17 January 2019
The IOPC process is “traumatising” and the effect on officers involved can be “catastrophic”, says PFEW Conduct Lead Phill Matthews.
This is in response to figures obtained by the BBC following a Freedom of Information request to forces which shows that only five police officers in England and Wales were dismissed in the last three years following misconduct cases ordered by the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC).
In 33 cases gross misconduct, the most serious disciplinary charge that can be levelled, was not proven.
Of the 15 police officers against whom charges were upheld five were sacked and 10 received other sanctions.
The greatest number of directed gross misconduct cases took place in the Metropolitan Police - of the 8 directed, only one was proven, not dismissed.
PFEW Conduct Lead Phill Matthews says too many officers were being put through traumatising misconduct investigations and the legal test used to determine if a misconduct case should go ahead needs reforming.
In a statement he said: "These figures comes as absolutely no surprise and are broadly in line with other FOI requests. I would say that it evidences what we have been saying for a long time that the Case to Answer test is wrong and needs reforming.
“The process takes far too long and our members are just left in limbo quite often for a number of years. We have cases that have gone on for up to 10 years. Officers are stopped from transferring, getting promoted, they can’t even re-mortgage their houses as they don’t know if they are going to be employed.
"The effect on officers can be catastrophic. They can be suspended, at massive public expense, which has a knock on effect on morale for whole shifts of officers, or placed on restrictions. We have had members trying to harm themselves because of the stress they are under.
“The IPCC, and IOPC as is now, pursue the wrong cases and often have very little understanding of the evidence and give families and complainants unrealistic expectations.
“In order to change the system we need to put an effective time limit on investigations. There is no excuse why they should be lasting as long as they do. And the fact that so many have no case to answer for afterwards shows they have got the threshold wrong.”