British police must take urgent action to address the issue of corruption although the problem is not endemic, a report commissioned following the News Corp phone-hacking scandal said on Tuesday.
The review, ordered after both Britain's most senior policeman and the top anti-terrorism officer quit amid criticism of their roles in the hacking saga, found more than a third of the public believed corruption was a problem.
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), which carried out the review, said guidelines and governance over police relationships with the media, hospitality, gifts and outside business interests were generally weak and widely inconsistent.
Roger Baker, HM Inspector of Constabulary, said it was an urgent wake-up call. The service needs to get a grip on these issues, he told reporters.
The question of corruption rose to prominence in July at the height of the phone-hacking scandal, centred on the News of the World tabloid, part of the News International, News Corp's British arm.
Paul Stephenson, the head of London's Metropolitan Police, and the capital's top terrorism officer John Yates both resigned after questions were raised about their connections with News International figures.
Both were later cleared of any wrongdoing. Detectives are also investigating whether any officers have taken bribes from reporters in exchange for information.
The HMIC said evidence from the 43 forces in England and Wales, as well as the British Transport Police, indicated inappropriate relationships with the media or others appeared to be infrequent.
There were 314 investigations into inappropriate relationships or unauthorised leaks to the media in the last five years, of which just 12 related to suspect relationships. These had led to just one officer resigning.
But Baker said oversight from chief officers and governing bodies was so weak that they could not be certain the issue was not more widespread.
A survey of 3,571 people found while 63 percent did not think corruption was common, 34 percent thought it was a problem.
The HMIC said there needed to be greater clarity and a national set of standards on what was and was not acceptable behaviour.
Chief Superintendent Derek Barnett, President of the Police Superintendents' Association of England and Wales, said it was critical that the police should not only act fairly but also be seen to being doing so.
The review does highlight the variable levels of audit and lack of clear and consistent guidance in relation to the acceptance of gifts and hospitality and this should be addressed as a matter of urgency, he said.