Bristol

Avon and Somerset employs 19 officers with criminal convictions

Avon and Somerset Police sign
Image caption A BBC freedom of information application found 19 officers from Avon and Somerset Police have a criminal record

A police force has been criticised for employing officers who have broken the law.

A BBC freedom of information (FOI) application found 19 officers from Avon and Somerset Police have a criminal record.

The force said the suitability of those convicted of an offence to keep their job would always be reviewed.

Steven Smith, who was assaulted by an officer from Avon and Somerset, said he wanted a change in the law.

The force said nine of the convictions came before the individuals joined the constabulary, while 10 were committed by serving officers.

The force, which employs 2,771 officers, said the offences included burglary, assault and deception.

Image caption Steven Smith was assaulted by an Avon and Somerset police officer in 2014

PC Mark Foster was convicted of assault after placing Steven Smith in a hold outside a Bristol pub in 2014.

He was found guilty of assault at Bristol Crown Court in 2016 but the judge said he would still be "an asset to the force".

Following a police misconduct hearing, PC Foster was permitted to keep his job.

Mr Smith thinks the force should not employ anyone with a criminal record.

'Excessive force'

"If it's violence or excessive force I do think maybe a law change could be a good idea," he said.

Avon and Somerset Police said: "When officers are charged with offences, they will be subject to open and transparent court procedures and could then face internal misconduct processes.

"The suitability of those convicted of an offence to remain employed by the constabulary will always be reviewed and the circumstances relating to their conviction will be taken into consideration when a decision is made."

The Police Federation said officers were "human", adding "does one mistake mean that they're no longer a value to society?"

In 2012, figures released by 33 of the 43 forces in England and Wales after FOI requests, found more than 900 serving police officers and community support officers had a criminal record.

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