Federation: Changes to the police conduct system are “unnecessary”

Changes to the police conduct system that will make it easier for chiefs and other senior officers to sack officers are “unnecessary” and amount to little more than a knee-jerk reaction, Hampshire Police Federation has said.

Chief officers are to take on the role previously held by legally qualified chairs in deciding how to deal with officers – which is a poor move according to Zoë Wakefield, Hampshire Police Federation Chair.

She said: “This change isn’t needed because legally qualified chairs have been doing a good job. I can only obviously talk about cases that we’ve had in Hampshire, but here the right people have been dismissed and the right people have retained their jobs.

“Legally qualified chairs have been doing a very good, independent assessment of cases, listening to all the evidence and making the right decisions. I know there may be instances around the country where that hasn’t been the case, but my understanding is, under the new system, there will be a panel and the legally qualified chairs will sit on that panel to hopefully still provide some impartiality.

But legally qualified chairs were brought in because it wasn’t working with chief constables – so I’m not sure why we’ve gone back to that process.”

The unique position held by Chief Constables means it will be harder for them to be impartial when looking at cases, Zoë added. She explained: “Policing isn’t that big a community. If you’ve got a Chief Constable who has served in your force for a long time, it’s harder for them to be impartial when  they’re likely to know the people involved in the process, whereas legally qualified chairs are completely independent. I think it’s a change that’s not needed given that the system was working well before.”

She also warned that changes to vetting procedures could pose a threat to officers, adding: “We’ve had officers that have not lost their job at their hearing, but have then failed vetting and then lost their job. From talking to my regional colleagues, that appears to be happening elsewhere. That could be a bigger issue coming up on the horizon.

Legally qualified chairs were introduced under changes to the Police (Conduct) Regulations made in 2015, to replace senior police officers as the chairs of misconduct panels to make the process more transparent, independent and fairer. Legally Qualified Chairs are individuals who remain independent of the police in order to provide fair and impartial oversight of these hearings.

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