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26 January 2021
Police officers in Sussex – who had done nothing wrong - had to wait more than five years for their names to be cleared following a disciplinary investigation by the police watchdog, the Police Federation has revealed.
The case significantly affected the officers’ mental health, with one leaving the service after the uncertainty became unbearable.
As part of the Police Federation of England and Wales’s #TimeLimits campaign, the Federation will be giving evidence to Parliament tomorrow (Wednesday) on the detrimental and costly impact of lengthy Independent Office for Police Conduct investigations on officers, their families and their colleagues.
Simon Steele, Secretary of Sussex Police Federation, said changes can’t come soon enough.
He said: “Five of our officers were subjected to an investigation lasting five and a half years. Five and a half years where their lives were put on hold with their families living in fear of losing their main source of family income. Five and a half years where the officers’ careers were put on hold.
“This can be significantly damaging to an officer’s mental health and wellbeing and can have far reaching consequences. The Independent Office for Police Conduct appear to be completely oblivious to the damaging effects that an investigation of this length can cause.
“One of the officers left the service because they just couldn’t cope with the length of time that the investigation was taking. One of the officers attended a misconduct meeting and was completely exonerated.
“Subsequently the other three officers faced a five-day misconduct hearing and at its conclusion the panel exonerated the officers completely when they were found to have done absolutely nothing wrong. The IOPC walked away from that investigation with not even as much as an apology to the officers concerned.
“I dread to think what action the IOPC would have taken against a police officer who took five and half years to conclude their investigation. Sadly, this is not an isolated case and there are many more cases which have taken far too long to conclude.”
The Police Federation is calling for investigations to be concluded within 12 months from the time an allegation is made.
Simon added: “Our Federation Representatives are police officers and we aim to uphold the values of the police service. The Federation are not a barrier to IOPC investigations and we are more than willing to engage in constructive conversations and ensure that our members are treated fairly and in a timely fashion.
“However I am totally disillusioned with the amount of time it takes for the IOPC to conduct their investigations into the actions of our members. Police officers deserve to be treated better and are entitled to the same rights as any other individual.
“It is not too much to ask that all investigations are completed diligently and expeditiously. That is what we do as police officers and it is only right that the IOPC show police officers the same courtesy and respect.”
Simon concluded: “Our own Sussex Police Professional Standards Department have shown a willingness to engage and listen to representations made by the Federation on behalf of our members. This two way dialogue benefits all parties and ensures that our members are dealt with appropriately, proportionately and most importantly expeditiously, sadly I cannot say that I share the same professional experience with the IOPC.”
Phill Matthews, National Police Federation Conduct and Performance Lead, said: “Protracted disciplinary investigations have ruined the careers of multiple colleagues, left a mark on their mental health, and placed pressure on their home lives and loved ones. It is clear the effects are devastating.
“Public trust in the system will erode if people do not think their complaints will be dealt with quickly. This issue is already something many complainants frequently express.
“We are encouraged that the IOPC is keen to work with us rather than against us. However, the issue of investigations rumbling on for more than a year still continues, and enough is enough.”