21 January 2019
Derbyshire Police Federation chair Tony Wetton says the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigation process needs to be speeded up to prevent officers being left in a state of limbo.
Tony also believes too many officers are being put through traumatising misconduct cases and that the legal test used by the IOPC needs reforming.
His comments came in response to figures gathered by the BBC which showed that only five police officers in England and Wales were dismissed in the last three years following conduct cases ordered by the IOPC.
The figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, showed that gross misconduct charges were not proven in 33 of the 48 cases pursued.
“I am really not surprised by these figures and would say they perfectly illustrate that the case to answer test is too low and needs reforming. Far too many officers are going through what is a traumatic process unnecessarily because the threshold is wrong.
“Our members are being left in a state of limbo, with huge uncertainty hanging over them often for a number of years. That has an awful effect on them but also on their loved ones. A time limit should be set on investigations – there is no reason why they should take as long as they do.
“No-one is saying that where there is a genuine case to answer that officers should not face investigation, it is right and proper that they do. However, some of these investigations are dragging out for far too long and that serves no-one well.”
National Federation conduct lead Phill Matthews added: “The effect on officers can be catastrophic. They can be suspended, at massive public expense, which has a knock on effect on morale for whole shifts of officers, or placed on restrictions. We have had members trying to harm themselves because of the stress they are under.
“The IPCC, and IOPC as is now, pursue the wrong cases and often have very little understanding of the evidence and give families and complainants unrealistic expectations.
“In order to change the system we need to put an effective time limit on investigations. There is no excuse why they should be lasting as long as they do. And the fact that so many have no case to answer for afterwards shows they have got the threshold wrong.”
A spokeswoman for the IOPC told the BBC: “We know the case to answer test is low but it has been repeatedly tested through judicial reviews and found to be appropriate.”
The Home Office told the BBC that it was “inevitable” there’d be a “case to answer” against some officers who were later cleared of misconduct but added that it was implementing reforms to ensure a “consistent” approach to the way the test was applied.
Policing minister Nick Hurd said reforms, due for implementation this year, will improve how misconduct hearings are prepared and conducted.