Independent Police Complaints Commission - Home Affairs Committee Contents

5  A second home for police officers

71.  In those cases where the IPCC is able to run an independent investigation, there is an enduring impression that this is still tantamount to the police investigating themselves because of the significant number of former officers employed by the Commission.

72.  One of the most significant challenges faced by the Commission has been its ability to demonstrate independence from the police service.[65] Under the Police Reform Act 2002, the Commission is required to maintain an "appropriate degree of independence", but that level of independence is not defined.[66] Nick Harwick, former Chair of the IPCC, told us that in the case of Jean Charles de Menezes the then Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police had sought to intervene to prevent the Stockwell investigation from taking place.[67] This level of interference is clearly unacceptable.

73.  The number of former officers employed by the Commission was a continuing source of concern.[68] About 11% of all staff and 33% of investigators are former police officers.[69] As a result, several witnesses believed that the police thought that they were "untouchable".[70] A number of organisations raised concerns that the Commission was biased in favour of the police;[71] or that it was perceived by complainants to be so.[72]

74.  Under Dame Anne Owers, the Commission has begun to respond to these criticisms. In 2011, it established a training scheme to help candidates from a range of backgrounds become Commission investigators. Five trainee investigators were initially recruited and the scheme has recently been extended further. Dame Anne told the Committee that the Commission "would like to bring in more people from outside, and that is why we are doing a recruitment drive in the autumn and why also we are training up some of our own case workers, who come from non-police backgrounds, to be investigators".[73]

75.  We appreciate that former officers bring investigative skills and can improve the effectiveness of the Commission. It is natural that an organisation whose principal role is to investigate the police should recruit former officers, both for their investigative skills and their familiarity with police practices and procedures, but it must make every effort to cultivate its own investigative capabilities and to avoid becoming too dependent on former police officers to fill these roles.[74]

76.  There may be other sources of independent expertise where the IPCC and police forces could turn. For example, there is already some overlap between the role of the IPCC and the role of HM Inspectorate of Constabulary. If a Police and Crime Commissioner decides to instigate gross misconduct proceedings against a Chief Constable, one of Her Majesty's Inspectors (HMIs) must be present at the ensuing hearing. Similarly, if an officer above the rank of Chief Superintendent decides to appeal against the outcome of a misconduct hearing, the appeal is referred to the Police Appeals Tribunal where an HMI may sit on the panel if asked by the Secretary of State.

77.  As part of HMIC's role in assessing police force efficiency and effectiveness, it also has a statutory duty to keep itself informed of how police forces handle complaints and misconduct.

78.  If the Commission's primary statutory purpose is to increase public confidence, then it must act to rectify the impression that the police are investigating the police. The Commission must improve its in-house investigative resources and move to a target of 20% of investigators who have moved directly from a career as a police officer, or fewer, so that the number of former officers investigating the police is significantly reduced.

79.  Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary must play a more prominent role in investigations of the most serious cases. In cases involving serious police corruption, for example, one of Her Majesty's Inspectors should review the IPCC's findings and be tasked with ensuring the implementation of any IPCC recommendations. HMIC's responsibility for forces' effectiveness make it a natural candidate for involvement in the "complaints competency investigation" described above and the inspectorate should ensure that any findings for a particular force are taken up by other forces where necessary.

65   Ev w7 [Women Against Rape] Back

66   See Police Reform Act 2002, section 10 Back

67   Q 263 Back

68   Ev w18 [Newham Monitoring Project], section 6; Ev w20 [StopWatch], para 2 Back

69   Ev 80 [IPCC], para 5 Back

70   Ev w51 [Anton Venter]; Ev w24 [Charles C Kirk], para 8 Back

71   Ev w14 [Newham Monitoring Project]; Ev 116 [Inquest], para 57 Back

72   Ev w13 [Netpol]; Ev w23 [Charles C Kirk]; Ev w25 [Sara Jane Loughran]; Ev 92 [BMH UK] Back

73   Q 57 [Dame Anne Owers] Back

74   Ev 122 [Crown Prosecution Service] Back

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Prepared 1 February 2013