SIXTEEN Lancashire police officers have criminal records, it has emerged.

The offences include common assault, theft, drink driving, dangerous driving and criminal damage.

Four officers committed crimes while in the force and have kept their job.

The remaining offences happened before the other 12 officers joined the police.

An MP said officers who committed crimes while in the police should be sacked.

He called for ‘greater transparency’ as the details were only uncovered by the Lancashire Telegraph using the Freedom of Information act.

A solicitor said lawyers also needed to know about the incidents as they criminal records could potentially affect an officer’s credibility in court.

Police bosses stressed that the total of 16 was a drop in the ocean of the force’s 3,500 officers.

However they declined to explain the circumstances behind each of the crimes, saying each case was assessed on an individual basis.

Forces should not recruit people with cautions or convictions that may call into question the integrity of the applicant or the service, according to Home Office guidance.

The decision of whether this is the case is left up to individual force’s judgement.

Coun David Whipp, a member of Lancashire Police Authority which oversees the management of the force, was surprised by the Lancashire Telegraph’s findings.

He said: “I certainly wasn’t aware of this being the case, but I do know there is a high level of standards required for the recruits and the vetting process is extremely thorough.

“I will ask some questions about this matter following the information that has been revealed by the Lancashire Telegraph.”

Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans called for more transparency within the police force.

He said: "Obviously we don't know details of these particular cases and I think those who have spent convictions should be allowed to re-establish themselves in the community.

“That said, those who have committed offences while working for the police should be sacked.

“I think the public have the right to know that people who are there to uphold the law are practicing what they preach."

Leeds-based solicitor Simon Purchas, who specialises in public law and actions against the police, said he was ‘concerned’ about officers with assault and theft convictions.

He said: "Lawyers should be made aware of these convictions if an officer with a conviction is a witness in court because they may be relevant to the officers credibility.

“I find it extraordinary that an officer with a theft conviction is allowed to uphold the law.

"The fundamental role of a police officer is honesty.

"These findings raise a lot more serious questions.”

John O’Reilly, chairman of Lancashire Police Federation, representing rank and file, said there was a vigorous vetting process for police applicants.

He said: “I know for example that if an officer was convicted of a drink driving offence it would be 10 years before they would even be considered to join.

"A drunk and disorderly offence would be five years and if you didn’t declare it and it later came to light you would quite simply be out.

“When there is a conviction for theft which calls into question an officer’s integrity they would have to show they have moved on and made a decent life since.”

Chief Superintendent Clive Tattum, head of professional standards for Lancashire Constabulary, said they tried to balance individual’s history with how their skills could improve the force.

He said: “It should be remembered that there are more than 3,500 police officers in the county, the overwhelming majority of whom serve the public with dedication and behave professionally, ethically and with integrity.”

Similar investigations elsewhere have found there are 70 officers with convictions in the Metropolitan police which has 31,000 staff and 50 in the 4,400-strong Merseyside force.

Key questions

We asked Lancashire Constabulary how many officers had criminal records.

The force replied: One sergeant and 15 police constables, 12 of them committing crimes before they joined the police.

Four had been convicted of criminal damage, two of drink-driving, four of theft, one for dangerous driving, two of drunk and disorderly and two of common assault. The force did not disclose one of the convictions.

Five of the 16 were serving in East Lancashire, two at headquarters and the remaining nine elsewhere in the county.