15 September 2020
The Federation’s Time Limits campaign is starting to achieve results, says Derbyshire branch chair Tony Wetton, after a new report by the police watchdog showed an improvement in the timeliness of investigations.
Tony welcomed the progress by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) and said the Federation would continue to work on the issue for the benefit of members.
“As a Federation, we’ve long called for investigations to be completed within 12 months through our Time Limits campaign,” said Tony.
“It’s an extremely important issue for members, particularly those who are or have been under investigation because it can have a really negative impact on their welfare and wellbeing.
“Therefore, I’m pleased to see in this report from the IOPC that there have been overall improvements in the timeliness of investigations. However, it feels like the first step on a very long road and that there’s a lot more to be done. We know from ongoing cases that it is taking far too long to conclude these investigations. We have officers living under the enormous pressure of being investigated for very long periods – well in excess of a year for a current investigation. The impact on their mental health, their careers and on Force resources is enormous. The irony of these improved high-level performance figures will not be lost on them.
"Police officers fully and willingly accept the fact that we will be held accountable for our actions. Police officer conduct is quite rightly held to the highest standards. But it cannot be right that when an alleged breach of those standards is looked into, the pace of those investigations is glacially slow.
“We look forward to continuing to work with the IOPC and building on our relationship to ensure the best outcomes for our members.”
Tony was speaking after the publication of the IOPC’s new Impact Report for 2019/20, which showed it completed 718 investigations, 210 more than it started.
Of these 35 per cent were completed within six months, an improvement of five per cent on the previous year, and 83 per cent within 12 months, excluding the most complex major investigations such as Rotherham and Hillsborough.
The number of open investigations was reduced from 548 to 327 and the average age of cases was reduced from more than ten months at the start of the year to fewer than nine months at the end.
The report said that by the end of 2019/20, two thirds of the IOPC’s open caseload was fewer than six months old. Cases open for longer than 12 months decreased from 24 per cent to 17 per cent.
The IOPC report said that it focused on improving the timeliness of investigations by:
Michael Lockwood, director general of the IOPC, said in the report: “We completed over 700 investigations into serious and sensitive matters, with a continued focus on improving timeliness and quality of our work.
“Our investigations meant some officers faced discipline or dismissal from forces, but also identified that police acted appropriately, reasonably and proportionately in many cases.
“More significantly, our work identified learning recommendations which helped drive national and local changes to policing practice from making tactical pursuits safer for police to strengthening the way police respond to stalking and harassment cases.”
Elsewhere in the report, the IOPC’s work has seen an increase in the percentage of young people who are confident complaints are dealt with fairly by police from 41 per cent in 2018/19 to 52 per cent in 2019/20.
There has also been a 16 per cent increase in the number of people from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background who said they are now aware of the IOPC.
Mr Lockwood added: “We recognise we still have more work to do to improve this and continue to raise confidence, which will be informed by deliberative research we conducted with BAME and black communities during the year.”
The IOPC has also made 105 learning recommendations to improve policies, procedures and training on a local and national level on areas including stop and search, domestic violence, tactical pursuits and search warrants.
Mr Lockwood said: “I’ve been particularly keen to place a greater focus on learning to ensure we try and prevent the same issues happening again. To me, prevention is better than cure.”