10 August 2023
The Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) reiterates that police officers have the right to a fair, open and transparent process to decide allegations against them, and not a mechanism which hands out verdicts through a high-handed, pre-determined hearing lacking legal understanding and knowledge of police regulations.
PFEW National Chair Steve Hartshorn said: “I agree with Sir Mark Rowley that the highest standards of policing must be maintained to restore public trust. In order to ensure that individuals unfit for the service must be identified and removed.
“However, that does not mean we throw the rulebook of police regulations out of the window. The democratic and transparent mechanism of LQCs was introduced in 2016, and they have been found fit for purpose.
“When calls are being made by chief officers that they should be authorised to dismiss officers without going through established processes and mechanisms, it is important to understand how LQCs work. They are not just panels of randomly drawn individuals. They are independent panels assisted by a lay member of the public who is independent of the police and a senior officer. This is to ensure fair and impartial oversight of hearings. The senior officer on the panel is appointed by the force’s chief constable.
“So, it can be argued it isn’t truly independent of the process as the panel would feel an amount of pressure to decide in a certain way to appease the person who may decide on their next promotion. Perhaps the chief or commissioner could be the senior officer on the panel if they really want to be more involved, which I would welcome as it would allow them to sit through the full evidence and hear both sides of the case.
“If the process is failing to operate effectively, as it is being claimed, then more investment should be made to reform and strengthen it. Forces must ensure that they have a list of a sufficient number of LQCs and that senior officers are able to book time in their dairies to fulfil conduct disciplinary hearing obligations.
“Cultural reform and service-wide change cannot be undertaken by handing out sweeping, uncontrolled powers to police chiefs to dismiss officers without following due legal process. It will only take the UK’s policing back to the dark days when officers were dismissed by an individual and a tribunal later found they had acted unlawfully. Reforms require investment and time management.”
Sir Mark Rowley's full Op-Ed can be read here.