26 January 2021
The Independent Office for Police Conduct – the body in charge of investigating the actions of police officers - needs to be held to account for the “ridiculous” amount of time it can keep officers under the microscope.
Cumbria Police Federation Chair Paul Williams said that while police officers have no objection at being held accountable for their actions, the IOPC and its investigators spend far too long scrutinising their work.
Sometimes this can be for years.
He said: “We’ve had some lengthy investigations in Cumbria – some have lasted 18 months to 3 years. The affect it has on the police officer themselves is quite substantial.
“If you compare that to a police officer investigating a suspect for a crime, if they took a number of years to conclude an investigation we would rightly be held to account because of the potential damage that would do to the person involved. Police officers are no different.
“Why should they be waiting with their lives on hold for sometimes five to 10 years – as we have seen nationally - for the outcome of an investigation against them?”
The Home Affairs Select Committee is currently looking into the IOPC’s timescales for investigating police officer conduct.
As part of the Police Federation of England and Wales’s #TimeLimits campaign, the Federation will be giving evidence to Parliament tomorrow (Wednesday) on the detrimental and costly impact of lengthy disciplinary investigations on police officers, their families and their colleagues.
Paul added: “Some of the IOPC’s investigations have to wait for a criminal investigation outcome before they can start on misconduct, so some of them are going to take time. However, to take a number of years to come to a conclusion – and some of those investigations hold serious errors and non-factual statements – is just beyond me.
“It's something that we have been in consultation with the IOPC nationally about for quite some time, and they have promised improvements and in some areas delivered improvements, but it’s too little, too late.
“Cops are losing faith and serious amounts of money has been spent on legal fees. I think the stance from the Federation now is ‘enough is enough’. The IOPC needs to be held to account for these ridiculous timescales.”
PFEW’s Time Limits campaign pushes for investigations into police officers to be capped at 12 months. The IOPC’s latest figures from 2019/20 show that two thirds of its open caseload was fewer than six months old and that cases open for longer than 12 months decreased from 24 per cent to 17 per cent.
Paul concluded: “There should be a place for an independent investigatory body for officers because we police by consent and the public have to know that there’s going to be a transparent investigation.
“But there has to be improvement in the quality of investigations, the length of investigations, and how they deal with the police officers themselves. It cannot be fishing for an outcome, it has to be an independent investigation based on the facts.”