90 days from today is Tue, 27 February 2024
31 August 2023
Government reforms which aim to “make it easier for Police Forces to sack Police Officers”, will stop officers accused of misconduct being part of a fair and just process, Wiltshire Police Federation has said.
Under the new rules being drawn up, Chief Constables will be put back in charge of disciplinary panels, replacing independent legally qualified chairs (LQCs). The reforms will also mean that officers who fail to keep their vetting status up to date will be automatically axed from their posts.
Phil Matthews, Chair of Wiltshire Police Federation, said: “I can completely understand that Chief Constables want to be sure that the officers we have are the right people for the job. Police officers that breach the standards of professional behaviour in a manner that is so serious as to justify a dismissal, should rightly be held to account.
“The current system allows for that police officer to be held before a panel, which Includes a legally qualified chair, and a lay member for the view of the public. Is it not right that the officers should be afforded a proper hearing so that they can represent their case in a way that is fair and transparent?
“What if the allegation against an officer is false or malicious? What if the Chief that is holding the hearing is feeling the pressure from the PCC to deal with a certain number of misconducts in a certain way, to sway and assist the public opinion?
“I do not suggest our chief would, but I do suggest that Chief’s holding their own hearings will leave them open to appeals and claims of unfairness or bias. The current system is not able to be influenced by anything other than what is in statute and law. It is fair and transparent.”
Legally qualified chairs were introduced under changes to the Police (Conduct) Regulations made in 2015, to replace senior police officers as the chairs of misconduct panels to make the process more transparent, independent and fairer. Legally Qualified Chairs are individuals who remain independent of the police in order to provide fair and impartial oversight of these hearings.
Phil added: “The Police performance and conduct regulation allow for officers falling below the standards expected of them to be exited. It isn’t the legislation that needs change, it is the manner in which it is used. We need to step away from the informal processes that we have in this force and start using the formal processes of unsatisfactory performance or attendance.
“Wiltshire Police do an awful lot to challenge inappropriate conduct and those that would breach the standards are rightly held to account and exited from the organisation. The way hearings are held at the moment allow that to happen in a way that is often unchallengeable.
“I fear a change to this process will be counterproductive and allow judicial reviews and appeals to be successful.”