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Extraordinary officers put 'plebgate' row in perspective

PC Ian Dibell was off-duty when he died trying to stop a shooting. Photo: PA

On the 18th of September last year, I journeyed to Manchester and presented the ITV News at 6:30pm. Dale Cregan had murdered two young police women - Fiona Bone, 32, and Nicola Hughes, 23.

Cregan was not mentioned at the Police Bravery Awards tonight, in central London, where I spent a reflective evening. Fiona and Nicola were, along with some 60 other officers who had done 'extraordinary' things. They were not the only ones to have died, doing what they call 'The Job'. Indeed, the overall "winner" wasn't there, either. He, too, had died - PC Ian Dibell, of Essex Constabulary, killed, off-duty, as he tried to stop a shooting. His brothers were among he serving officers who collected his posthumous award from the Prime Minister.

Mr Cameron talked about the 'elephants' in the room - he meant the drip-drip of bad-blood between politicians and the police over an episode in Downing Street involving Andrew Mitchell, then Chief Whip, a group of protection officers, a gate, a bicycle and some ill-chosen words.

'Pleb', and a rather nasty Anglo-Saxon derivative, were said to have been uttered. Mitchell accepts, and regrets the latter but vehemently denies calling anyone a 'pleb'.

The investigations into who said what to whom fester on.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission are involved, as are no less than three Chief Constables, the President of ACPO, the Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee and the police-officers 'union', the Police Federation.

Andrew Mitchell pictured on his bicycle in 2011. Credit: PA

Partial truths have emerged, discrete meetings have been taped - apologies offered, explanations seemingly contradicted; and so the bad-blood flows.

Of the 'dramatis personae', I didn't see everyone but I talked to the PM, the Home Secretary and her Shadow; I chatted with the Police Minister and his Shadow; the Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee and I even exchanged "tweets"; and I had quite a long natter with the President of APCO.

All off-the-record and it will remain so.

But 'a difficult week' was ACPO's Sir Hugh Orde's economic, and brilliantly understated, public summation to the assembled throng.

I also spoke to a number of serving officers there present.

What I witnessed at those awards were two things - a delicate, diplomatic gavotte between the political class and the glitterati of the police. All good, all clever and all neatly executed.

What I also saw was the very finest of a remarkable breed of men and women, their extraordinary feats of selfless bravery, and their receipt of collegiate pride from their colleagues.

Two days ago, my old Channel Four News friend, the now Police Minister the Rt. Hon. Damian Green MP, said we must be very careful not to "tar" an entire force with the "brush" of alleged bad doings. It was a sound contribution to the debate. It resolved nothing - that is for others - but it set a tone for a moment of reflective contextualisation of those events in Downing Street, the mess that has flowed from them and what was attempted at the awards.

I am pleased for the 60 or so nominees, the eight finalists and the overall 'winner' - the late PC Dibell - that Damian's cautious advice was heeded tonight.

It was carried off well and movingly, to the joy of those honoured and to the honourable memory of those who couldn't be there because they had died, in reality, for you and for me.