4 February 2021
The chair of Derbyshire Police Federation has called for better training for police watchdog investigators after new figures revealed the cost of misconduct probes against officers.
Tony Wetton said training would help the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) speed up the timeliness of its investigations.
He added it would also ease the burden on officers by helping investigators decided whether officers involved in Post-Incident Procedures were witnesses or suspects and whether cases should be referred to the Force of the watchdog.
His comments came as research by the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) estimated the costs of officers being investigated by forces and the IOPC run to millions of pounds.
Tony said: “It’s in no one’s interests to have investigations dragging on. We’ve seen from the Federation’s own research that it’s a huge cost to the taxpayer and lengthy investigations can have a real impact on the welfare of officers and their families.
“It’s quite right that officers are held to account for their actions. My colleagues completely understand the importance of that but improved training will help IOPC investigators better decide whether cases should actually proceed, or how they proceed, and will speed up the timeliness as well.
"In Derbyshire we have a positive relationship with our regional IOPC colleagues, regularly inviting them to observe training sessions and experience for themselves the procedures we go through, for example, in the event of a death or serious injury involving recent contact with police. However, it is clear that many of the investigators we deal with need better training. Too often we see the IOPC taking too long to produce a poor quality investigation. That is not fair on officers, complainants or the investigators themselves.”
By taking into account the average cost of running investigators’ offices, legal aid and officers performing normal duties, on restricted duties or suspended, PFEW has estimated an investigation lasting up to six months costs £15,101 per officer. This increases to £302,012 when it drags on for five years or more, which is 20 times higher.
When narrowed down to suspended officers only, the costs are considerably higher. A six to 12-month investigation costs approximately £67,968 but increases to £453,115 per officer after five years. This is due to the force having to fully replace them until proceedings conclude with other officers backfilling and working extra hours to plug the gaps.
In addition, the BBC found £13 million was paid by 29 forces to officers who had been suspended between 2013 and 2018.
The findings have been shared with MPs in a dossier of evidence submitted to the Home Affairs Select Committee as part of its inquiry into the remit of the IOPC, the police complaints system and the time taken to resolve complaints.
The Federation is continuing to highlight the detrimental impact of lengthy disciplinary investigations on police officers, their families, their colleagues as well as public trust and confidence in policing as part of its Time Limits campaign. The campaign, launched in 2019, evidences the urgent need for investigations to be concluded within 12 months from the time an allegation is made.
National Federation conduct and performance chair Phill Matthews said: “Protracted misconduct investigations have not only ruined the careers of so many officers, but have severely impacted their mental health, their families and their colleagues – and now we can evidence they’re a huge drain on the public purse.
“This is a staggering sum of money and shows every day that an investigation goes on is a significant cost to the taxpayer. Just because an investigation goes on for longer it doesn’t mean it’s more efficient – in fact, they are often worse.
“Officers are rightly held accountable for their actions, and I absolutely condemn dishonest or inappropriate behaviour, but the IOPC often inexplicably pursue cases in which our members have acted properly. In many instances investigations which have gone on for five years or more have just ended in management advice or a written warning. We’re hoping better training for IOPC investigators will result in more time being freed up to uncover those that don’t deserve to be in the job.
“Public trust in the system will also erode if people do not think their complaints will be dealt with quickly.
“We’re encouraged the IOPC is keen to work with us on this matter. However, we must ask can these costs be considered good value for money for the taxpayer? We must make the system more efficient and conclude investigations in less than one year.”
*The analysed data covers the Metropolitan Police Service misconduct or gross misconduct investigations that were still outstanding, that is unresolved, as of 1 December 2018. The Federation assumed this is reasonably representative of the data it would have obtained had it been able to get data from all forces.