Bent Coppers: Crossing the Line of Duty

Photograph: BBC
Rating 7.4
Streamer BBC iPlayer
Seasons 1
Episodes 3 x 60 mins

We are currently in the midst of another nail biting season of Jed Mercurio’s smash hit series Line of Duty, and if you’re currently exhausting yourself with all the googling and group chat discussions over who is or isn’t corrupt, it might be time to take a break from Ted Hastings and his bent coppers, by learning about the real history of corruption in the British police force. And hey, you never know, it might spark a new theory before next week’s episode…

But with this docuseries, we couldn’t be further from the tech-filled offices of AC-12. We’re back in the 1960s, where London’s Metropolitan Police were notoriously corrupt, seeing every criminal from petty theft to armed robbery as an opportunity for exploitation. Sadly, they didn’t get Adrian Dunbar, the man behind Ted Hastings and king of nicking bent coppers, to voice the docuseries, but they did manage to get another iconic telly bobby, Life on Mars’s Philip Glenister, whose tone is just the right amount of old school geezer to guide the series.

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We learn of The Times reporters Garry Lloyd and Julian Mounter, who with the help of a slightly dodgy copper, Michael Perry, were able to expose the corruption going on in the capital’s police force, triggering a huge investigation and the Met vowing to rid itself of crooked police officers. A big job for Inspector of Constabulary Frank Williamson to take on, then – particularly as it seems even his superiors were deeply imbedded in the criminal corruption that was going on.

It’s safe to say this isn’t the best bit of PR for the police – the archive footage shows an apparent hatred for the working classes, and the scenes involving minority groups are really difficult to watch. So much so, that the company of Fleming, Arnott and Hastings will seem remarkably cosy compared to this lot. And that’s really saying something.

Catch up with the goings on at AC-12, in Line of Duty

Like us, The Telegraph’s Ed Power enjoyed this “pacy and gripping” side dish to the BBC’s current biggest drama, full of “cheeky vintage touches,” with “Ford Cortinas and sideburns,” and even says, “If it wasn’t for the questionable policing and rampant xenophobia, Bent Coppers almost made you yearn for a simpler, more swaggering era.” We’re not sure Carol Midgley in The Times would agree, saying “Ted Hastings and Steve Arnott would need ten years of overtime to sort out this lot.” However, she did equally enjoy the peek into the past, saying “the evocative 1970s imagery and narration of Philip Glenister from Life on Mars did make this feel like a portal back in time.”

First shown April 2021.

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