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Durham Police Federation

Misconduct Information

What are the Standards of Professional Behaviour?

  • Honesty and Integrity: Police officers are honest, act with integrity and do not compromise or abuse their position.
  • Authority, Respect and Courtesy: Police officers act with self-control and tolerance, treating members of the public and colleagues with respect and courtesy.
    Police officers do not abuse their powers or authority and respect the rights of all individuals.
  • Equality and Diversity: Police officers act with fairness and impartiality. They do not discriminate unlawfully or unfairly.
  • Use of Force: Police officers only use force to the extent that it is necessary, proportionate and reasonable in all the circumstances.
  • Orders and Instructions: Police officers only give and carry out lawful orders and instructions. Police officers abide by police regulations, force policies and lawful orders.
  • Duties and Responsibilities: Police officers are diligent in the exercise of their duties and responsibilities.
  • Confidentiality: Police officers treat information with respect and access or disclose it only in the proper course of police duties.
  • Fitness for Duty: Police officers when on duty or presenting themselves for duty are fit to carry out their responsibilities.
  • Discreditable Conduct: Police officers behave in a manner which does not discredit the police service or undermine public confidence in it, whether on or off duty.
    Police officers report any action taken against them for a criminal offence, any conditions imposed on them by a court or the receipt of any penalty notice.
  • Challenging and Reporting Improper Conduct: Police officers report, challenge or take action against the conduct of colleagues which has fallen below the Standards of Professional Behaviour.

 

What is the difference between Misconduct and Gross Misconduct?

Cases will be subjected to assessment.

For the purposes of making the assessment and any decision on the seriousness of the conduct the following definitions will be applied:-

Misconduct – a breach of the Standards of Professional Behaviour.

Gross misconduct – a breach of the Standards of Professional Behaviour so serious that dismissal would be justified.

Unsatisfactory performance or unsatisfactory attendance – an inability or failure of a police officer to perform the duties of the role or rank he or she is currently undertaking to a satisfactory standard or level.

An assessment may determine that the conduct alleged amounts to an allegation of unsatisfactory performance rather than one of misconduct. In such circumstances the matter should be referred to be dealt with under the UPP policy.

Equally an assessment may determine that the matter is more suitable to be dealt with through the grievance procedure or may be an issue of direction and control. In such cases the procedures for dealing with such matters, as outlined in Force Policy will be used.

The matter may be moved up to a level of gross misconduct or down to a level of misconduct. In the interests of fairness to the police officer, where a further severity assessment is made which alters the original assessment then the police officer will be informed and will be provided with the reasons for the change in the assessment.

The same principle applies where the initial assessment suggests that the matter is one of misconduct or gross misconduct but subsequent investigation reveals that it is not, and may be, for example, one of unsatisfactory performance. In such cases the police officer will be informed that the matter is now not being considered as a matter of misconduct.

 

Do these Standards apply when I am off duty?

In considering whether a police officer has acted in a way which falls below these standards while off-duty, due regard should be given to that balance and any action should be proportionate taking into account all of the circumstances.

Even when off duty, police officers do not behave in a manner that discredits the police service or undermines public confidence.

In determining whether a police officer’s off-duty conduct discredits the police service, the test is not whether the police officer discredits herself or himself but the police service as a whole.

Police officers are particularly aware of the image that they portray when representing the police service in an official capacity even though they may be off-duty (e.g. at a conference).

When police officers produce their warrant card (other than for identification purposes only) or act in a way to suggest that they are acting in their capacity as a police officer (e.g. declaring that they are a police officer) they are demonstrating that they are exercising their authority and have therefore put themselves on duty and will act in a way which conforms to these standards. For example, during a dispute with a neighbour a police officer who decides to produce a warrant card would be considered to be on duty.

 

Will I get a notice regarding any complaints or investigations?

Please note that this notice carries a set timescale for the Officer to respond regarding the allegation, as outlined at bullet point 8 below, you are advised to seek early Federation representation in relation to any such matters.

Written notification will be given to the police officer concerned by the investigator appointed to investigate the case, advising him or her that his or her conduct is under investigation – either under Regulation 17 of the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2020 or under Regulation 17 of the Police (Complaints and Misconduct) Regulations 2020.

The notice will:

  • Inform the police officer that there is to be an investigation of his or her potential breach of the Standards of Professional Behaviour and inform the police officer of the name of the investigator who will investigate the matter.
  • Describe the conduct that is the subject of the investigation and how that conduct is alleged to have fallen below the Standards of Professional Behaviour.
  • Inform the police officer concerned of the appropriate authority’s assessment of whether the conduct alleged, if proved, would amount to misconduct or gross misconduct.
  • Inform the police officer of whether, if the case were to be referred to misconduct proceedings, those would be likely to be a misconduct meeting or misconduct hearing.
  • Inform the police officer that if the likely form of any misconduct proceedings changes the police officer will be notified of this together with the reasons for that change.
  • Inform the police officer of his or her right to seek advice from his or her staff association or any other body and who the police officer may choose to act as his or her police friend.
  • Inform the police officer that if his or her case is referred to a misconduct hearing or special case hearing, he or she has the right to be legally represented by a relevant lawyer. If the police officer elects not to be so represented then he or she may be represented by a police friend. The notice will also make clear that if he or she elects not to be legally represented then he or she may be dismissed or receive any other disciplinary outcome without being so represented.
  • Inform the police officer that he or she may provide, within 10 working days of receipt of the notice (unless this period is extended by the investigator) a written or oral statement relating to any matter under investigation and he or she (or his or her police friend) may provide any relevant documents to the investigator within this time.
  • Inform the police officer that whilst he or she does not have to say anything, it may harm his or her case if he or she does not mention when interviewed or when providing any information within the relevant time limits something which he or she later relies on in any misconduct proceedings or special case hearing or at an appeal meeting or Police Appeals Tribunal.

The notice should clearly describe in unambiguous language the particulars of the conduct that it is alleged fell below the standards expected of a police officer.

The terms of reference for the investigation, or the part of the terms of reference for the investigation relating to the individual’s conduct, should, subject to there being no prejudice to that or any other investigation, be supplied to the police officer and to his or her police friend on request, and they should both be informed if the terms of reference change.

 

Can I get assistance and representation to resolve my case?

Police officers have the right to be accompanied and consult with a police friend at any interview during an investigation into misconduct and at all stages of the misconduct or performance proceedings. The police friend is there to support the officer when they are facing allegations of misconduct or poor performance. This role is integral to the proceedings and an important means of ensuring not only that the officer is supported during the process but also that correct procedures are followed.

A police friend can accompany a police officer at any investigatory interview at any of the stages of both the misconduct and performance proceedings. They can advise the police officer throughout the proceedings and can advise on how to gain legal representation and completion of relevant paperwork. They can make representations to the appropriate authority concerning any aspect of the proceedings under the Conduct Regulations, Complaints Regulations and Performance Regulations. Where both a lawyer and a police friend are present during misconduct or performance proceedings, the officer should be represented at those proceedings by their lawyer.

The officer concerned may choose a police officer, a police staff member or (where the police officer is a member of a police force) a person nominated by the police officer’s staff association to act as their police friend. A person approached to be a police friend is entitled to decline to act as such. A former police officer may also choose a police officer, a police staff member or a person nominated by the former officer’s staff association. Where the former officer is not a former member of a staff association, they may choose someone outside the police force to act as a police friend but this person must be approved by the chief officer of the police force where the former officer last served prior to leaving policing.

A police friend cannot be appointed to act as such if they have had some involvement in that particular case. For example, if they are a witness within the investigation. A police friend should not be asked to provide an account of the matters under investigation or subject to proceedings, for example being cross-examined or called as a witness in relation to their role as police friend or the advice provided to the person they are representing.

The police friend can:

  1. advise the officer concerned throughout the proceedings under the Conduct Regulations, Complaints Regulations, and the Performance Regulations,
  2. unless the officer concerned has the right to be legally represented and chooses to be so represented, represent the officer concerned at the misconduct proceedings, performance proceedings, appeal meeting, an accelerated misconduct hearing or at a Police Appeals Tribunal,
  3. make representations to the appropriate authority concerning any aspect of the proceedings under the Conduct Regulations, Complaints Regulations or Performance Regulations and
  4. accompany the officer concerned to any interview under the Complaints or Conduct Regulations, or meeting or hearing which forms part of any proceedings under the Conduct Regulations (apart from Part 6) or Performance Regulations.

A police friend who has agreed to accompany a police officer is entitled to take a reasonable amount of duty time to fulfil their responsibilities as a police friend and should be considered to be on duty when attending interviews, meetings or hearings.

 

Reflective Practice

What is it?

  • The Reflective Practice Review Process (RPRP) is a brand new process designed to give officers and line managers an opportunity to discuss where things have gone wrong and to look for ways of addressing issues.
  • RPRP is not a disciplinary process and it sits above normal management interventions on minor matters.
  • Matters may be referred directly from managers as well as by way of public complaint or other means.
  • It is not a misconduct finding and is designed to be a way of dealing with relatively low-level misconduct or performance issues in a proportionate way. This means, that RPRP cannot be used to block promotions or Job moves.

The Process

  • You will be informed that you are subject to RPRP, and this may be in writing.
  • You will be invited to give your version of events and have five working days to do so.
  • You may seek advice from a Fed Rep/ Staff Association at this stage.
  • You will be invited to a Reflective Practice Review Discussion” with your line manager

The Reflective Practice Discussion

  • Whilst the Regulations state there is no entitlement to have a Federation Representative present during this meeting, it is always worth consideration so as to support you before, during and throughout this process.
  • This is about being open to learning and the message is clear for those subjects of this process, that learning where appropriate is and will to be adopted.
  • However, there is an expectation of engagement – failing to engage could result in formal proceedings.
  • The discussion will encompass the incident that lead to RPRP, learning, training needs, welfare, and actions moving forward.
  • It is an opportunity to reflect on what went wrong, or what could go better next time.
  • Officers can speak freely because matters discussed about the reasons for the Reflective Practice Review Discussion cannot be used in any misconduct proceedings in the future.
  • If an officer fails to sufficiently engage with the RP process, they may be moved on to the UPP process if appropriate.

The Report

  • After the discussion a report will be completed by the line manager which will be retained and reviewed.
  • The report will include what was discussed, as well as any actions agreed if any, moving forward.

 

How will the investigation be conducted?

The purpose of an investigation is to:

  • Gather evidence to establish the facts and circumstances of the alleged misconduct
  • Establish on the balance of probabilities, based on the evidence and taking into account all of the circumstances, whether there is a case to answer in respect of either misconduct or gross misconduct or that there is no case to answer.
  • Identify any learning for the individual or the organisation.

The overall aim is a proportionate and balanced investigation, carried out as soon as possible after any alleged misconduct comes to notice and that the investigation is carried out as quickly as possible allowing for the complexity of the case.

Where the investigation identifies that the issue is one of performance rather than misconduct, the police officer should be informed as soon as possible that the matter is now being treated as an issue of performance.

The investigator must ensure that the police officer is kept informed of the progress of the investigation. It is also good practice to keep the police friend informed of progress at the same time.

The investigator is required to notify the police officer of the progress of the investigation at least every 4 weeks from the start of the investigation.

The police officer or his or her police friend, acting on the police officer’s instructions, is encouraged to suggest at an early stage any line of enquiry that would assist the investigation and to pass to the investigator any material they consider relevant to the enquiry.

The investigator (under the Conduct Regulations or the 2002 Act) has a duty to consider the suggestions submitted to him or her. The investigator should consider and document reasons for following or not following any submissions made by the police officer or his or her police friend with a view to ensuring that the investigation is as fair as possible. The suggestions may involve a further suggested line of investigation or further examination of a particular witness.

The purpose is to enable a fair and balanced investigation report to be prepared and where appropriate made available for consideration at a misconduct meeting/hearing and to negate the need (except where necessary) for witnesses to attend a meeting/hearing.

 

What is the difference between a Misconduct Meeting and Misconduct Hearing?

There are two types of misconduct proceedings:

Misconduct Meeting – for cases where there is a case to answer in respect of misconduct and where the maximum outcome would be a final written warning.

Misconduct Hearing – for cases where there is a case to answer in respect of gross misconduct or where the police officer has a live final written warning and there is a case to answer in respect of a further act of misconduct. The maximum outcome at this hearing would be dismissal from the police service without notice.

From 1 May 2015, misconduct hearings may be held in public. A notice advertising a hearing must be published by the Force on its website at least five working days before the day on which the hearing is to take place. The advert will name the officer subject of the hearing, and will mention the subject matter of the investigation, unless such disclosure is deemed inappropriate.