The Independent Office for Police Conduct has made a commitment to notifying officers within three months if they will be served with a notice.
Its director general, Michael Lockwood, gave the reassurance in an online meeting with Police Federation conduct leads on May 6, insisting the IOPC is “working hard” to learn lessons and improve.
Its pledge follows concerns raised to Mr Lockwood about “radio silence” from IOPC branches on what is happening with the investigation which is stressful for officers left in limbo.
Responding to the issue, he said: “We know that, for police officers and staff involved in our investigations, this can be a time of considerable concern. To reduce this impact, we will introduce a new commitment that, when an investigation is not completed within three months, we will aim to confirm the status of all those involved – whether they are to be considered witnesses or to serve the appropriate misconduct notices. “
It has come in for criticism from the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) over cases that have dragged on for five or more years, as highlighted by our Time Limits campaign which is calling for investigations to conclude within 12 months as standard, from the point of an allegation being made.
He added the IOPC has streamlined its case management data entry and hired specialist report writers. “This is a great opportunity here to future proof investigations, he said. “If we can do them in two or three months, let’s do them in two or three months - but not at the expense of quality.”
Mr Lockwood told Fed reps it has closed 93% of investigations within 12 months to the end of October 2019.
“We are not at the winning line yet. We need to make improvements which are sustainable by operating quicker, being proportionate and learning best practice from other organisations,” he said. “I am in the process of visiting all forces and I am grateful for the advice already given to me by frontline officers I have spent the time speaking to.”
The IOPC inherited 538 legacy cases from its predecessor, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which were two years or older but has reduced these to 17 and they “should be cleared by August”.
The IOPC is discussing with the College of Policing to participate in Post Incident Procedures training and has introduced a Quality Committee as well as investigator training to improve the standards of its investigations.
Mr Lockwood identified several thematic areas where he would like to focus on learning. These included mental health issues, domestic abuse, abuse of authority for sexual gain, RTI’s and near misses in custody in a bid to improve police practice to reduce the number of incidents in these areas.
PFEW’s Conduct and Performance Lead, Phill Matthews, said: “We are encouraged that Mr Lockwood recognises his organisation still has a long journey ahead of it and has plans to continue to change and improve it. There is a willingness to work with us rather than against us to improve the complaints system that will benefit everyone.
“We will continue to hold the IOPC to account where an investigation could have been handled better and push for outcomes for members that are just and proportionate.”