1 March 2022
“The IOPC must focus its efforts on concluding investigations as quickly as possible”, MPs have said in a new report
“The IOPC must focus its efforts on concluding investigations as quickly as possible”, MPs have said in a new report.
The Home Affairs Select Committee published its ‘Police Conduct and Complaints’ report, focusing on the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) this week.
It said that the IOPC had made “significant advances” in speeding up the process for dealing with officer complaints and that most were now resolved within 12 months.
But the Government might intervene in the future to make sure this deadline is maintained.
The report said: “The Government should ensure that the drive towards timely investigations is continued and should consider whether stronger guidance on the expected length of inquiries may be required.”
There were also concerns about “the strength of [the IOPC’s] investigations, the qualifications of its investigators and the transparency of its operations”.
Adam Commons, Chair of Leicestershire Police Federation, said: “I’d hoped that after such a lengthy review that we may see some good come from the HASC report but on face value they seem to have missed the point.
“Some of the language used and their portrayal of officers thoughts on complaints being something to deflect are completely wide of the mark, that is not something I see in Leicestershire. What I do see is the stress and fear from my colleagues when the IOPC is mentioned, not just because they don’t trust them, because they know they’re entering into a process that could take months or even years, that is the reality of the IOPC and their continued failings.
“Recently I was approached by an officer who had been told their complaint had been appealed and was sat with the IOPC but they hadn’t heard anything. I enquired on their behalf and it turned out that this complaint had been sat with the IOPC for 3 months and not even been allocated. That is an absolute disgrace, and there are far worse examples of their ability to expeditiously investigate that can’t be hidden in the annals of time just by their name change.
“Not so long ago Theresa May changed the law on police bail as she believed it wasn’t right that the police could keep someone on an open ended investigation. And yet it’s ok for a police officer to be subject of an unlimited period – that is not right and it’s why we have been asking for some time in the #TimeLimits campaign to put that time constraint in place.
"Open ended investigations into my colleagues have ruined lives and broken up families across the Country, often with cases being overturned or thrown out. This must stop, it is not good for policing or the public to have a complaints system in place that just doesn’t work.
“Overall what this report shows us again is that MP’s have little to no knowledge of how policing works and they have failed to grasp the feelings of officers subject to investigations. They also need to stop calling us a Union, we are a staff association created by an act of Parliament in 1919, there is a big difference.”
The Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW)’s Time Limits campaign has long pushed for a cap on the amount of time it takes to investigate a complaint against an officer. The Federation told MPs about the detrimental impact that lengthy investigations have on officers and their families, highlighting a Metropolitan Police officer whose case took seven years to resolve.
The authors of the report wrote: “The example of it taking seven years to clear one police officer of misconduct is exceptional, but demonstrates why the IOPC must focus its efforts on concluding investigations as quickly as possible. Quite aside from the effect on an individual’s morale, the removal from officers under investigation from front-line duties for lengthy periods may add to strain on police resources.”
However, the Home Affairs Committee said it was “concerned to hear policing organisations and the IOPC blame each other for ongoing delays”, saying that there needed to be a “change of culture” in police forces to ensure officers cooperate with investigations.
It continued: “Those responsible for blocking the progress of investigation must be held to account. The IOPC must utilise its powers at an early stage to minimise delays.”
The report also said that the Government should consult on whether Police and Crime Commissioners should be mandated to take a more active role in the complaints system.