptable, what is equally unacceptable is that the innocent are blamed.

All organisations get things wrong from time to time.

Policing UK has over 100,000 officers. Some of them transgress and just like any other professional body we have to ensure we have robust but fair procedures for rooting out the bad ones.

When I took over as Chief of Durham in 2012 I was interviewed by the BBC on Prebends Bridge, near the plaque where Walter Scott’s famous quote is carved into the parapet. I said that the enemy I feared most was not the criminal, but a lazy, corrupt or dishonest colleague. They diminish us all and destroy the public’s confidence that they will be protected by the police.

One of the most successful social media campaigns that Durham Constabulary has been involved in featured a photograph of one of our police officers Sam Turner, which encouraged parents not to frighten their children with stories of police arresting them if they were naughty, but to seek out an officer if they were in trouble. That image, that underlying confidence of the public, is crucial to our endeavours.

When he created the police in 1829, Robert Peel said we should be judged by the absence of crime and disorder rather than the overt presence of police officers on the street. He also said that the police are the public and the public are the police. He meant that we all have a civic duty to create a harmonious society in which everyone can thrive. The only difference when it comes to the police is that we have a power of arrest and are paid to devote our professional attention to community safety.

I VISITED Evenwood this week, to a meeting called by local residents who felt they were suffering from an unacceptable level of anti-social behaviour. I had asked for someone to make sure that young people of the village were also invited to the meeting, because in the correspondence I had seen it was clear that some older residents were laying all the blame on local children.

I was a bit disappointed that, when the meeting started, there were no young people there and for the first half hour or so I received some pretty robust challenges from the audience as to what the police were doing or not doing.

Some of them were clearly legitimate concerns and Inspector Andy Reeves is on with fixing them. Half an hour into the meeting, nine or ten local young people came in and so I rearranged the meeting into four groups, each with a couple of young people, to jointly decide what questions they had for me and the police.

It didn’t take long for there to be a hubbub of conversation. The young people were amazing, speaking confidently about what they wanted, they are a real credit to their family and the community.

The upshot of all of this was the local workingmen’s club are looking to organise a disco for the children and I’ll be exploring with my cadet scheme and apprentice youth workers for evening organised events – so there is something to do for local children.

I am sure that, at the end of the evening, there were one or two disgruntled people in Evenwood who think the police should be taking a more robust line on anti-social behaviour, but in the final analysis the only think the police can do differently to local people is arrest people. I am sure that arresting young people should be our absolute last resort.

Crucial for public support is that the public have confidence that the police are operating fairly. Lush’s unacceptable advertisement and message does great damage to our image.