The officer who conducted an internal inquiry into comments by three officers about the “Plebgate” row has said Andrew Mitchell deserves an apology.
Chief Inspector Jerry Reakes-Williams told MPs he felt comments by Police Federation representatives had caused the public to be “misled”.
He said he felt the trio should still face disciplinary action over accounts they gave of a meeting with the Tory chief whip last October, shortly before he quit.
Giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee, he said: “I did find a case to answer for misconduct and that’s still my view.”
Although he insisted he did not believe the three officers had lied, when asked if Mr Mitchell was owed an apology, he said: “Certainly I do.”
He added: “I think the result was that the public were misled but I do not think it was a deliberate attempt to mislead.”
Mr Reakes-Williams was the first witness at a tense committee session looking at the affair, which has now rumbled on for more than a year.
He told MPs he understood his chief constable may still consider disciplinary action.
Inspector Ken MacKaill, Detective Sergeant Stuart Hinton and Sergeant Chris Jones have been accused of trying to discredit the politician after the talks.
They claimed he had refused to give a full account of his altercation with officers at the Downing Street gates a month earlier.
Mr Reakes-Williams, who handles professional standards for Warwickshire and West Mercia police, originally wrote a report recommending they face action.
His conclusions were later overruled by senior officers and it was decided the three had no case to answer for misconduct or gross misconduct.
But a report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) last week questioned their “honesty and integrity”.
David Cameron and the Home Secretary Theresa May have led calls for the officers to say sorry since the watchdog issued its findings.
However, although the officers issued a statement this week admitting “poor judgement”, there was no direct apology to Mr Mitchell.
He had always admitted arguing with Downing Street police last September but denies calling officers “plebs” during the altercation.
The MP claims he has been smeared in a bid to “toxify” the Conservatives and ruin his career.
The affair has escalated into an issue about trust in the police as a whole and prompted calls for officers to be constantly recorded.
Prosecutors are currently considering whether to bring criminal charges after a Scotland Yard investigation costing at least £230,000.
Eight people including five police officers arrested as part of the probe are currently on bail.