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IOPC director general: Low threshold in misconduct case to answer 'not helpful'


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Michael Lockwood wants to move away from a 'treadmill' approach.

Michael Lockwood IOPC director general

Michael Lockwood IOPC director general

Date - 13th September 2018
By - JJ Hutber- Police Oracle
6 Comments6 Comments}


The leader of the police watchdog has admitted performance and misconduct issues are conflated “all too often”.

Michael Lockwood, Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) Director General said the organisation is re-considering both its case to answer test and its definition of misconduct at the Police Superintendents’ Association (PSA) conference this week.

Speaking during a workshop on the IOPC’s plans for the future he said: “We have, as you know, a case to answer test and the level of test is could the panel find it [the allegation] proven.

“The problem is the threshold is very low. We end up dealing with things and investigators do not end up with a result.

“The threshold is not helpful.

“We’re looking for some new words that improve that threshold.

“It’s not in anybody’s interest - hopes [of the alleged victim] are increased and then it doesn’t happen.

“My other issue is the definition of misconduct is not tight enough.

“I’m keen that misconduct is dealt with by misconduct.

“If it’s a performance issue it should be dealt with by performance. They’re coming together too much so I’m looking at a clearer definition,” he said.  

“They’re smashed together in a big lump. We are pushing so hopefully the rules will change early next year.”

Mr Lockwood says he wants to move the IOPC away from a “treadmill” numbers approach to investigations and towards a common sense outlook, taking the context of policing into consideration.

The director general, who was formerly chief executive of Harrow Council, said he had suffered “demoralising” inspectors who treated investigations as a “tick box” exercise, always criticising with the benefit of hindsight.

“I’ve got to look at the wider system - the link between local authorities, health and yourselves.

“We can improve training, we can improve awareness but there’s a fundamental system issue and with austerity you’re left carrying the can. The last resort on the ground.

“You’re left holding the baby. We’ve got to make that clear.

“I’m hoping [for] a more grown up approach. It’s very easy to put something in a box and tick it.”

Instead, Mr Lockwood wants to focus on learning.

He says he is aiming to build a trusting relationship with police and encourage forces to highlight “near misses” so he can develop avian industry-style prevention work.

“I do not find it satisfying every year dealing with the same problem, so I want to work with you stopping that problem.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do internally identifying that learning from investigations,” he admitted.

“Every year statistics say deaths in custody, deaths following police contact, a significant portion are with mental health.

“I’m really keen to work together on this issue - is it about risk handling, is it about training, is it the system, is it about verbal de-escalation rather than restraint?

“[On] many occasions have your colleagues been left holding the can when the service doesn’t turn up, something goes wrong and then they’re investigated

“I’m really interested in pushing the boundaries in looking at the system. Officers in custody suites were telling me these people shouldn’t be here but they have to be because there’s no bed for them.”

Mr Lockwood said his main worry is a timelag on legacy cases and has himself looked at cases and thought “how the hell have we got here?”.

But he added while the Police Federation has complained the watchdog is slow and bureaucratic, the whole system contributes to the problem.

Sometimes the federation takes three months to arrange a “no comment” interview and the Crown Prosecution Service and coroners take up to nine months to organise hearings, he said.

“I’m just saying the system is a more complex one.”  

Mr Lockwood also said he is open to suggestions to help improve the welfare of officers under investigation.

“It’s clear welfare is a big issue”, he said.

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