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Wiltshire Police Federation

Federation Chair: Lengthy IOPC investigations can see mental health of officers plummet

26 January 2021

Lengthy investigations into the actions of police officers can see their mental health plummet and their families affected, the Chairman of Wiltshire Police Federation has warned.

Mark Andrews said he believes The Independent Office for Police Conduct – the body in charge of investigating the actions of police officers - needs to be held to account for the “unacceptable” amount of time it can keep officers under the microscope. 

Mark said that while his colleagues have no objection at being held accountable for their actions, the IOPC and its investigators spend far too long scrutinising their work. Sometimes this can last years.

MPs on The Home Affairs Select Committee are currently looking into the IOPC’s timescales for investigating police officer conduct.

Mark said: “The police are governed by strict guidelines around how long an investigation should take and we are held to account when we do not progress it with due diligence. This is only right for all the parties involved in order to reduce anxiety and ultimately provide closure.

“I find it unacceptable the length of time the IOPC take to draw matters to their conclusion. Even when the incident only has a couple of witnesses and is supported with police body worn video they can often take more than 12 months to make a decision.

“Our investigators would be expected to have this done within days or at the most a few weeks. I understand the IOPC have heavy workloads but you show me a police officer in the land who doesn’t and they still manage to deal with investigations promptly.

“I have seen the mental health of officers, waiting for the IOPC results, decline to the point where they are no longer able to remain at work. This often leads to long term problems for them and has a significant impact on their families. The IOPC needs to remember, as we do, that behind every case is a human being waiting to get on with their lives.”

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 disciplinary investigations on police officers, their families and their colleagues.

Mark said he accepted that putting strict time limits on all investigations would be difficult as clearly some take longer to resolve. However, he argued that the IOPC must be given approved code of practises around investigations which include expected time scales and penalties when these are unjustifiably missed.

He added: “Officers have lost confidence in the IOPC. We need to see real improvements on how they deal with things and I believe introducing the same types of standards we follow will be a step in the right direction.”

Nationally, the Police Federation is calling for a 12-month time limit on such investigations.

PFEW National Conduct and Performance Lead Phill Matthews 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 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.”