Red tape means hardworking Merseyside police officers handed ‘gifts’ like home-baked scones, tins of chocolates and even a bag of apples for police horses have had to declare them to bosses for approval.
Police officers have even been told to hand back presents deemed unacceptable, with one having to return a bottle of champagne given in thanks by a crime victim.
The haul of freebies was revealed in Merseyside Police’s registers of gifts, gratuities and hospitality between May 2013 and April 2014.
While some of the items listed include tickets or invites to conferences worth hundreds of pounds others are less considerable.
Eight packets of cakes worth £11.50 to thank staff in Knowsley were accepted – but the same unit turned back cakes and a £130 bottle of bubbly handed over by a crime victim.
A PCSO who was leaving the force had to pass on a £6 bottle of wine in line with policy, though accepted the accompanying box of chocolates.
The force’s contact centre had to declare two pocket diaries given as a promotion gift, while the mounted unit logged a bag of apples given by a member of the public for its horses.
A Liverpool North officer accepted a £5 box of biscuits given to him as an apology by a badly-behaved member of the public, while staff in St Helens returned a £25 football shirt but kept a cheaper £10 jersey given as a thank you.
The Matrix unit logged its acceptance of a thank you card and 24 cream cakes received from a murder victim’s family, with the force’s professional standards department – which monitors officer wrongdoing – accepted a £2.50 pack of chocolate teacakes from Mamp;S.
Other items declared by police officers in the registers included:
• ACCEPTED: A baguette, packet of crisps, bottle of juice and a cake given to an officer on a fraud case;
• REJECTED: A £100 Toys R Us voucher given to an officer;
• ACCEPTED: 120 Typhoo teabags, a bag of sugar, 100g Nescafe coffee and a tin of biscuits given by a theft victim.
• REJECTED: 20 tickets to Knowsley’s annual fireworks display;
• ACCEPTED: Flowers and a thank you card given to an officer for the care taken during a search warrant
• REJECTED: Six company polo shirts offered to the IT department,
• ACCEPTED: A hamper containing tinned fruit for thanks in a Wirral fraud investigation;
• REJECTED: 20 tickets for a Legends of Soul night at the Philharmonic were returned by hand;
• ACCEPTED: A 59p can of Coca Cola given to an officer while on enquiries.
The hospitality register showed a number of events that the force’s busy chief constable was invited to but turned down.
Sir Jon Murphy declined to attend the Open Golf Championship at Hoylake, the Tour of Britain cycling showcase as it passed through Knowsley and the reopening of Liverpool Central library.
He did attend numerous events, however, including Remembrance Sunday events and the Liverpool Law Society annual dinner.
The Association of Chief Police Officer guidelines say gifts can be excepted if they are small or inexpensive, a commemorative item from visiting overseas officials, or an unofficial gift of thanks for “outstanding levels of service” but that all gifts should be declared.
Merseyside Police’s “general principle” towards the offer of gifts or hospitality is that it will be refused and logged.
The force’s policy dictates that gifts may be accepted if they are inexpensive and retail at less than £10. Cash, alcohol and “any item which may be perceived in a negative light” are not permitted.
A Merseyside Police spokesperson said: “It is testament to the hard work and professionalism of our officers and staff that from time to time members of the public want to express their gratitude to them by offering them a gift. .
“Small gifts worth less than £10 can be accepted but anything worth more than that, or deemed inappropriate such as money or alcohol, has to be politely refused. Officers are encouraged to do this graciously so as not to cause offence but regardless of whether they are rejected or accepted, every offer is recorded on the register – a quick and simple process.
“The public rightly expect that our officers and staff abide by the highest standards of professionalism, honesty and integrity and, as public servants, do not compromise or abuse their position.
“That is why the register exists and is published online for the public to see.”