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22 August 2023
Giving chief officers autocratic powers to dismiss police officers runs the risk of undermining an already fair and transparent system, Norfolk Police Federation has warned.
Andy Symonds, Federation Chair, was speaking after Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said he wanted to reform police misconduct process to sack rogue officers.
But Andy warned against a knee-jerk or politically motivated reaction to recent events. He said: “It is not fair, in my view, that a conduct panel has said that you can keep your job, but the force don’t like that so they will look to get rid of officers by removing their vetting and ultimately being dismissed via Unsatisfactory Performance & Attendance Procedures.
“We will have to fight hard against any ill thought out changes due to a lot of political pressure on the police forces and that shouldn’t sway any decision-making.”
Andy called for vetting units to make decisions that are open, transparency and fair, with decision making based on the actual risks and detailed facts” these units must be free of any interference both internally and externally.
He said: “It is important to remember that the police officers that we represent have no employment rights and no contract that can protect them, therefore it’s really important that there is a correct system in place that allows a fair hearing and fair treatment. That is Police Regulations, which are set out in law.”
Andy added that police officers can already be easily removed from the post through UPP and statutory performance measures, so there is no need to change the system or make it more convoluted or difficult.
He added: “No one wants bad cops out more than police officers. This is about fairness. If an officer has done something that has breached standards, they will appear in front of a hearing with a legally qualified chair, a superintendent and a lay member of the public, and they will be dealt with.
“They will receive their sanction, be that dismissed, or a written warning, a final written warning or a reduction in rank by people who have listened to the evidence, have gone through the evidence and have heard from the officer themselves and witnesses. They are the best people to apply the correct sanction.”
For vetting to then either stipulate that an officer does not achieve any level of vetting or apply further restrictions which are not appropriate or fair is wrong. We then must have an ability to appeal these decisions through an open, transparent process which is not what we currently have.
Writing in The Times earlier this month, Mr Rowley said: “I’m leading the strongest doubling down on standards in 50 years, but to deliver the far-reaching reform the public rightly expect to see I need others to do more. I have been consistent in calling on the Government to reform police misconduct processes, so that police chiefs can be more decisive in dismissing rogue officers and restoring public confidence.
“The honest majority of our officers share my determination to relentlessly focus on identifying and removing those who let us all down and cause untold damage to public trust. But the final say on dismissals doesn’t sit with me or other chief officers but with external panels led by lawyers known as legally qualified chairs.”