The importance of saying sorry

untitled (252)The recent apology by Bernard Hogan Howe the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police to the widow of a man who was once Home Secretary has received a great deal of national publicity. In our society the Police and Politicians, including those that have retired seem to get their messages across with great ease. Yet this failure of the Police is not unique. Like in any large organisation, mistakes happen within police services all the time, and because of the power they wield, even with all the best safeguards in place those mistakes will occasionally damage the reputation and potentially limit the freedom of the people affected. Our other public sector bodies along with the press and broadcasters wield similar types of power and influence and create similar challenges for those they impact. It is hard to imagine how Lady Brittan would have arranged a face to face meeting with the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police despite her own significance as the widow of a Lord, had she not had such powerful friends willing to demand this and had her story not captured so much attention from the media. Yet there seems to be no suggestion that she did not merit such an apology, although clearly a great deal of the issues behind this story are hidden from public view. It is vital that our society does not depend on the intervention of retired Government Ministers to ensure that the right thing happens in our communities. It is also important that such powerful people do not misuse their own influence, simply to protect their friends and peers an in doing so overlook the needs of the rest of society. We need to build into our various public bodies a clear process to ensure that those who have been damaged are heard and where appropriate apologized to, without the need for such pressure. Often there is a clear distinction between those in society who want a personal acknowledgement and admission of error, and the small number of people who believe that legal recourse is vital, and who seem to wish to punish the public sector financially. Tragically because public bodies and businesses are fearful of the second type of approach they appear to have created barriers to make the simple responses to those of us who simply want them to acknowledge their mistakes. On a personal basis the pain of making a sincere apology ensures that we learn from our mistakes, our public bodies need to ensure that they learn from their failures too. After all if there were less mistakes, the need for many of the court cases should in theory diminish over time.



About ianchisnall

I have a passion to see public policy made accessible everyone who want to improve the wellbeing of their communities. I am interested in issues related to crime and policing as well as in policies on health services and strategic planning.
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