Police Federation

Response to HMICFRS abuse of power for sexual gain report

27 September 2019

As the police inspectorate publishes a report focusing on officers who abuse their power for sexual gain, the Police Federation cautions that the actions of a tiny few should not sully the reputation of the vast majority of officers who would never act in such a deplorable way. 

Today (27 September), HMICFRS publishes its report on how forces are tackling the issue of abuse of position for a sexual purpose.

It commissioned the review after becoming concerned about the progress forces are making in fighting the problem.

In the last three years to 31 March 2019, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has reported they have received 415 completed referrals for the category that relates to abuse of position for a sexual purpose.


From April 2016 to March 2017, forces made 100 referrals. This increased to 172 in the following 12 months and 143 referrals up to 31 March 2019.

According to HM Inspector of Constabulary Zoë Billingham, forces have been slow in the past to take the steps necessary to root out this type of corruption but has since seen progress with many being more proactive in looking for signs.

Ms Billingham also highlighted that “only a tiny proportion of police officers and staff abuse their position for a sexual purpose,” adding: “The vast majority of police officers and staff are dedicated public servants who would never contemplate this inexcusable behaviour.”

Responding to the report, Phill Matthews, Police Federation of England and Wales’ conduct and performance lead, said: “We welcome the report as it is important forces take the right steps to prevent and tackle this issue, however, it must be reiterated that officers do not stand for this type of abhorrent behaviour and are often the ones who themselves root out the tiny minority who abuse their position.”

The IOPC figures also do not include outcomes, he explained, therefore wrongdoing was not necessarily found following these investigations which subject officers to malicious and vexatious allegations.

He added the small a rise in referrals to the police watchdog for abuse of position for a sexual purpose is relative to an increase in referrals across the board for other conduct matters and generally the reporting of sexual offences has rocketed in recent years.

He continued: “More victims are having the courage to speak out to the police, so it is frustrating when these incidents occur as it undermines the hard work of a majority of officers who always do the best they can to help victims and guide them through the criminal justice process which can be hugely daunting especially for victims of sexual abuse.”

The report also says inspectorates are “deeply concerned” by the proportion of people working in forces who don’t have the correct vetting and recommends forces should:

  • Be more proactive in looking for the signs of officers and staff abusing their position for a sexual purpose
  • Have enough staff to do this - many forces still don’t have enough capacity in their counter corruption units
  • Improve recording corruption intelligence
  • Have the right tools, such as monitoring software that allows forces to easily see the records staff are accessing and the contact they have with victims and other vulnerable people; and
  • Form more effective relationships with those agencies who support vulnerable people

Mr Matthews added: “Officers join the service with the sole purpose of protecting and serving their community. This inexcusable behaviour has no place in policing.”

HMICFRS has also released its second batch of findings from its police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy inspections (PEEL), echoing the last report which homes in on concerns around demand.

These annual assessments look at how effective forces are at preventing and investigating crime, protecting vulnerable people and tackling serious organised crime; how efficiently they manage demand and plan for the future; and how legitimately they treat the public, how ethically they behave, and how they treat their workforce.

Fifteen forces were inspected with an overarching report concluding they are increasingly good at supporting officers and staff after traumatic incidents, but supervisors need to have more regular, one-to-one talks to review workloads and explore wellbeing needs.

Forces are providing more wellbeing services, it added, but they continue to find the workforce doesn’t always feel the benefits. In some forces, the workforce wasn’t aware of the support available. In others, the workforce knew about the support available, but felt they were too busy to be able to access it.

Other findings include:

  • Increasing demand is affecting the workforce, making it much more difficult to solve crime and protect vulnerable people
  • Most forces have invested in investigating the most serious of crimes, such as child abuse, rape and serious violence. But with resources constrained, forces are less able to meet the demands of other high-volume crimes such as burglary, assault and theft
  • Delays in attending 999 calls and investigations
  • Backlogs in digital forensics. In some cases, there was a 12-month backlog
  • Officers and staff sometimes carry out tasks without the right training or enough supervision
  • Too many forces don’t have fair and effective processes for managing people’s performance

Mr Matthews said: “Whilst it is pleasing to see HMICFRS acknowledging the pressures on policing and that it is going to deteriorate if the service is unable to juggle demand - we have been warning the Government about this for years.

“These reports highlights what many of us involved in policing already know – that it is the dedication and a sense of duty of hard-working officers that keeps the service running. Our members will always go above and beyond to protect the public – but everyone has a breaking point and more and more officers are going well beyond that point. This is unacceptable.

He continued: “If we are to continue to deliver the best service we can then we have to manage the demand placed on members much better than we are currently doing. With almost 22,000 fewer officers on the ground since 2010 we need to stop being the service that can’t say no and be realistic about what we can and can’t do.

“We welcome the Government’s pledge for an extra 22,000 officers – providing it’s a genuine uplift of fully-warranted officers – however it will take years for the benefits to be felt. So, until then, it is paramount that chiefs look after the workforce they already have,” he concluded.

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