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Misconduct reforms to 'shift the culture from blame to learning'


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Misconduct reforms to 'shift the culture from blame to learning'

Package of dozens of changes to include giving IOPC power to present a case to a panel.

Chief Constable Craig Guildford at a Police Federation event

Chief Constable Craig Guildford at a Police Federation event

Date - 20th August 2018
By - Ian Weinfass - Police Oracle
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Major reforms, which aim to change the culture of the misconduct system from blame to learning, are on course to be in place next summer.

Work has continued on the process first revealed by Police Oracle earlier this year and more detail has been developed.

In an interview with this website, NPCC lead for complaints and misconduct Chief Constable Craig Guildford said: “The main thing is to try and shift the culture from blame to learning.

“It’s about trying to encourage best practice from other professions such as the airline industry where the emphasis is on learning for the purposes of safety. As a profession this is the direction we need to travel in.”

Among the measures being worked on are:

  • Raising the threshold for what constitutes misconduct and gross misconduct.
  • Issuing terms of reference to an officer subject to a notice.
  • Requiring investigative bodies to produce reports explaining why a misconduct investigation is taking longer than 12 months to complete.
  • Introducing more clarity around the IOPC’s case to answer test for directing misconduct hearings.

Asked about the IOPC’s directed hearings, CC Guildford said in future he expects all watchdog investigations will have to be shown to be reasonable and proportionate.

Recent cases involving the watchdog include a seven-year-old misconduct hearing thrown out because it was so old it would have been an abuse of process to continue, and a sergeant facing a gross misconduct hearing after being accused by an arrested man of stealing money – even though the alleged victim was evasive and uncooperative.

“The case to answer test is on occasions a little bit misunderstood […] much of it comes from stated cases through litigation however [...] the IOPC will be refining their guidance and clarifying the elements of the case to answer test and this will hopefully address the obvious issues,” CC Guildford said.

“The test will include an element of public interest and also whether it is necessary for misconduct procedures to follow.

“The IOPC will also have the power to present a case themselves, and I think that will encourage a decision maker to reflect carefully on their final decision to do so.”

At the moment the watchdog directs forces to hold hearings and present cases against officers, even when those constabularies have already determined there is no case to answer.

The Nottinghamshire chief added that the IOPC under its new director general Michael Lockwood is already moving towards a more learning-based approach. But he said many cases being heard at the moment are based on old case to answer decisions.

The major moves being discussed between chiefs, the Home Office, staff associations and IOPC require changes to police regulations, but not all do.

A recent case covered on Police Oracle involved a Metropolitan Police officer who used his discretion to destroy a small amount of cannabis before moving on to a weapons search, without completing checks and paper work face a gross misconduct hearing. The case was brought by the force rather than the IOPC.

Asked by our reporter whether professional standards departments could introduce a culture of learning themselves ahead of changes to police regulations, CC Guildford claimed that they already are doing so, but that there are limitations.

“You’ve just given an example of where some would say PSDs have got it wrong. I think over the last three or four years since I’ve had this portfolio there has been a shift towards more learning but […] the existing legislation and statutory guidance which is the letter of the law, doesn’t always encourage that to be the outcome.

“One of the key aspects going forward is effectively raising the bar for what is misconduct and what is gross misconduct.

“We want to see cases moving forward [to hearings] where the expected outcome is to be the minimum of a written warning.

"I see lots of cases now being resolved from that learning perspective and I know specifically colleagues in the Met have already started to adopt this approach.”

He added: “The service is very good at identifying its own bad apples. But at the same time where a case involves death or serious injury I think it’s only right that the public can expect a full and transparent investigation.”

It is expected that the draft regulations will be complete by the end of the year. They will then need to be approved by parliament before coming into effect.

View On Police Oracle

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Positive news. All stakeholders will have to buy into this concept to make it work and change the blame culture.

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