TJE Independent Office for Police Conduct – the body in charge of investigating the actions of police officers – needs to be held to account for the time it can keep officers under the microscope.
Hampshire Police Federation Chair Zoe Wakefield said that that while police officers have no objection at being held accountable for their actions, the IOPC and its investigators spend far too long scrutinising their work.
Sometimes this can be for years.
MPs on The Home Affairs Select Committee are currently looking into the IOPC’s timescales for investigating police officer conduct.
Zoe said: “There are numerous examples of IOPC investigations which have taken years to complete without any real explanation. Throughout the length of investigation officers are worried, stressed and anxious because their future is completely unknown and uncertain.
“Not just their career, they don’t know whether they’re still going to have a job, whether they’re going to lose their homes, potentially their marriages might be at risk as well.
“Also during that investigation officers need more informative and regular updates and I think also we found that the lines of enquiry that are pursued aren’t necessarily relevant to the investigation and the IOPC need to justify why these investigations do take so long. I think all those things need to be looked at.”
As part of the Police Federation of England and Wales’s #TimeLimits campaign, the Federation will be giving evidence to Parliament tomorrow (Wednesday) on the detrimental and costly impact of lengthy disciplinary investigations on police officers, their families and their colleagues.
The campaign pushes for investigations into police officers to be capped at 12 months. The IOPC’s latest figures from 2019/20 show that two thirds of its open caseload was fewer than six months old and that cases open for longer than 12 months decreased from 24 per cent to 17 per cent.
PFEW National Conduct and Performance Lead Phill Matthews said: “Protracted disciplinary investigations have ruined the careers of multiple colleagues, left a mark on their mental health, and placed pressure on their home lives and loved ones. It is clear the effects are devastating.
“Public trust in the system will erode if people do not think their complaints will be dealt with quickly. This issue is already something many complainants frequently express.
“We are encouraged the IOPC is keen to work with us rather than against us. However, the issue of investigations rumbling on for more than a year still continues, and enough is enough.”