"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


Sunday, December 31, 2017

Press: England's Masonic Police Officers Get a Last New Year's Swipe

Ah, it wouldn't be New Year's Eve without one last 2017 swipe against the fraternity by the stalwart English press, and the Guardian stepped right up to the plate. 

Today's Guardian brought a story about Steve White, the departing chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales. Since cops there are not permitted to unionize, the Federation represents 120,000 rank and file officers as what sounds like their counterpart to the Fraternal Order of Police in the U.S. (and if anyone can clarify this, please feel free). It was created by an act of Parliament in 1919 specifically because police there are prevented by law from taking "industrial action," most notably, striking. However, when White was elected in 2014, the Federation was widely regarded as a corrupt wreck internally, so much so that then-Home Secretary Theresa May gave a speech at their annual assembly declaring that the government was poised to take them over if they didn't clean up their act by enacting a laundry list of three dozen reform measures—which they immediately did. There were financial shenanigans and allegations of favoritism and discrimination, but apparently the biggest scandal was the habit of top Federation officials "bladdering" (to wit, hanging out at the headquarters building all hours and getting plastered on their members' money). So, White has been on a clean up crusade ever since. His three year term ended in August, and he steps down on New Year's Day. But from the sound of it, he just couldn't manage to get everything done that he wanted to in the way of reforming their internal practices in those three short years.

So what does he declare to be the biggest obstacle to further police reforms? You guessed it. When all else fails, rattle the bones of Freemasons in the ranks of the English police, who apparently run about with rolled up trouser legs, exchanging dodgy handshakes, secretly giving all their lodge brothers pay raises, secretly winking at their brother criminals, secretly shutting out the women and minorities from the really choice jobs, and doing other secretly secret stuff secretly...

Or something.

And naturally the Guardian was obliged to proclaim this totally baseless smear in 72 pt. type, because the English press eats up anti-Masonic stories with a very large spoon. From their article today, Freemasons Are Blocking Reform, Says Police Federation Leader:
Reform in policing is being blocked by members of the Freemasons, and their influence in the service is thwarting the progress of women and people from black and minority ethnic communities, the leader of rank-and-file officers has said.
Steve White, who steps down on Monday after three years as chair of the Police Federation, told the Guardian he was concerned about the continued influence of Freemasons.

White took charge with the government threatening to take over the federation if it did not reform after a string of scandals and controversies.
Critics of the Freemasons say the organisation is secretive and serves the interests of its members over the interests of the public. The Masons deny this saying they uphold values in keeping with public service and high morals.”
White told the Guardian: “What people do in their private lives is a matter for them. When it becomes an issue is when it affects their work. There have been occasions when colleagues of mine have suspected that Freemasons have been an obstacle to reform.
“We need to make sure that people are making decisions for the right reasons and there is a need for future continuing cultural reform in the Fed, which should be reflective of the makeup of policing.”
One previous Metropolitan police commissioner, the late Sir Kenneth Newman, opposed the presence of Masons in the police.
White would not name names, but did not deny that some key figures in local Police Federation branches were Masons.
White said: “It’s about trust and confidence. There are people who feel that being a Freemason and a police officer is not necessarily a good idea. I find it odd that there are pockets of the organisation where a significant number of representatives are Freemasons.”
The Masons deny any clash or reason police officers should not be members of their organisation.
Mike Baker, spokesman for the United Grand Lodge, said: “Why would there be a clash? It’s the same as saying there would be a clash between anyone in a membership organisation and in a public service.
“We are parallel organisations, we fit into these organisations and have high moral principles and values.”
Baker said Freemasonry was open to all, the only requirement being “faith in a supreme being”. He said there were a number of police officers who were Masons and police lodges, such as the Manor of St James, set up for Scotland Yard officers, and Sine Favore, set up in 2010 by Police Federation members. One of those was the Met officer John Tully, who went on to be chair of the federation and, after retirement from policing, is an administrator at the United Grand Lodge of England.
Masons in the police have been accused of covering up for fellow members and favouring them for promotion over more talented, non-Mason officers.
White said: “Some female representatives were concerned about Freemason influence in the Fed. The culture is something that can either discourage or encourage people from the ethnic minorities or women from being part of an organisation.”
The National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead for ethics and integrity, the chief constable Martin Jelley, said: “While we recognise that there has been concern in the past around serving officers also being Freemasons, it is clear that concern over real or perceived threat to impartiality of this has decreased. Regular external scrutiny of the police service by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services has not raised this as an issue of concern.
“Strict guidelines require officers to declare anything which might be deemed a conflict of interest in their force’s register of interests. If convincing evidence ever came to light which clearly showed that Freemasonry was adversely affecting the integrity of the police service then we would take appropriate action.”
As usual, there's never any actual allegation, never any proof of wrongdoing, never anything that can be pinned to the tail of police officers who are Freemasons simply by virtue of the fact that they ARE members of the fraternity. It's always left hazy and non-specific. It's always just a possibility, a perception—and one that is happily promoted by anti-Masons to serve their own ends or to explain their own shortcomings, or their own failure receive promotions. 

In Mr. White's case, he's leaving his position not because he was such a terrific success that his job is finished, but because he was about to get it in the face with a vote of no-confidence from the rank and file police officers. So, it's far easier to leave and then claim all those hordes of secret, dastardly Freemasons blocked him at every turn. Naturally, the Guardian didn't mention that part. No, he was just "stepping down." 

(Although, as one Brother wryly quipped today on Facebook, "Freemasons Are Blocking Reform" is not an entirely unbelievable headline, given some of our own grand lodge sessions.)

Of course, lest you think we are entirely immune on this side of the Atlantic, we're not. The Boston Globe tried to get into the act out of the blue back in November. In the midst of all of the caterwauling last month over Alabama's special election, the Boston Globe went on its own witch hunt and came up with Brett Tally, a judicial nominee for the federal bench nine states away from Massachusetts (where he once lived and attended Harvard). Because federal judges are appointed by the President, naturally Tally is now part of the scorched Earth political climate in the U.S. that brands all people as either saints or Satanic, depending on their partisanship and who's wielding the branding iron. 

It should probably be noted for foreign readers that Massachusetts is overwhelmingly a state that is in political opposition to the current Administration, and in the case of one of its Senators, vehemently so. That would be the equally "controversial" Elizabeth Warren, who immediately declared she would vote against Tally's confirmation.

The Globe took up the cause of helping to declare Tally as "unqualified" to be a federal judge, and so it published this little gem on November 15th, Brett Tally, Controversial Nominee For Ala. Federal Bench, Has Mass. Masonic Ties (note that he must be "controversial" because the headline screams it):
By now you’ve probably heard of Brett Joseph Talley, the 36-year-old Justice Department lawyer and horror writer nominated to the federal bench in Alabama by President Trump.

You’ve probably seen the unflattering headlines, too — from the American Bar Association deeming him unqualified to a Washington Post report that Talley failed to disclose in a Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire that he’s married to a Trump White House lawyer.
Less attention has been paid to Talley’s Massachusetts ties, which he cultivated as a student at Harvard Law School. He graduated from Harvard in 2007 and later took a job as a writer for Mitt Romney’s 2o12 presidential campaign.

In addition, he identified himself in the Senate questionnaire as a member of The Harvard Lodge A.F. & A.M., a Masonic group based in Massachusetts that requires university affiliation for membership.
“One of the many unique characteristics of The Harvard Lodge is that its members don their academic robes and regalia at the Lodge’s regular meetings,” the group’s website says.

The site adds that a “Mason’s duties are first to his God, then, to his family and those dependent upon him, and then to his fellow men.”
Among the lodge’s charitable efforts is the Masonic Angel Fund, which supports Cambridge schools and children in need, the site says.
Speaking on behalf of the lodge, Christopher Rooney of the Massachusetts Freemasons said Talley joined the Harvard group in 2006, but further information about his involvement wasn’t available Wednesday.

Talley couldn’t be reached for comment.

He noted in his Senate questionnaire that the lodge is a “masonic, fraternal organization limited to men, although there is a corresponding organization for women.”
May the dawning of A.L. 6018 bring a more calming year for us all. Happy New Year.


  1. There have been vigorous efforts to increase the percentage of women police in Britain, and currently about 29 percent of police officers are women. Minority ethnic groups are just over 5 percent. The need to have a more diverse force is part of the discussion involving Masonic memberships.

  2. I think the defense of Brett Talley is a little dishonest here. He was a controversial nominee, but it had nothing what-so-ever to do with his masonic affiliation. He was a controversial nominee because he was vastly unqualified for the position. He had practices law a total of three years, and had never been inside a courtroom. His experience was as a speech writer for Rob Portman and Mitt Romney. He was voted as "unqualified" by the American Bar Association, which has only happened a handful of times before. He lacked the professional experience necessary, but even worse he exhibited poor judgement at numerous points, the worst of which was his failure to disclose his relationship with his own wife (who works in the legal counsel office of the White House) as a potential conflict of interest. His defense to this oversight was "I thought everyone already knew, so I didn't have to put it on the form." Disastrous lack of judgement.

    There were many reasons to find his nomination to be a mockery of the federal judiciary, and his nomination was not "controversial" in the scare quote sense, it was controversial in fact, and was only resolved when he withdrew his nomination. The controversy did not revolve around his masonic affiliation, but on actual professional merit. After reading numerous articles about this man, this blog post is the first I've seen which mentions his masonic affiliation. I do not think Mr. Talley's nomination is in any way comparable to the police story which forms the main body of your post.

    1. I have no dog in that skirmish politically either way, and I make no judgement as to his qualifications or lack of them. I'M certainly not qualified to make such a decision, which is why they have conformation hearings for federal judicial appointments instead of elections. I simply found it out of character for a modern U.S. paper to use his Masonic membership as an additional stick to smack him with.

  3. I agree that it is odd for the newspaper to single his masonic affiliation out as a point of controversy. However, you also tied it into Sen. Warren's opposition to his appointment, making it seem like she opposed him on the grounds that he is a mason, when she actually opposed him for much more relevant reasons.

    1. Fair point. The paragraph got shifted to the end from where I had first intended it, which altered its perception. I have moved it up where it belonged to begin with.


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