3 March 2022
Derbyshire Police Federation chair Tony Wetton has called on the police watchdog to take on board recommendations in a new Parliamentary report to improve confidence in the complaints system.
Tony said he supported many of the conclusions in a new Home Affairs Select Committee report, which examined the role and remit of the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
The committee’s 18-month inquiry explored the “continuing disquiet at the way in which police forces in England and Wales investigate and deal with complaints”.
It published a series of conclusions and recommendations covering the length of inquiries, public confidence and ensuring best practice.
And Tony said: “We welcome many of the conclusions in this report and steps must be taken now to improve not only public confidence, but our members’ confidence in the system.
“For instance, it’s not in anyone’s interest to have an unnecessarily long, drawn out complaints process. These lengthy investigations have a huge impact on officers, their families and their colleagues and come at a huge cost to the taxpayer.
“We need change to ensure that complaints are dealt with in a timely, transparent and balanced way.”
“Speeding up the process and simplifying it to make it more accessible will improve all parties’ confidence in the system.”
“As a Federation, we want open and fair investigations conducted in a timely manner, which gather the evidence our members need to either clear themselves, or to remove the tiny minority of corrupt individuals from the service,” Tony added.
The Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) national vice-chair, Ché Donald, said he would welcome “further positive dialogue” with the Commons committee.
“PFEW supports many of the conclusions made in the report, particularly criticisms over timeliness and Professional Standards Departments (PSD) not being properly funded, and their lack of transparency and diversity among staff,” he said.
Ché said the Federation took issue with a conclusion in the report that 91 per cent of IOPC “core investigations” were completed within 12 months.
“We know the length of delays to many investigations are still totally unacceptable,” he said. “We often find there is no rationale for these delays, or they are caused by issues such as lack of disclosure or other proceedings.
“The claim that ‘officers treat complaints against them as challenges to their authority or matters to be sidestepped’ simply does not ring true in our experience. It’s nonsense to say members don’t cooperate with the IOPC, as they are only too aware of the sanctions and possibility of dismissal.
“Delays in officers responding are usually caused by lack of clarity over the officer’s status as a witness or suspect.”
He added: “We’d ideally like to see the IOPC better explain their decisions to members of the public in non-technical language, and to ensure complainants are given more facts about the process, so they have realistic expectations about their complaint. Report findings are often hundreds of pages, and too legally complex.
“The majority of police officers are dedicated professionals. Those who cannot be trusted deserve to be dismissed, but the reality is most IOPC cases find officers have done nothing wrong or are simply making mistakes or make rushed decisions under pressure.
“It’s more essential than ever the disciplinary process is quicker and more learning-based rather than returning to a sanction-based culture.”
Dame Diana Johnson MP, chair of the Home Affairs Committee, said: “The IOPC does deserve credit for the progress it has made in the four years since it was created. The vast majority of investigations are completed within a year. There are also clear strands of work to build relationships and improve public perception.
“However, the fact remains that more work remains to be done.
“The succession of scandals in recent years has left public confidence in policing at a perilous point. The IOPC will need to ensure that it drives change to create a complaints system people can have full confidence in. There must be no repeat of past mistakes.”
Other abbreviated conclusions from the report: