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Devon & Cornwall Police Federation

Fairness of police misconduct rules under spotlight at PFEW conference

10 October 2023

Police officers are choosing to be assaulted rather than use force to defend themselves because they are scared of falling foul of misconduct proceedings, the Police Federation of England and Wales annual conference has heard.

Proposed changes to conduct regulations are leaving officers feeling insecure on duty, Phil Jones, PFEW Conduct and Performance Lead, said at the meeting today (10 October).

Phil told the conference: “When you look at the 2020 regulations, they were all enacted around fairness, proportionality and the independence of legally qualified chairs, and that took out any political alliance, any pressures to get to a determination.

“Now, we have 110 officers assaulted every day. But people are choosing to be assaulted rather than use force because ultimately they can be then found wanting in the gross misconduct arena in which now, if the Home Office bring in these regulations, you're looking at automatic dismissal. That can't be right.”

Proposed plans to hand the power to chief officers to decide on whether an officer should be dismissed could impact the fairness and transparency of the process, he added, and Phil also raised concerns about the timeliness of proceedings.

He said: “We often see headlines of cases taking 2,3,4 or5 years and there's an individual behind all of this. I'm not convinced having chief constables at the helm of meetings, hearings, is going to speed this up any, and we know chief officers are really, really busy. We’ve got the time limits campaign. The time limits aren’t stuck to in some circumstances, and at the end of the day there’s a human being at the end of this.”

John Bassett, President of the National Association of Legally Qualified Chairs, warned that proposed changes would impact the impartiality of the process: “If chief officers should have the ultimate responsibility decision on whether to dismiss or not…in those circumstances, how are you going to to ensure there is an open, transparent and fair process in place? Because if the ultimate decision has been taken by chief officer who can effectively ignore the legal advice they've given, can effectively ignore the decision has been made by the majority of the panel, in those circumstances, I don't see this process passes the test of fairness to anyone, whether it's the public in general, or police officers individually.”