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Avon & Somerset Police Federation

Code of Ethics must be part of statutory guidance

24 January 2024

The Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) recognises the importance of the College of Policing’s revised Code of Ethics for police officers to strengthen public confidence in policing and supports the guidance it aims to provide to officers to always adhere to ethical behaviour, both on and off duty.

It is policing’s paramount duty and only right for the public to expect police officers to follow the highest standards of professional conduct, however, there are some serious gaps which PFEW believes need urgent rectification, and further considerations must be made for effective and efficient implementation of the Code to be successful.

PFEW has been working closely with the College for the past 18 months in crafting the Code of Ethics and has been involved in the consultation process to ensure the updated Code of Ethics are as clear as possible for members to follow while carry out their daily duties.

It is disappointing that significant concerns raised by us about how the revised Code of Ethics should fit within the existing regulatory framework remain. There is a mismatch between what is cited within the Home Office Guidance [Conduct, Efficiency and Effectiveness, and Police Officer Misconduct, Unsatisfactory Performance and Attendance Management Procedures], the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2020, and the new Code of Ethics.

The previous Code of Ethics was integral to police officers’ decision-making process as stated in the Home Office Guidance, ‘the Code of Ethics provides general guidance on how behaviour that does not uphold policing principles or meet expected standards should be handled’ – however, this is not the case now, and there is no guidance on handling such behaviour within the revised Code of Ethics.

Avon and Somerset Police Federation Acting Chair Iain Prideaux said: “We fully welcome the ethos and focus on cultivating a culture of learning, development, and honest reflection.

“A crucial element of this involves the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2020, with the introduction of the Performance Requires Improvement process, where officers can take part in Reflective Practice with their line manager if their action does not amount to misconduct or gross misconduct. This gives police officers the opportunity to embed learning and ensure performance is improved as quickly as possible. It also signifies a step towards putting the blame culture in the past.

“However, the statutory definition of Practice Requiring Improvement includes consideration of the Code of Ethics to inform any assessment or judgement of conduct.

“These are just two examples, but it demonstrates not only the paramount importance for the new Code of Ethics to be embedded into the Home Office Guidance and the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2020 to mirror one another, but also highlights how the Code of Ethics underpins a vital section of the Conduct Regulations – therefore merely removing mention of the Code of Ethics as a quick fix is not a feasible solution.

“I would strongly urge the Home Office to change and revise the guidance on police officer conduct and Police (Conduct) Regulations 2020 in accordance with the revised Code of Ethics.”

PFEW supports the revised Code of Ethics, as mentioned, but the service cannot underestimate the work required to implement the Code within forces. As seen following the rollout of the new conduct regulations in 2020, it takes many months, even more than a year, for extensive changes to be fully understood and actioned by all officers and staff, through adequate training.

Police officers must be afforded protected learning time, so they can follow the Code to restore public confidence. PFEW believes officers should be allocated time during their working hours to learn and should not be made to undertake it at home where they may not have the capacity. PFEW firmly maintains the view this is integral to the success of implementing the Code.

Finally, successful implementation of the Code of Ethics should be an integral part of the recently launched Code of Practice for Ethical Policing which holds chief officers to account, and there must be sanctions for failing to deliver on this vital piece of work.