3 February 2021
It is shocking and bewildering that conduct investigations are still being allowed to drag on for years at a significant cost to officers’ health and to the public purse, says Gwent Police Federation chair Steve Thorpe.
He was reacting to the publication of research by the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) which reveals that, taking into account the average cost of running investigators’ offices, legal aid and officers being on restricted duties or suspended, an investigation lasting up to six months costs an estimated £15,101 per officer. This then increases by 20 times to £302,012 when the investigation exceeds five years.
Suspended officer costs are considerably higher, with a six to 12-month investigation costing around £67,968, increasing to £453,115 per officer after five years; this is due to the Force having to replace the officer under investigation and use other officers to backfill and work extra hours.
“The Federation’s Time Limits campaign highlights the fact that lengthy investigations cost lives. We know that long-drawn-out disciplinary investigations are having a devastating effect on so many colleagues, ruining their careers, affecting their mental and physical health and wellbeing and inevitably having an effect on their loved ones and their colleagues.
“On top of that, the enormous costs are shocking and that force professional standards departments and the IOPC have been able to continue in this manner for so long when we have been saying it’s wrong, is both shocking and bewildering.”
In addition to the Federation survey, the BBC found £13 million was paid by 29 forces to officers who had been suspended between 2013 and 2018.
The Federation launched its Time Limits campaign in 2019 to highlight the detrimental impact of lengthy disciplinary investigations on police officers, their families and their colleagues, as well as on public trust and confidence.
It aims to limit the length of all investigations to a maximum of 12 months from the time an allegation is made, which would fit in and complement the new regulations relating to Police and Crime Commissioners being given explanations when cases exceed that time limit. A legally qualified chair would be appointed if the 12 month deadline is missed and they would have the power to terminate or conduct robust case management to conclude investigations, safeguarding both the complainant’s and officer’s position.
Phill Matthews, who chairs the national Federation’s conduct and performance committee, said: “Protracted misconduct investigations have not only ruined the careers of so many officers, but have severely impacted their mental health, their families and their colleagues- and now we can evidence they are a huge drain on the public purse.
“This is a staggering sum of money and shows every day that an investigation goes on is a significant cost to the taxpayer. Just because an investigation goes on for longer it doesn’t mean it is more efficient – in fact, they are often worse.
“Officers are rightly held accountable for their actions, and I absolutely condemn dishonest or inappropriate behaviour, but the IOPC often inexplicably pursues cases in which our members have acted properly. In many instances investigations which have gone on for five years or more have just ended in management advice or a written warning. We are hoping better training for IOPC investigators will result in more time being freed up to uncover those that don’t deserve to be in the job.
“Public trust in the system will also erode if people do not think their complaints will be dealt with quickly.We are encouraged the IOPC is keen to work with us on this matter. However, we must ask can these costs be considered good value for money for the taxpayer? We must make the system more efficient and conclude investigations in less than one year.”
**The analysed data covers the Metropolitan Police Service misconduct or gross misconduct investigations that were still outstanding, that is unresolved, as of 1 December 2018. The Federation has assumed this is reasonably representative of the data it would have obtained had it been able to get data from all forces