10 June 2021
The issue of whether a time limit should be introduced to cap how long an allegation or complaint against a police officer can be investigated has been robustly debated at the Police Federation’s annual conference.
In a session about the new misconduct regulations that were introduced in 2020, Phill Matthews, PFEW’s conduct lead, who has been campaigning for a limit, said: “I listened intently to both the Policing Minister and the Home Secretary yesterday when they were asked about it (a time limit) and they just didn’t get the issue, which is a real shame.
“We want them to meet with us because so far we’ve been asking to meet with them to explain our viewpoint and they haven’t wanted to meet with us. We’re not asking for a finite cut off where it goes over this time and you lose it. What we want is something that’s fair both to our members and to the complainants”.
Michael Lockwood, Director General of the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), said the organisation didn’t agree on the time limit issue, but accepted that what the IOPC had been doing in the past “wasn’t good enough” and had tried to address that.
He added: “What worries us is that there will be some investigations where because of their complexity, because there are vulnerable victims involved, that may go beyond 12 months. It’s important that we’re accountable for those and that’s why we will write to the appropriate authority to explain that, but my emphasis is making sure nothing goes beyond 12 months - and to reinforce that we’re setting targets for nine and six months for the next year”.
Mr Lockwood said that the most important thing about the new regulations was the opportunity for learning. “What’s important to me and what I’m interested in working with the Federation on, is how we can stop some of those problems happening in the future; the learning,” he said. “I get no satisfaction to keep dealing with things going on – how can we stop them happening? The learning element isn’t just a tap on the shoulder and a little chat but there’s actually some rigour behind it”.
Mr Matthews echoed Mr Lockwood’s sentiments and said that under the current iteration of the IOPC more than 400 learning reports had been issued, rather than those individuals being sanctioned.
“That’s key for us because those 400 reports go to changing the underlying policies and procedures of forces which will prevent our members falling foul of the misconduct system in future,” he said. “We need forces to adopt that learning and rewrite their policies and procedures, so our members don’t find themselves on the wrong end of the misconduct arena”.