Part 2 of an analysis of the Reichenbach Fall, how Lestrade’s decision to allow Sherlock to work on his crime scenes has set the Met police up for a huge scandal.
Please read part 1 first to find out why Sherlock is not an official consulting detective and what Lestrade has done is highly illegal.
- Why Donovan and Anderson hate Sherlock – it is much more complicated than just petty jealousy.
- Why informing the Chief Inspector about Sherlock was an incredibly brave thing for Sally to do.
- Reasons why Sally felt she had to report Sherlock at that time
- Why Sally Donovan is a very human, flawed and brilliant character.
In part 1 I have discussed why Sherlock doesn’t have official authorisation to assist the police. Allowing this private citizen to access police crime scenes and investigations is illegal. Lestrade has set the entire CID department up for a huge scandal.
So why did Sally and Anderson knowingly allow their DI to lead them down this path of destruction?
It’s not Personal, it’s just Business
Sally and Anderson are both highly trained police officers who have reached their current posts through hard work and dedication. In Hidden Heroines of Sherlock, I have explained how hard it is to become a detective sergeant.
They are every much entrenched in the police mindset where their actions must adhere to strict police protocols. This doesn’t mean that they are unimaginative or suffer from a lack of initiative. Sally and Anderson understand how important the standard police procedure is to securing legal evidence and eventually a conviction. Sherlock simply tears up all the rulebooks about police detective work and then runs amok all over Anderson’s crime scenes.
What is so anger inducing is that: he shouldn’t be allowed to do this.
This isn’t 1895, when the Met Police were still figuring out what they should be doing and the CID division consisted of less than a hundred amateurs with magnifying glasses.
Not only is Sherlock contaminating important evidence, he is endangering the entire investigation by his actions. Sherlock is a brilliant problem-solver but a terrible police detective. Even though he always catches the perpetrator, his methods are often undocumented and sometimes illegal. Without correct documentation and adherence to protocol and evidence that Sherlock gathers for the police is not admissible in court.
Lestrade has managed to get around this problem by taking Sherlock’s conclusions as “tips offs”. In the paperwork, Sherlock would only be mentioned as a police informant rather than a consulting detective who trampled through crime scenes and interrogated witnesses
Sherlock’s actions, if they were ever discovered by the Independent Police Complaints Commission or the Crown Prosecution Service, would lead to every single case he ever had contact with being reopened and retired.
Sally and Anderson have a professional reason to dislike Sherlock from the start. However Sherlock’s abrasive personality has eventually turned a professional dislike into something much more personal and by the time series one starts; the animosity is vicious on both sides.
This analogy helped me to see things from Sally’s perspective. Imagine you are a hard-working, competent doctor who sticks to the NHS guidelines because the guidelines exist for a reason – to ensure the safety of the patient. Along comes someone who is not part of the medical profession, as never undergone medical training and this man starts giving experiment treatments of their own making to all of your patients. We can all tell that this situation is wrong, it is unethical and dangerous; you wouldn’t want your family members to be any of these patients. Compare this to letting an unauthorized private citizen attend crimes scenes, handle evidence and be privy to a police investigation. There aren’t necessarily lives at stake but justice is certainly at stake.
However Sherlock is very good at crime solving, he always catches the culprit. Going back to the analogy if the experimental treatment seemed to cure the patients much quicker than conventional treatment, should this person be allowed to continue treating your patients? Some readers might say yes, the outcome is what matters. However you don’t know what implications this might have in the long run. You don’t know that this person understands or adheres to the principles of medical ethics. Why is this person doing this? It might be altruism but what if it’s not?
These patients are morally and legally your responsibility. It doesn’t matter how great this experiment treatment is, it’s illegal, untested and unauthorised. What if something went wrong, could you live with yourself? More cynically, if anyone finds out you allowed this unqualified person to treat your patients, you are looking at very long jail sentence.
In this situation would your really stand back and let this happen? I wouldn’t and no other sane doctor would either.
However this is precisely what Sally and Anderson have been forced to do and they hate it. Sally and Anderson don’t know what might happen if Sherlock’s unofficial role with the Met CID is ever scrutinised. It is their careers on the line if anyone decides to investigate Sherlock Holmes’ actions because they are standing by and letting this happen.
Therefore there is a logical professional reason why Sally and Anderson do not want Sherlock on their team/crime scene.
Between a Rock and a Hateful Place
So why haven’t Sally and Anderson reported this to The Chief Inspector the first time they met Sherlock?
I work as a medical student on the NHS and none of the medical dramas ever manage to do the real working conditions justice. I’m not talking about long hours and gruesome sights; I’m talking about the hierarchy. Every firm (group of doctors on a ward) has a strict hierarchy, which is always observed no matter how friendly or approachable your seniors may seem. You report to the person above you. You do not bypass the person above you unless it’s an emergency when lives are at stake. If you ever whistleblow/tattle on your superiors, this is a great way to ensure that your medical career ends prematurely because no hospital would ever want to employ you again. This is tantamount to career suicide.
Medicine isn’t even a job that most people associate with a chain of command, unlike the Police Force.
The Metropolitan Police are officially a hierarchical organisation; they have official badges, uniforms etc to differentiate between the ranks. They adhere to same principles as the doctors on the NHS except there is no need to keep the hierarchy issue under the table.
Sally and Anderson do not have much of choice but to go along with Lestrade’s plan.
I am not saying that Lestrade is threatening to his team members. Sally and Anderson appear to have a good working relationship with their boss. They are comfortable debating decisions with him, and criticising his choices.
However, Lestrade by allowing Sherlock onto his investigations has put himself into a very dangerous legal position. Sally and Anderson would have realised this the moment Sherlock Holmes trampled all over his first crime scene. I doubt Lestrade actually bothered to talk over this decision with his team because he knew they would object, who in their right minds wouldn’t?
Sally and Anderson have been instantly placed in a difficult position. They have to immediately report this to Lestrade’s superior if they want to avoid being complicit in Lestrade’s illegal activities. They will have to basically “rat out” their boss, whom they like. This could mean the end of Lestrade’s entire career – he will be sacked, disgraced and possibly face criminal charges.
From a purely cynical point of view: if you have a good working relationship with your current DI, would you want him to leave? Think about the amount of effort it would take to build a new professional relationship with another boss, who might not be so accommodating.
Getting Lestrade sacked will reflect badly on the entire team – even if they reported his wrong doing straight away. The DI is the leader of the group, he has a great deal of influence and power over his subordinates. Sally and Anderson’s previous actions will be scrutinised almost as closely as Lestrade’s in the ensuing Independent Police Commission investigation. Their reputations will be tarnished and the prospect of promotions will be a thing of the past.
In the police force Detective Sergeant is a quite a high position and one which many policemen expect will be the pinnacle of their careers. DI is a difficult position to reach. DI appointments are technically on merit but as there are so many candidates to choose from – they also have a political dimension. Sally needs all the support of her DI and Chief Inspector in order to secure any promotions in the future. No one would appoint a member of a disgraced CID division to lead her own team – who knows what bad habits Sally might have picked up from Lestrade?
On a more personal level: I think Sally truly appreciates Lestrade’s dedication to the job (and perhaps she also likes him as a person but we do not have enough evidence of that). She can understand why he wants Sherlock to help them, and she grudgingly accepts that Sherlock does produce results. Sally does not want to be responsible for destroying Lestrade’s career even if he’s setting them all up for a fall. Perhaps the more selfish part of her enjoys the success and acclaim she gets when Sherlock helps them solve a complicate case.
In the end Sally and Anderson didn’t report it to their Chief Inspector, because he had clearly never been informed until TRF by anyone that Sherlock Holmes had access to crime scenes.
I can understand why Sally in particularly found herself hating her situation. Unwritten rules dictate that she does not whistleblow on her boss – it will effectively end her career. She relies on the good will (and references) from her DI in order to advance up the ranks or to get a transfer. If she wants to stay in her current position: ratting out your DI is not going to make his replacement inclined to want to work with you either.
What Lestrade is doing is professionally wrong. By keeping quiet, what Sally is doing is also professionally wrong. Forget their careers, if anyone finds out they could be going to jail.
In the same way many good doctors have kept quiet about their superior’s misdeeds. You might be reading this and thinking – “I would definitely do the right thing”.
I have seen people in this situation. It breaks you down and twists your thoughts until you endless justify that the easy option is the right thing to do but you know it’s not. You end up hating yourself and everyone around you; that hate slowly destroys you. I have seen people become bitter, isolated and hateful because of the stress they have had to go through and there is no easy way out. I will likely never meet any of my readers but I hope you never have to face this situation.
I am not condoning Sally’s unprofessional behaviour in this situation, I am merely discussing why she does it. It would be doing Sally’s character a great injustice to merely write her off as petty.
When Sally finally does go to the Chief Inspector, she is effectively sacrificing her career, the one thing she has dedicated her life to, but she does it because she had come to realise that lives and justice may be at stake.
And It all Hits the Fan
When Sally brings her suspicions to the Chief Inspector, she has basically lit the fuse to a tonne of dynamite.
I find it rather amusing when people state confidently that Sally went to the Chief Inspector in the hope that she would be promoted to Lestrade’s position.
Are you joking? The UK Police Force has several hundred Detective Sergeants – all of whom now have much better (or at least unblemished) service records compared to Sally Donovan. By sitting on the information that Sherlock is actually working on crime scenes without proper authorisation, she has implicated herself in the entire scheme. She will be very lucky if she gets to remain in the Police Force at all let alone gain a promotion from this fiasco. There is no reason why Lestrade’s replacement has to come from within the Met, possibly given the nature of the scandal the top brass would want someone from the outside.
Sally taking the evidence she had about Sherlock to the Chief Inspector was definitely the right thing to do, morally and practically. I don’t have a problem with what Sally did. I do think Sally should have talked to the Chief Inspector sooner, instead of covering up for her boss but she did eventually break that silence when she realised that lives were at stake.
Yes, Sally hates Sherlock, but bringing her suspicions and corroborating evidence to the the Chief Inspector is not purely an act of spite. In fact it has very little to do with Sally’s personal emotions.
Think about it, if Sally really wanted Sherlock gone from the team out of pure spite – she could have done that a long time ago. It would mean destroying Lestrade’s career, but if she is the cold hearted hatred-filled person many fans portray her as, Sally would have no problem doing this.
Sally chose to finally go to the Chief Inspector now because she has circumstantial evidence to suggest that Sherlock may be responsible for the kidnapping (and perhaps many other crimes). We know that Sherlock is being framed, but Moriarty has cunningly set up the entire scenario so that any good police officer would end up suspecting Sherlock. Police do not have to obtain concrete evidence before questioning suspects; they don’t even have to gain concrete evidence to arrest people without charge. They do need evidence to charge a suspect but Sally is not actually asking the Chief Inspector to charge Sherlock – she is asking him to bring Sherlock in for questioning.
Sally is doing exactly what her police training had drilled into her – no one is above suspicion.
She attempted to get Lestrade to listen to her suspicions first which is exactly what she should have done. When he didn't she had to escalate the situation and go to his boss. Reporting the her suspicions to the Chief Inspector is the better safe than sorry approach.The harm of not capturing Sherlock if he is really orchestrating huge crimes far out weighs the inconvenience to Sherlock of being questioned if he's innocent.
It would be irresponsible to simply brush off her suspicions. If he was the culprit, Sally has effectively ended his crime spree, if he is innocent that should come out during questioning. The only person inconvenienced is Sherlock but the police are not there for the convenience of individuals, they are there to protect the public. By detaining Sherlock, Sally is at least able to get a potentially dangerous criminal off the street for a short period and cut short any other schemes he might be planning.
We must remember that Sally is not just thinking about this kidnapping she is also thinking about the fall out from TGG when people have actually been killed. There is no evidence at the moment that Sherlock planned it but that case even more than TRF revolved around Sherlock and gave him the purpose and attention Sally thinks he craves.
In terms of circumstantial evidence: a good police officer cannot simply ignore the fact that young girl screamed upon seeing Sherlock whereas she was fine with every other person. You cannot write off a witness' reactions because of her age or previous trauma.
As for further lives at risk, the girl's younger brother is in intensive care. As far as we know it was Sherlock who said they have been poisoned with mercury. I assume the hospital then confirmed this. However mercury poisoning is very hard to diagnose (you don't get an elevated mercury level in your blood sometimes). It may also mask the effects of something much more deadly. Medicine may have progressed but there are many poisons that aren't tested for or can't be. If Sherlock has actually orchestrated this entire crime, what is to say that he hasn't put something more sinister onto the sweet wrappers? Just because the girl is medical fit at the moment does not mean her life is out of danger - children have a tendency to be compensate well and then deteriorate rapidly.
If any police officer does not respond immediately to the same circumstantial evidence presented to Sally, their competence fitness to serve has to be questioned.
As for finding the children from the footprints alone, it is quite reasonable that both Sally and Anderson are suspicious.
In order to identify without a doubt trace elements in a footprint you need a mass spectrometer, which Sherlock doesn't have (it's a pretty large machine and costly to run). Sherlock BBC has taken huge liberties with basic science, you cannot identify Clostridium botulium in particular on a light microscope but this is besides the point.
You can identify trace elements through simple chemical reactions such as combustion. If you've ever placed a small piece of potassium into a bunsen burner you'd remember what a spectacular reaction it makes. Sherlock does manage to get enough information from his domestic laboratory to aid his deductions. His results are not fit for a court of law (as the police results have to be) but they are enough for him to deduce what the mostly likely scenario is.
Anderson doesn't know what kind of set up Sherlock has in his home-made lab, he also doesn't know how much scientific knowledge Sherlock possesses. Even if Sherlock was able to identify a trace element what about contamination? Given the state of Sherlock's kitchen, no self respecting scientist or court of law would ever accept any of his conclusions. This does not mean Sherlock's kitchen is dirty, it just means he does not have the facilities to autoclave (sterilise) the equipment he uses nor is he able to prevent contamination of samples due to the nature of his environment.
Sherlock is perfectly happy to work with the risk of contamination, his procedures must mean he keeps contamination to a minimum but Anderson does not know this. Anderson probably also believes that it is impossible to reach meaningful conclusions from a home-made lab and Sherlock's results are automatically bogus.
As for using the equipment at Barts: Sherlock is only ever seen using the light microscope. Barts is a hospital and the labs are equip for biological research purposes (no likely to have a mass spec geared to sampling inorganic compounds) rather than forensic science.
Anderson's mistrust is completely logical given how little he knows about Sherlock's resources.
If I was Anderson or Sally, I would also be very suspicious of how Sherlock managed to identify the location and be correct at the first possible guess. There are definitely many abandoned factories in and around London that would fit with the criteria.
Sally appears to be a smart, emotional well balanced person. She doesn't have enough evidence to actually charge Sherlock - all she really achieves by going to Chief Inspector is to ruin her own career if they do not discover any concrete evidence. She is willing to do this because it is less harmful for the public she is trying to protect then if she ignored her suspicions and allowed a criminal mastermind to go free.
Courage Comes in Different Forms
Taking her case to the Chief Inspector is an incredibly brave thing for Sally to do for all the reasons outlined before. Sally and Anderson are effectively admitting that they actively allowed a private citizen with no authorisation access to their investigations. They are now just as guilty as Lestrade is.
Not only will their careers be ruined, they are looking at criminal charges and they have single-handedly tarnished the reputation of the entire Metropolitan Police CID. This scandal will be enormous and have huge political implications. It’s not just the CID personnel that have to be worried; if this scandal snowballs the police commissioner will likely be sacked. The Home Secretary is going to have to fight hard to hold her position and it may even cost the Conservatives the next election.
The implications are huge (and not actually proportional to the cases Sherlock has worked on) because Sherlock is a well known celebrity. Had he remained an anonymous private investigator, the police would have a better chance to deal with the problem outside of the media circus.
Sally and Anderson are not stupid/mentally insane. They know exactly what the consequences of their actions will be but Sally and Anderson are not willing to compromise public safety and justice despite the personal cost to themselves and the police force.
And to bring the subject back to Sally as a person, has anyone considered how guilty she much feel about the entire fiasco? She had the chance to prevent this entire scandal if only she had taken the leap and informed on her boss. I think this will be a decision that Sally is going to regret for the rest of her life and it will haunt her.
Not to mention that in the months ahead Lestrade and her entire team may be vilified in the press, denounced by politicians and hounded by journalists.
Side Note – Talk about Unprofessional
(Not my work, thanks to artist)
Many fans have written to me about my article Hidden Heroines of Sherlock. I appreciate all your comments; many of you have pointed out how unprofessional Sally is.
Yes, I completely agree that Sally could have behaved better particularly in incidents such as calling Sherlock a freak and delivering a long soliloquy in John’s apartment after Sherlock was arrested. I will hand it to Anderson – his first words to Sherlock were actually much more professional than Sally’s.
However if we are going to talk about unprofessional behaviour let’s first remind ourselves of Lestrade (who got everyone into this mess in the first place) and then Chief Inspector (who’s tact makes wild boars look eloquent). The police in Sherlock BBC are not portrayed well. In reality they are generally much more professional than the writers have given them credit for.
From what we have seen of Sally with victims, we can see that she does behave professionally towards the public. Compare this with Sherlock, who insists that he is a professional and places himself in a position of power over his clients. He belittles them, disrespects them and is inconsiderate of their emotional traumas. His behaviour is entirely unprofessional especially towards the people he is trying to help.
Sherlock has consistently treated his clients, his friends and his family very badly. However many fans find this entirely excusable but when other characters treat Sherlock in the same way they become villains.
I personally want to point out that Sherlock's behaviour is unacceptable and wrong, just because you are more intelligent than others does not give you the right to treat the rest of humanity with contempt.
Sally does insult Sherlock and this is a petty thing to do, but he is not a random member of the public or a victim of a crime.
If we are going to insist that all characters behave professionally all the time, shall we take a look at Dr Watson: falling asleep in the middle of GP surgery! GP is not A&E but you will surprise how many seriously ill patients (usually the elderly) insist on coming to see their GP before calling an ambulance. Patients do arrest in the waiting room. Falling asleep on duty is definitely endangering patient’s lives – doctors have been struck off in the past for doing just that.
There is nothing to suggest that John isn’t a great GP the rest of the time (when he’s fully awake). In the same way, there is nothing to suggest that Sally isn’t a professional police detective (when Sherlock isn’t around). Given that she’s reached such a high position, she is most definitely competent.
Part 3 – What will happen to the Met after TRF?