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14 November 2019
The new conduct regulations due to come into effect in February next year should further embed the new approach to dealing with low-level matters and empower supervisors and managers to have the confidence to handle these issues, says West Midlands Police Federation conduct lead George McDonnell.
George attended the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) Conduct and Performance Liaison Officers’ Seminar in Liverpool in October where, as part of preparations for the introduction of the new regulations, Reflective Practice was one of the main themes discussed by conduct leads from across the country.
“There were inputs from the Home Office, the Independent Office for Police Conduct and Professional Standards Departments (PSDs), all explaining how Reflective Practice might work and what the Federation, as the staff association, can expect going forward,” George explained.
“There were clear references to embracing this new way of dealing with low-level matters and empowering supervisors and managers alike to have the confidence to deal with these. However, while we will certainly be open to this, we will monitor how it plays out in the workplace because it is often the case that different supervisors and managers will have differing opinions on what they see as low-level.
“I acknowledge the criteria for this decision-making should make it all the easier to identify but there was caution around matters being sent to be looked at by PSD Appropriate Authorities and that actually sit somewhere in the middle. The question will always be asked as to why a certain matter was decided upon to be dealt with in the misconduct arena when, in actual fact, it could have been suitable for Reflective Practice.”
Nevertheless, George said the Federation is ‘cautiously optimistic’ that the number of low-level cases brought into the realm of misconduct will reduce due to a more pragmatic approach.
He concluded: “It goes without saying, we are all striving to become better at what we do. Hopefully, the new regulations and the increased use of Reflective Practice will be a good thing for our colleagues but it will just take some time to adjust and have confidence in the new provision; this is only natural.”
During the seminar Ian Balbi, head of discipline policy at the Home Office Police Integrity Unit, said PSDs are currently flooded with low-level cases and around 70 per cent of misconduct hearing outcomes end in management action anyway.
The proportion of cases dealt with through misconduct processes also varies greatly across forces, but many direct a vast majority of cases through misconduct proceedings regardless of how low-level they are. This puts officers through unnecessary stress, he added.
The issue of protracted investigations was also raised with the Home Office stating it is working on ensuring timeliness is improved in the future.