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Police disciplinary system to be examined by MPs

A group of MPs are investigating whether wider reforms are needed to improve the efficiency of the police conduct and disciplinary system, due to the growing numbers of complaints recorded against police officers. The inquiry announced on Monday 28th October 2019 by committee chair Yvette Cooper MP, will examine how the IOPC operates within the police conduct and discipline system.

The Independent Office of Police Conduct (IPOC) investigates the most serious misconduct allegations against police officers. The Home Affairs Committee are examining its role and remit and looking at how it works alongside police forces to resolve complaints. They are also looking at whether the introduced measures which reduce the time that complaints take have made any difference.

In 2017-18 there were 31,671 recorded complaints against the police, a slight decrease from the previous year where there were 34,103 but part of a longer-term increase since 2004-5 when there were 22,898 complaints recorded. The IOPC was created in January 2018 to replace the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) which was heavily criticised by many stakeholders. The government promised ‘speedier decision-making’ under the new leadership, with a new board ‘to ensure greater accountability to the public’.

The IOPC was to be given several new powers under the terms of the Policing and Crime Act 2017. These include the power to launch investigations without a police referral. There were also changes to the process for deciding whether an officer should face a misconduct hearing with the IOPC having the final decision. These changes were designed to improve transparency and accountability.

Police officers have expressed concerns about the delays in the system because when an officer is under investigation their duties are restricted. This puts additional workload on their already busy colleagues. They have also complained about the lack of time limit on when a complaint can be made after an incident.

As reported in Personnel today, committee chair Yvette Cooper said: “When the government established the Independent Office of Police Conduct in January 2018, it was with the promise of new powers, greater independence and faster decision making. These reforms were meant to increase transparency and build trust in the police complaints and disciplinary process.

“Nearly two years on we continue to hear concerns that the system is not working as it should. In this inquiry we expect to look at the IOPC’s powers and effectiveness but, given that most complaints are dealt with by local forces under the scrutiny of police and crime commissioners, we shall also look at whether wider reforms are needed to build a system in which the public can have real confidence.”

Conduct and performance lead at the Police Federation of England and Wales, Phill Matthews, said that the current system is not working and there are areas of the system where its effectiveness could be improved.

He continued “We welcome any examination of the role and function of IPOC. We have been deeply worried for some years about the standard and length of time their investigations can take to complete and have been campaigning for a 12-month time limit to be introduced to ensure that distress and anxiety cause to all those involved in the process can be minimised.”

The terms of reference of the inquiry are; the role and remit of the IPOC within the police conduct and discipline system; progress in reforming the complaints system, including speeding up decision making; How it is working with individual forces and policing bodies in order to respond to complaints; the need for the IOPC’s new powers, and their expected impact; whether further reforms are required to secure public confidence in the police conduct and discipline system.

Mr Matthews concluded, “It is only right that police officers should be scrutinised but the current system is not working as it should and we feel there are significant areas where improvement can be made to make it quicker and more effective. I hope this inquiry will shine a light into all corners of the IOPC and its practices so that police officers and the public are able to have the confidence they need in such an important organisation.”

If you have been mistreated by the police contact us today via email at enquiries@hnksolicitors.com or phone us on 0151 203 1104 to arrange a consultation. Our solicitors have specialist knowledge in dealing with actions against the police and will be able to assess the best way to progress your case.

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