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"Staggering lack of knowledge" among IOPC investigators, says Fed


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Giving evidence to the Home Affairs Committee Phil Matthews, Federation Conduct and Performance lead, said they've seen a "staggering lack of knowledge" among IOPC investigators.


Body worn video evidence is usually available for IOPC investigations
Body worn video evidence is usually available for IOPC investigations

Date - 27th January 2021
By - Chloe Livadeas

"Really simple investigations" take far too long for the IOPC to investigate the government's inquiry into the role and remit of the independent police complaints body was told today. 

Federation conduct and performance lead Phil Matthews told the Home Affairs Select Committee that when the staff association asks the IOPC why investigations are so lengthy they do not get a response and this was even the case with “really simple investigations”.

He said: “All the people involved are known, the data is there, all the police witnesses are known, available, have usually written statements, there’s usually CCTV or body-worn-video footage available.

“There is absolutely no reason why they drag on and on as long as they do.”

Mr Matthews said the IOPC was the size of a small shire force with a £72m budget and 1,000 staff. “That’s bigger than some county forces,” he told the committee,

“There’s no problem with their resources, just how they use it.”

Police Superintendents' Association Professional Standards Co-ordinator Victor Marshall agreed, and said: “Many of these cases are not complex. Justice delayed is justice denied.”

Mr Matthews said: “We have some real issues to do with culture, knowledge, training and abilities. We don’t think they have the right depth and breadth of knowledge, or the right training and they’re absolutely unaccountable,” Mr Matthews said.

“Some of them have the same powers as PCs but are shrouded in secrecy,” he added.

Former police investigators work for the IOPC but there is a cap on how many ex-force personnel can work for the independent body set at  around 23% of the total staff.

Mr Mathews told MPs there was a need for urgent reform of the IOPC: “We want to see some teeth added to the legislation. There is absolutely no incentive for the IOPC or appropriate authority to deal with things promptly and properly because they don’t need to. If there was an incentive like there is for officers investigating a case to get it in front of a hearing within a set period then you’ll invest the time and money to do that.”

He said the Federation would be happy with legally qualified chairs having more of a “case management role”.

Mr Mathews also pointed out how the “vast majority” of dismissals came from within forces, and how cases dealt with by Professional Standards Departments resulted in sanctions at a much higher rate than those dealt with by the IOPC.

In 2018/19 there were 31,097 public complaints covering 58,478 allegations, 40 per cent of which required investigation.  This compares with approximately 4,000 internally raised conduct allegations. Of the 31,097 public complaints 492 (1.6 per cent) required some form of remedial action, 217 (0.7 per cent) required proceedings of which 92 (0.3 per cent) were assessed as gross misconduct. Only 33 (0.1 per cent) officers were dismissed.

This compares with internally raised misconduct allegations of which 1,482 cases required some form of action - 821 (55 per cent) resulted in disciplinary proceedings of which 354 (23.8 per cent) were assessed as gross misconduct and 192 officers were dismissed (13 per cent).

Responding to the Federation's concerns an IOPC spokesperson told Police Oracle: “The IOPC has made significant achievements in improving the timeliness of investigations and many of the delays which can occur are outside of our control. It is disappointing and misleading that the Police Federation has chosen not to reflect this in the information they have provided.

“Since becoming the IOPC, we’ve completed more than 1,350 investigations and 90 per cent are now completed within 12 months.”

They pointed out they do not determine dates for misconduct hearings which are arranged by police forces, or criminal proceedings which are set by the courts and Crown Prosecution Service.

“The Federation are often party to these proceedings and will be aware that the IOPC does not determine these dates."

They added: “Everyone in the police complaints system has a responsibility to work together to improve timeliness – including police forces, the Federation, the CPS and other parties.”

The committee also heard evidence from the Police Action Lawyers Group, INQUEST, who spoke of the detrimental impact lengthy investigations have on complainants and their families.

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I have yet to hear anyone say a good word about either the IOPC or its fore runner the IPCC.  The IOPC claims to have been reformed but it still is slow to finish investigations and generally it looks incompetent.  Many of the cases that it recommends going to force disciplinary panels  end up being found no guilty when they get heard by legally trained chairs. In house force investigations get done faster and often end up with more serious sanctions than IOPC investigations.  They seem to have a mentality that they want to bag a copper and that they have to find some sort of learning to impose on the force even when they can't find anything wrong with an individual officer or officers.  They are also intent on expanding their remit hence trying to investigate stop and search and to look for signs of racism in the police. Lastly if a recent job advert on PO is anything to go by they don't pay particularly high wages for their investigators (£27 k plus London weighting) and they don't need PIP 2 as a starting point although I think that recruits would be expected to get that later.

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Don;t forget they get the case sorted within 12 months for 90 % of cases.  Even fairly complex cases, where the evidence and info is already 90% in place, they could be getting things sorted within weeks rather than months.  

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My last dealing with the IOPC was following a police pursuit that ended in a fatality, thankfully I was part of the initial investigation and not the driver.

The IOPC investigator that came out had no police driving qualifications, had no understanding of pursuits, had very limited RTA knowledge and was generally incompetent. They were left asking the SIO at scene questions on what next steps to take and so on. They weren’t even aware that all our vehicles are fitted with dash cam or that the offending vehicle had dash cam and tachograph.

Jack of all trades, masters of none. 

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What I can never fathom is committee hearings like these. One side says things are not working the other says it all fine and working and that seems to be fine. 

Literally diametrically opposed views are not challenged with any enthusiasm. One can't be right . 

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