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Watchdog change 'must not simply be to name' says Federation


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IPCC name will change next week.


Phil Matthews 

The police watchdog needs “radical reform” in order to regain the trust of rank-and-file officers when it makes numerous changes to its structure and powers, a Police Federation official says.

Next week the Independent Police Complaints Commission becomes the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

Changes include a new governance model and new director general Michael Lockwood will take over the running of the body.

It will have new powers, aimed at helping it to become more effective and more decisive in addressing public concerns, including to initiate its own investigations without relying on a force to record and refer a particular case for investigation.

Phill Matthews, conduct and performance lead for the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW), says it must tackle a history of “massive transparency issues, bungled investigations and inefficiencies” and cannot “simply be a name change.”

“It is absolutely right and proper that where there are cases to answer, officers are investigated and any appropriate action taken.

“But what is not right is that people’s lives are left in limbo and their careers in tatters for months and months on end. We have dealt with countless cases where delays for one reason or another have happened, with cases not being finalised for months, sometimes years.

“The stress this puts on the officers concerned is unacceptable – particularly when after all of that cases are dropped because it is clear officers were just doing their job.”

He said the organisation has a history of “tend[ing] to work from a position of guilt” instead of applying the balance of probability threshold civil cases must meet.

“They seem ask is there [any] evidence and have a tendency to take complainants on their word alone,” he said.

Mr Matthews believes the issues are partly a result of high turnover, understaffing and inadequate training for investigators.  

He wants stricter deadlines to be imposed for decision makers and a requirement for investigators to consult with legal advisors.

Mr Matthews said he has witnessed countless cases in which evidence was not disclosed or examined properly - including one in which investigators did not notice a police officer under investigation was punched during the first few seconds of CCTV footage they had submitted.

He added: “The new director general of the IOPC has a chance to put things right and set out their stall from the off.

“The question we must ask is it really worth the huge financial costs involved in this body to satisfy the public that our members overwhelmingly act correctly in the vast majority of cases?”

High quality

Ian Todd, IPCC acting chief executive, said: “When the IPCC becomes the Independent Office for Police Conduct our role and remit will be the same, but with a new structure which we ourselves argued for.

“That will support an organisation that has significantly expanded and taken on six times as many investigations over the last three years.

“Our operating model has been designed to improve timeliness by speeding up decision making and improving support services, making sure that our staff have the right training, systems and tools to do the job.

“It is important that our investigations are of a high quality and in more complex investigations, and those involving multiple allegations against multiple officers, they can take a considerable period of time to complete.

“We are aware of the impact that time taken to resolve a case can have on all of those involved - bereaved families, complainants and the police officers themselves.

"Of 502 independent investigations closed between April and November 2017, 65 per cent had taken less than 12 months with one third completed in under six months and a half in under nine months."

He added: “Other proceedings such as court cases, disciplinary proceedings or inquests can make our investigations appear to take much longer than they actually do.

“The cooperation of police officers themselves can be an important factor. While we do not recognise the portrayal of ‘bungled enquiries’ put forward, where we have on occasion got things wrong we have admitted so and endeavoured to learn from mistakes.”

Last year IPCC figures showed six forces investigate cases more slowly than the watchdog.

And in October the IPCC came under fire after it was revealed a misconduct hearing mired by delays had been called off eight years after 17-year-old Liam Albert was killed in a police car chase.

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