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30 November 2020
As conduct and performance month draws to a close, Phill Matthews, National Board member and Chair of the Conduct and Performance sub-committee, reflects on 2020 and looks ahead to what the committee will continue to strive for.
“As I wrap up our month of highlighting the Federation’s work around ensuring our colleagues are treated fairer by the conduct and performance system, and with the year coming to a close, I felt this would provide a perfect opportunity to reflect back on what we have achieved in 2020. This year has been particularly challenging for colleagues from a conduct and performance perspective as we watched a string of high-profile events unfold (usually via edited social media video clips), resulting in our members facing unfair criticism from the media and on many occasions being portrayed as villains on social media for just doing their jobs. Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) rhetoric was also thrown into the mix, as it compared live investigations in the UK to the tragic event in the US.
“It is worth knowing just 232 officers were placed on the Barred List between April 2019 and March this year and only just over 30 of those were dismissed as a result of any public complaint. The vast majority were dismissed and placed on the barred list by their colleagues who, like me, absolutely condemn dishonest or inappropriate behaviour amongst our number. A small minority should not taint the reputation of our incredible police service, the overwhelming majority of whom work tirelessly with dedication and professionalism under extremely demanding circumstances. In turn we will continue to work tirelessly to ensure colleagues are treated fairly should they ever find themselves subject to misconduct proceedings and push back on misinformation circling the web.
“In February this year, the Home Office brought in new regulations which have raised the bar on what merits disciplinary action, meaning misconduct proceedings will only be triggered if the wrongdoing warrants at least a written warning, whilst low-level outcomes have been removed in favour of learning and development.
“A big part of this is giving officers the opportunity to undertake Reflective Practice with their line manager if their performance requires improvement by discussing how the issue can be avoided in the future, accepting what happened and then moving forward - instead of facing punitive action for minor issues.
“I am pleased to say the Federation played a large part in securing these long-overdue changes which will eventually bring about a culture shift and put an end to blame culture – although there is some way to go and Covid-19 has slowed down the delivery of training to supervisors and PSD.
“This year has also presented us with the excellent opportunity to take our Time Limits campaign to MPs and we have submitted compelling evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee as it investigates the IOPC. We must put an end to misconduct investigations dragging on for more than a year – it has not only wrecked the lives of colleagues, but the cost to the taxpayer for each year one overruns is staggering.
“We would like to thank members who have volunteered as case studies and have taken the time to share their experiences as we appreciate it can be difficult to relive distressing life experiences. These hard-hitting stories gives us the vital ammunition we need to push for change and to prove to MPs the damage caused. We still eagerly await a date to be called before Yvette Cooper but will be shouting about it once it goes ahead.
“Working remotely this year has of course also presented its challenges. We have had to adopt new ways of working and delivering for our reps who work so hard to support you, with weekly video conferencing and top notch training sessions with the conduct leads from around the country, providing evidenced CPD (Continuous Professional Development) and a forum for them to network and exchange ideas.
“Your sub-committee and your force conduct leads are all active reps with your best interests at heart and will continue to fight your corner as we strive to achieve even more in 2021.”
Conduct and Performance Chair, PFEW
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