There is currently no cap on how long an allegation or complaint against a police officer can be investigated. We constantly see cases that take many years to come to conclusion, often at the direction of the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC). The negative impact that any misconduct investigation has on a Police officer, their families and their colleagues cannot be underestimated.
When an officer is under investigation for so long the toll on them, their families and their colleagues is not only personally devastating but can have long term impacts on health and well-being. Officers will often have restrictions placed on them causing their loss to the front line in supporting their colleagues, de-skilling them which then requires more training, not to mention the loss of confidence for the officer.
Joe Harrington was a PC in the Metropolitan Police when he was accused of assault and failing to challenge racist comments made by another officer during the London riots in 2011. He was placed on restricted duties - which meant he could not go on patrol - while a criminal investigation was carried out. He was acquitted by a court in 2013 but the IOPC swiftly reopened the case and PC Harrington was under investigation again. He remained on restricted duties until a misconduct panel was held June 2018, seven years after the original incident. His case was dismissed - with the misconduct panel finding the delays were unreasonably long and unjustified. PC Harrington was sadly diagnosed with PTSD as a result of his experience.
The Police Federation is calling for a time limit for disciplinary proceedings being brought against officers to be introduced. That time limit, we suggest, should be 12 months from allegations being made. We are also calling for Police and Crime Commissioners to be empowered to demand a progress update and to stop cases and seeking to simplify the appeals process.