Better training would help improve the time it takes investigators from the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) to decide whether officers involved in Post-Incident Procedures (PIP) are witnesses or suspects or if the case will be referred to the force or the watchdog, according to the Police Federation.
Federation conduct and performance leads taking part in a virtual meeting with Kathie Cashell, the IOPC’s director of strategy and impact, last week were asked to give their feedback on how processes could be improved.
They reported that at times there seemed to be a ‘lack of empowerment’ and said IOPC investigators were slow in making decisions when involved in PIP.
IOPC director general Michael Lockwood made a commitment to notifying officers of their status as witness or suspect within three months during a meeting with the Federation in May when similar concerns were raised.
The reps in last week’s meeting also said better disclosure training was needed since reps often struggle to obtain materials which would be used in officers’ defence.
Phill Matthews, the Federation’s national conduct and performance lead, said: “We will quite often ask for materials as we further our defence and we get answers either through gritted teeth or literally at the very last minute when our lawyers have to get involved. This is a waste of time, effort and energy when we are trying to prepare for a hearing or meeting.”
But he welcomed the opportunity to work with the IOPC to help it improve its processes.
The Federation stressed the need for better communication from both investigators and the IOPC media office with details given to reps and officers on the status of their case usually being ‘woefully unhelpful’.
Inflammatory language and factual inaccuracies in press releases were also an issue, the reps said, along with not being sighted on appeal decisions before they reached the media.
Gwent Police Federation chair Maria Henry said she was pleased to see the IOPC taking on board the Federation’s views.
“Federation conduct reps have a great understanding of how the IOPC processes can have an impact on an officer’s wellbeing so it is good that they are having a chance to air their concerns and suggest ways in which the watchdog can further improve,” says Maria.