Independent Police Complaints Commission - Home Affairs Committee Contents

1  Introduction

1.  When the public go to the police, they expect each case to be handled quickly, honestly and professionally to get to the bottom of the matter and ensure that justice is done. But when the complaint is about the police, people need to be even more sure that the truth will be told and any wrongs put right.

2.  In many cases, people are right to look to Chief Constables and forces' own Professional Standards Departments for a settlement—for example, often a simple apology is all that is needed to set right police misconduct, without tedious and costly bureaucratic procedures. In future, people will also look to Police and Crime Commissioners, especially where a complaint involves a Chief Constable. It will be up to PCCs to ensure that there is exacting public oversight of the way forces operate.

3.   However, in the most serious cases—those involving deaths in custody or police corruption for example—it is vital to have a body that is truly independent and competent to get to the truth of the matter and ensure that misconduct and criminality in the police force cannot go unpunished. After all, this is why the IPCC was established.

4.  Police officers are warranted with powers that can strip people of their liberty, their money and even their lives and it is vital that the public have confidence that those powers are not abused. In this report, we conclude that the Independent Police Complaints Commission is not yet capable of delivering the kind of powerful, objective scrutiny that is needed to inspire that confidence.

5.  Compared with the might of the 43 police forces in England and Wales, the IPCC is woefully underequipped and hamstrung in achieving its original objectives. It has neither the powers nor the resources that it needs to get to the truth when the integrity of the police is in doubt. Smaller even than the Professional Standards Department of the Metropolitan Police, the Commission is not even first among equals, yet it is meant to be the backstop of the system. It lacks the investigative resources necessary to get to the truth; police forces are too often left to investigate themselves; and the voice of the IPCC does not have binding authority. The Commission must bring the police complaints system up to scratch and the Government must give it the powers that it needs to do so.

6.  In this inquiry, we have heard evidence from those involved in police complaints, from the IPCC and from the police themselves. It is the first of a pair of inquiries into police integrity and will be followed by our report on leadership and standards in the police later in the spring.

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© Parliamentary copyright 2013
Prepared 1 February 2013