Members want ‘fair, transparent and timely’ complaints process’

Members want a fair, transparent and timely complaints process, says the secretary of Gwent Police Federation as she welcomed a Parliamentary review into the IOPC.

Annalea Kift, who is the branch conduct and performance lead, called on the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) to take on board the recommendations in the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) report into the complaints system.

Annalea said change was needed to improve confidence in the system.

“We welcome the recommendations in the report which we hope will speed up the process, make it more open and accessible, and ultimately improve confidence in the handling of police complaints,” she explained.

“For too long, police complaints have taken far too long. We know this can have a huge burden on members and their families and are a burden on the tax payer too.

“Speeding up the process will improve confidence, not just of the public, but also our members, as will making the process more transparent and accessible.

“All our members want is a fair, transparent and timely process, which gathers the evidence our members need to either clear themselves, or remove the minority of corrupt individuals from the service.”

The Federation’s national vice-chair, Ché Donald, also said he would welcome “further positive dialogue” with the Commons committee following the publication of its report.

“PFEW supports many of the conclusions made in the report, particularly criticisms over timeliness and Professional Standards Departments (PSD) not being properly funded, and their lack of transparency and diversity amongst staff,” he said.

Ché said the Federation took issue with a conclusion in the report that 91 per cent of IOPC “core investigations” were completed within 12 months.

“We know the length of delays to many investigations are still totally unacceptable,” he said, “We often find there is no rationale for these delays, or they are caused by issues such as lack of disclosure or other proceedings.

“The claim that ‘officers treat complaints against them as challenges to their authority or matters to be sidestepped’ simply does not ring true in our experience. It’s nonsense to say members don’t cooperate with the IOPC, as they are only too aware of the sanctions and possibility of dismissal.

“Delays in officers responding are usually caused by lack of clarity over the officer’s status as a witness or suspect.”

He added: “We’d ideally like to see the IOPC better explain their decisions to members of the public in non-technical language, and to ensure complainants are given more facts about the process, so they have realistic expectations about their complaint. Report findings are often hundreds of pages, and too legally complex.

“The majority of police officers are dedicated professionals. Those who cannot be trusted deserve to be dismissed, but the reality is most IOPC cases find officers have done nothing wrong or are simply making mistakes or make rushed decisions under pressure.

“It’s more essential than ever the disciplinary process is quicker and more learning-based rather than returning to a sanction-based culture.”

Dame Diana Johnson MP, chair of the HASC, said: “The IOPC does deserve credit for the progress it has made in the four years since it was created. The vast majority of investigations are completed within a year. There are also clear strands of work to build relationships and improve public perception. 

“However, the fact remains that more work remains to be done. The succession of scandals in recent years has left public confidence in policing at a perilous point. The IOPC will need to ensure that it drives change to create a complaints system people can have full confidence in. There must be no repeat of past mistakes.” 

Other abbreviated conclusions from the report:

  • Urge the Government to consider police complaints as part of the review of the PCC model currently underway and to make an early assessment of PCC involvement in the police complaints system
  • Urge the Government to fund PCCs adequately…this will provide PCCs the opportunity to work more closely with their forces, for example, to record and systematically monitor the root causes of complaints and recurrent issues that affect their communities disproportionately and how their forces resolve those issues
  • The police discipline system needs to be simpler and more transparent. We welcome IOPC statutory guidance which encourages forces to use accessible language and formats to explain the system, but it is not evident that all forces are yet doing this
  • Culture needs to be created within police forces — established by and led from the top — that requires rapid, open and non-defensive response to complaints about conduct, both to deal with misconduct where it arises, and to clear the names and reputations of officers who have not transgressed
  • The IOPC must use its powers effectively to minimise delays to investigations at an early stage of the process
  • Recommend that the Government monitor and review bi-annually how effectively local policing bodies are holding their chief constables accountable for implementing IOPC recommendations to their forces
  • Urge the Government to review how IOPC, HMICFRS, and coroners’ learning recommendations are reported to the public in a more joined-up and meaningful way.

Read the report.