West Yorkshire Chief Constable Norman Bettison stepped down from his post today, just two days after Labour MP Maria Eagles relayed the account of John Barry, who attended an MBA program in Sheffield with Bettison around the time of the disaster. From David Conn at the Guardian, who's been superb in his coverage over the last few weeks and months:
"Weeks after the game," Barry wrote, "we were in a pub after our weekly evening class. [Bettison] told me that he had been asked by his senior officers to put together the South Yorkshire police evidence for the forthcoming [Taylor] inquiry. [Bettison] said that: 'We are trying to concoct a story that all the Liverpool fans were drunk and we were afraid that they were going to break down the gates, so we decided to open them'."
Bettison has denied the accusations, asserting that his resignation has nothing to do with culpability, rather that it's proven to be too big of a distraction for the police force for him to keep his position and he did so at the urging of others. His retirement was apparently already in the works, planned for March, but Eagle read Barry's letter on Monday, leading to rapidly increased scrutiny.
It's hard to give Bettison the benefit of the doubt with the amount of information the Independent Panel uncovered; few on the police force proved competent on that day, and it's unfathomable that one would find an intentional displacement of blame something worth bragging about. Focus on the individuals responsible will prove fleeting, though, as the ultimate goal is whatever sort of peace is possible for the families and friends of those who died.