A Hampshire Police officer has said the stress of going through a five-year-long IOPC investigation made him question his future on the force.
PC Simon Pascoe says the drawn-out case has affected his confidence and he’s urging any officer who has a complaint made against them to speak to the Federation straight away.
Simon moved to Hampshire from the Met in 2016, two years after he was originally cleared of any wrongdoing following a vehicle stop in a burglary tasking area.
But as he eventually found out the investigation was reopened by the IOPC, meaning he faced more scrutiny and challenges to his version of events.
With what he says was a lack of communication from the police watchdog much of the discussions about the case essentially went on behind his back.
He was eventually fully exonerated in November 2019, five years after it was first found he had no case to answer.
“My first piece of advice would be soon as you get any complaint, no matter how minor it is, speak to the Federation,” Simon said.
“Don’t do what I did and ignore it and go, ‘I’ve done nothing wrong. There’s nothing to worry about. I can deal with this myself’.”
Simon says he and his wife were worried he would lose his job and his house as the case dragged on but that his Fed Rep offered practical and welfare support throughout.
“I got looked after immensely. Throughout the investigation, I didn’t always see it but now I’ve had all the disclosure and details from the hearing.
“I’ve seen the emails that [Federation Conduct Lead] Moray Anderson had sent to PSD and the Met DPS hearings team, fighting my cause, pointing out everything they’d done wrong.
“It was just having that reassurance – Moray came with me to London [for the hearing] and, again, processes and legal talks are going on that I don’t always understand, and he just spoke in plain English and supported us in the evenings and debriefed the day.”
Simon’s case centred around an allegation of racial discrimination after a stop check was carried out by him and a colleague back in 2014.
“The complainant said the stop was made because we were being racist,” Simon said.
“There was a local investigation by the Met Police, by the Inspector, and that lasted just over a year.
“It was found as no case to answer. Then in May 2016, I transferred to Hampshire, thinking that it was all done and dusted.”
But just two months into his new role Simon was told that an appeal had been upheld.
“I had a phone call to say there had been an appeal and there was going to be a re-investigation,” he said.
“The member of the public appealed the original investigator’s decision, and they appealed to the IOPC and they upheld certain aspects of the appeal.
“So, there was a re-investigation, and I got asked to write some written responses to some questions. I wasn’t interviewed.
“And then I got told a few months later after that, again, that there was no case to answer,” he said.
But in February 2017 the phone rang again saying the complainant had yet again re-appealed the decision and that the IOPC had again upheld aspects of it.
The Met’s Professional Standards Department Met Inspector declined to progress the case further prompting the IOPC to direct it to gross misconduct, even though Simon hadn’t been interviewed, witnesses hadn’t been spoken to and, he said, the necessary enquiries hadn’t taken place.
“There was an appeal, and the IOPC basically upheld it in the August, but I didn’t get told this,” he said.
“In February 2018, I got told my gross misconduct hearing would be in the next six months. Six months passed and I hadn’t heard anything. In November 2019, I went to London and had a week’s hearing at the Met.
“There were several legal arguments on the first day as to why it was unfair, the time taken etc. I had been found to have no case to answer, twice, but the panel decided that we could still have a fair hearing, so it went ahead. And then on the 15th November 2019, we finally got exonerated.”
Simon says the whole experience has made him question his future as an officer.
“I hadn’t had any Federation advice until the February because, for the first two investigations, my paperwork said misconduct only. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong so I was like, ‘I don’t need anyone’s help, I can just answer these questions and it’ll go away’. Obviously, when it went to gross misconduct, I thought that’s when I need to get the Federation involved because this is getting a bit more serious,” he said.
“It was embarrassing to have to ask former colleagues for character references, and then three months into a new start in Hampshire I’ve got my Inspector having a phone call with Professional Standards saying, ‘by the way, there’s a racial discrimination complaint against your member of staff’.
“I always thought one day someone would get sensible and say, ‘this isn’t right. It’s not proportionate. I was always waiting for that email to come,” he said.
“Potentially, there were gaps in the first investigation. That’s fine but the Met DPS did say, ‘We’ll do a third investigation’, and for the IOPC just to say, ‘No, that’s not happening. We’ll direct a hearing’, I just thought that was the wrong decision – I could have been interviewed for a start.
“During the weeks of the hearing and up to it, I had doubts as to whether I wanted to still do the job. Regardless of what the outcome was,” he said.
“I used to be a really proactive officer, but since that day, I think twice now about how I’m going to approach things. I know I’m not as proactive as I was, and I would say that I’m not as good a police officer as I was.”