Watchdog: Ties between UK press, police too cozy

January 4, 2012 - 8:25 AM

LONDON (AP) — Cozy ties between Britain's police and press have compromised both sides and urgent action is needed to overhaul a culture of leaks at Scotland Yard police headquarters, a U.K. watchdog reported Wednesday.

Elizabeth Filkin — a former Parliamentary standards chief known for her tough approach — said British reporters and police officers had lost the ability to "scrutinize the activities of the other."

A culture of confidential briefings, poor guidance from senior staff too ready to accept reporters' hospitality and a bias toward tabloids had corroded relations, she said.

Filkins' inquiry was ordered by police and Home Secretary Theresa May after Britain's phone hacking scandal uncovered evidence hinting at improper ties between officers and the media. Filkin was asked to investigate following allegations that reporters paid officers for information.

"This inquiry has identified a range of problems in the relationship between the Metropolitan Police Service and the media which require urgent action," Filkin said in her report.

She recommended that officers should in the future record all contacts with reporters for potential inspection, dismissing claims that would deter potential whistleblowers.

Her report also warned of the risks of "flirty reporters" and called for an end to once-traditional late night chats between police and media in Britain's pubs.

"Alcohol is a risk," Filkin warned.

London's top police officer Paul Stephenson quit in July amid concerns over his links to a former News of the World tabloid executive turned PR consultant. Rupert Murdoch's News of the World has been at the center of the phone hacking scandal, so much so that he shut down the 168-year-old tabloid in July. Over a dozen of its journalists and executives have been arrested in the scandal, including top former Murdoch aides.