THE longer an investigation into a police officer continues, the greater the impact it has on their mental health.
That is the view of Hampshire Police Federation Chair Zoë Wakefield, who is backing calls for IOPC investigations to be time limited.
She was speaking as the Home Affairs Select Committee begins a Parliamentary investigation into the IOPC – to which the Police Federation of England and Wales has submitted “compelling evidence” of protracted disciplinary investigations.
Zoë said: “When a complaint is made against you and you’re then under investigation, even when you know you haven’t done anything wrong, you worry. You worry about possibly losing your job and the impact on your family, your whole future.
“The longer that investigation goes on, the greater the impact on your mental health and your family’s. It’s just that compounding effect.
“The majority of complaints against officers don’t result in a dismissal.
“Obviously on the flip side, if the officer has done something so wrong that it does warrant dismissal, then surely it’s in everyone’s interest to do a timely investigation so that that person can be dealt with with an appropriate sanction, and move on and be exited from the organisation.
“It’s different if people have made a mistake, but none of us want corrupt police officers in the service.”
Zoë backs the Parliamentary investigation into the IOPC, and expressed her frustration at the length of time it spends investigating complaints against officers.
She added: “Are they spending too much time on things like performance stuff that should be being dealt with by the supervisor and doesn’t fall under the misconduct level? Are they completing inquiries that aren’t proportionate to the investigation? Is their time not being spent in the right way?
“We’re often having to chase them, and the response we get is there’s no update. Well that’s really not helpful.
“There’s got to be an update even if it’s: ‘We’re waiting to speak to this person’. Or the investigating officer has been busy with something else or they’re on annual leave, but to say there’s no update is not helpful.”
However, she was optimistic about Hampshire Police Federation’s relationship with the force’s professional standards department (PSD).
She said: “In Hampshire we are trying to work with our PSD to try to improve these things. We’ve got a joint training day with them on the new Regulations that came in, so we’re trying to create a better working relationship.”