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There is currently no cap on how long an allegation or complaint against a police officer can be investigated. A significant number of misconduct cases take years to come to conclusion. The negative impact of this prolonged uncertainty on a police officer, their families and their colleagues cannot be underestimated. It effects their long term mental health and well-being and they are often placed under restrictions which means they are unable to support colleagues on the frontlines. They become de-skilled, requiring more training, and can lose confidence.
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 Federation is calling for a time limit for disciplinary proceedings against officers. We suggest it should be set at 12 months from allegations being made. That would fit in and complement the new regulations relating to Police & Crime Commissioners being given explanations when cases take longer than 12 months. To safeguard genuinely delayed cases a Legally Qualified Chair should then be appointed and have the power to terminate or conduct robust case management to bring cases to swift conclusions, safeguarding both complainant and officer's position.
Some figures for context:
Below is a testimony from PC Adrian Daly, a Met firearms officer, who endured a three year wait to clear his name: