Police watchdog admits investigations take “too long”

21 December 2018

Conduct Lead Phil Matthews

National Conduct Lead Phill Matthews

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has admitted that they must do better, according to a BBC report today, Friday 21 December.

Data obtained by a Freedom of Information Act shows that almost half of UK’s suspended officers have been off-duty for at least a year.

In a response provided to the BBC the Police Watchdog said it “must do better”.

From the 31 forces that provided information to the BBC through a Freedom of Information request, 71 of the 153 officers (46%) who were fully suspended from duty in October 2018 had been suspended since at least November 2017.

In a statement provided to the BBC an IOPC spokesperson said: "We recognise we need to do better with the timeliness of our investigations and a number of changes are already under way to speed up our processes.”

PFEW has been calling for investigations to be completed in a timely manner to prevent unimaginable stress and trauma being put on members. 

Phill Matthews, PFEW National Conduct and Performance Lead, said: “These figures highlight the waste of time, effort and money currently spent pursuing cases in an untimely fashion, all the time needlessly putting the officers concerned through a protracted hell. In extreme cases officers have been prevented from retiring and left unable to move on with their lives or a new career.

“The impact on these officers cannot be underestimated; it has a profound effect: mentally, physically and often financially, not just for themselves but also for the families they need to lean on.

“Their lives can spiral downhill and the evidence shows that the longer these investigations continue, the health and wellbeing of the accused officer deteriorates rapidly. In extreme cases, officers have been driven to attempt suicide.

“If they are placed on restricted duties or suspended, not only will their fellow colleagues be put under additional pressures because of gaps in the frontline but can also suffer from loss of morale. And if the officer concerned eventually returns, they will need re-training.

“This does not happen in any other profession, which is why we are calling for an overhaul of the system to bring in a time limit. If a case is worth progressing, then it should be done swiftly, for all involved.  Not just for the officers but also for the complainants and their relatives who face the same issues and are left short-changed by seeing no end in sight and no explanation forthcoming.

“We believe the IOPC is trying to address this and we have seen some evidence of progress and I’m pleased they are now publically acknowledging this.

“We have been lobbying the IPCC since before and during its transition to the IOPC. But although there are signs of a shift from punishment as the automatic default sanction to a more progressive culture of performance and learning, we do not believe that any positive development can be left purely to chance.

“Drastic reform or legislation is what is needed to halt this drift and we would like to see timelines imposed in line with other statutory instruments,” Phill concluded.