11 June 2020
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) still needs to operate more quickly, be proportionate and learn best practice from other organisations, according to its director general.
Michael Lockwood also said the watchdog would now notify officers if they would be served with a notice within three months after Federation conduct leads raised concerns that ‘radio silence’ from IOPC branches was leaving officers in limbo as they did not know what was happening with investigations.
The director general, during an online meeting with the Federation reps, insisted the IOPC is ‘working hard’ to learn lessons and improve and said: “We know that, for police officers and staff involved in our investigations, this can be a time of considerable concern. To reduce this impact, we will introduce a new commitment that, when an investigation is not completed within three months, we will aim to confirm the status of all those involved – whether they are to be considered witnesses or to serve the appropriate misconduct notices.”
The comments have been welcomed by Tony Wetton, chair of Derbyshire Police Federation: “The fact that Mr Lockwood recognises that the IOPC still needs to improve how it handles cases is encouraging. For far too long, police officers involved in IOPC conduct investigations have had to endure long-drawn-out processes that have put them, and their families, under considerable pressure and that is made worse when they are not given regular updates on what is happening.”
The IOPC has come in for criticism from the Police Federation over cases that have dragged on for five or more years, as highlighted by the Federation’s Time Limits campaign which is calling for investigations to conclude within 12 months as standard, from the point of an allegation being made.
Mr Lockwood also told the conduct leads that the IOPC had streamlined its case management data entry and hired specialist report writers.
“This is a great opportunity here to future-proof investigations.”, he said. “If we can do them in two or three months, let’s do them in two or three months - but not at the expense of quality.”
He also pointed out the IOPC had closed 93 per cent of investigations within 12 months to the end of October 2019.
But he added: “We are not at the winning line yet. We need to make improvements which are sustainable by operating quicker, being proportionate and learning best practice from other organisations. I am in the process of visiting all forces and I am grateful for the advice already given to me by front-line officers I have spent the time speaking to.”
The IOPC inherited 538 legacy cases from its predecessor, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which were two years or older but has reduced these to 17 and, the director general said they ‘should be cleared by August’.
It is discussing participating in Post-Incident Procedures training with the College of Policing and has introduced a Quality Committee as well as investigator training to improve the standards of its investigations.
Mr Lockwood identified several thematic areas where he would like to focus on learning including mental health issues, domestic abuse, abuse of authority for sexual gain, RTIs and near misses in custody in a bid to improve police practice to reduce the number of incidents in these areas.
Phill Matthews, the Federation’s national conduct and performance lead, said: “We are encouraged that Mr Lockwood recognises his organisation still has a long journey ahead of it and has plans to continue to change and improve it. There is a willingness to work with us rather than against us to improve the complaints system that will benefit everyone.
“We will continue to hold the IOPC to account where an investigation could have been handled better and push for outcomes for members that are just and proportionate.”