Police Federation

PSDs should look upwards as well as downwards

On August 31, the Home Office announced multiple, significant changes to the police officer dismissal process, following a four-month review, looking at its effectiveness.  

10 October 2023


On August 31, the Home Office announced multiple, significant changes to the police officer dismissal process, following a four-month review, looking at its effectiveness.  

Under the new system, a finding of gross misconduct now automatically results in a police officer’s dismissal, unless exceptional circumstances apply.  

On day one of Annual Conference 2023, PFEW Conduct and Performance Lead Phil Jones led a session on the impact of these changes on independent panels.  

He was joined by President of the National Association of Legally Qualified Chairs (NALQC), John Bassett and Greater Manchester Chief Supt. Michael Allen, presenting on their perspective of the impact the new changes have and will have on our members across England and Wales. 

Upon the announcement of the changes, PFEW National Chair Steve Hartshorn dubbed them a “huge retrograde stepand the session opened with Phil Jones reiterating that point.  

“What sticks in my mind in particular is around leadership and cultures,” he said. “Those behaviours and tones are set from the top, when you look at the HMICFRS report, it talks about systematic failures since 2012, and those failures have contributed to where we are today. 

“There are senior officers that have been in post throughout and not been held accountable, but the changes proposed mean our members are being disproportionately disadvantaged by the presumption of dismissal.  

“When you look at the 2020 regulations, they were enacted on fairness proportionality and the independence of legally qualified chairs, which took out political pressures.  

“We are now seeing scarcity among rank and file officers where officers are choosing to be assaulted, rather than use force, because ultimately they could be found for gross misconduct and if the Home Office introduce these measures it will mean automatic dismissal.” 

Michael Allen of GMP offered another side to this, explaining: “The changes intended are a rebuttable presumption of dismissal meaning there is still scope for an officer to be found guilty of gross misconduct but receive a sanction lower than dismissal if there at extenuating or mitigating circumstances so it is only a rebuttable presumption and can be worked away from. 

“So far as leadership is concerned, Phil makes a good point that professional standards departments (PSDs) are accused for dismissing the low hanging fruit but PSDs should look upwards as well as downwards. Those of the higher rank should suffer the hardest fall.” 

John Bassett President of the NALQC rebutted this, stating: “We (LQCs) were introduced to provide what was considered to be an open, fair and transparent process advised in the Chapman Report.  

“Coming to 2023, we have now had the Home Office review and there’s been a number of announcements in the press suggesting dismissals by LQC-chaired panels have been reduced since their introduction, that we are ‘fundamentally soft’, but when you read the review itself that is simply not substantiated. There has not been a reduction in the amount of dismissals.” 

Phil supported this notion saying: “Chiefs officers have that power to dismiss already, to say that you want that power and then cascade it down, it doesn’t sit right with me. 

“I get that we need to restore public confidence but where there is genuine mistakes, I have had not reassurance from the Home Office that would be taken into account. 

“All of these things need to be thought through and played out.” 

John suggested there is still uncertainty around the role of LQCs in the new changes. 

“One of the most recent thoughts from the Home Office is that we (LQCs) may have an advisory role but that any advice we give is confidential and that puts us in a totally impossible position.  

“If we are expected to give advice but it is not followed, it calls into question our ability to determine matters on the panel fairly and independently.  

“The other aspect that arises is they are suggesting the eligibility for LQPs is to be lower than LQCs - if that’s the case then it is going to inevitably result in a lower standard for those who sit on the panels.” 

Chief Supt. Allen shared his experiences of the shortcomings of the current process. He said: “When I look at the current situation of policing and myself as a head of professional standards for a police force, there are cases where we have people still serving who have been found proven in terms of allegations of abuse of position for sexual purpose where they have predated on vulnerable females in the community, where they have been shown to test positive in drug tests and where they have been found to be lying in evidence files, where they’ve been found going equipped.  

“These are serious matters that are completely incompatible with policing, yet within the 2016 and 2020 systems have been allowed to remain in their roles.” 

Despite the contention around the mechanics of dealing with misconduct, one key theme was evident from the session - police officers want to stamp out the behaviour that taints the fantastic work they do day in day out. 

Watch the session back below.

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