Home AffairsWritten evidence submitted by the Police Federation of England and Wales [IPCC 08]

Background

The Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) is established by statute as the representative body for police officers of the ranks up to and including the rank of Chief Inspector. There are currently over 134,000 of its members serving in the Police Forces of England and Wales.

Overview

The PFEW were involved with the IPCC a long time prior to their inception in April 2004. We were members of the Programme Board in 2001 before the formulation of the Police Reform Act 2002 and had oversight of the change from the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) to the IPCC.

After the implementation of the IPCC we were members of the IPCC Advisory Board and have always had a healthy professional working relationship with the Chairman and Chief Executive of the IPCC. This is not to say we agree on all matters; however we are firm believers that we need an independent element in the investigation and management of public complaints.

We also took an active role in the “stocktake” that took place in 2008 and have over the years issued two “joint communiqués” to both our members and the public to update them on the procedures in relation to public complaints.

We are about to be involved in the consultation on the amended IPCC Statutory Guidance and welcome that opportunity.

We have always enjoyed a productive, be it at times fractious relationship with the IPCC. This is only natural given our differing roles and the conflict that the relationship at times brings but despite this we have moved forward well in some areas and maintain a healthy and respectful dialogue.

We welcome the opportunity provided by the HASC to respond to their inquiry and this response has been compiled after consultation with Police Conduct representatives from forces around the country.

Key Areas

Our key areas of concern some of which are partially covered in the formal responses to set questions could be highlighted as:

Communication

(i)Ill-considered and provocative press releases often quite biased and prior to sufficient evidence being gathered. These ought to be more neutral in tone until a clear picture has emerged.

(ii)Officers under investigation are under huge stress and the required updates are often bland and uninformative.

Investigations

Are still taking far too long, this is either due to a failure in a sense of proportionality or inadequate investigative skills and the PFEW are outraged that these failures are often unfairly levelled at officers not assisting the investigation.

Oversight

PFEW believe the current oversight arrangements are inadequate.

It would be fair to say progress has been made in some of these areas but it is too slow and insufficient.

Terms of Reference

We note the terms of reference of the HASC Inquiry and wish to respond as follows:

Whether the Commission has improved the scrutiny of police practices

PFEW believes that overall the IPCC has improved scrutiny of the police and its independence from the police is vital in this area. We believe sometimes certain individuals adopt an overly crusading standpoint, a recent example of this being the latest surge to require officers to be compelled to answer questions in an interview, when they are witnesses. We have always supported investigations and given full and detailed statements but we deserve the right to the same protections afforded in law to other citizens.

Whether the Commission has the right powers and resources to carry out its role effectively

On the question of powers, by and large the IPCC has sufficient powers. They may lack some basic powers to follow the evidence, eg medical records, outsourced functions such as custody. There is, however an anomaly PFEW believes in cases where Professional Standard Departments (PSDs) have allegedly conducted a poor, biased or even corrupt investigation. The IPCC should have the right to investigate these on the very rare occasion it is alleged, as the perception amongst officers is that PSDs are a law unto themselves, without the independent scrutiny afforded to all other officers. This needs to be addressed and set in regulation as it is extremely difficult if not impossible to progress in the current regime. Officers should be able to complain directly to the IPCC on how they are being treated by their forces in exceptional cases.

With regard to sufficient resources, we are aware the IPCC have had to make cuts like everyone else but it is not our belief that the individual workload on investigators is excessive. Many investigators do not seem to grasp the nature of proportionality and waste valuable time and effort over egging the pudding. This is a cultural issue which is being addressed but again progress is slow.

Since the inception of the IPCC they have taken on a wider remit, incorporating the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Border Agency. Whilst it may be appropriate that these organisations have some form of independent scrutiny, by utilising the IPCC without any increase in resources there is a dilution of the work the IPCC do with the police. It would be our view that the IPCC be allowed to conduct more independent investigations, but solely of the police. The clue is in the title the “Independent Police…”

Whether investigations lead to improvements in police practices

The Learning the Lessons programme has been very successful, in particular in the area of Custody where both the Police and the IPCC have improved as a result of investigations. The Police Federation have actively contributed to these bulletins and are an active participant in the programme board.

The difficulty is effecting change within not only the police service but other areas of the public sector. This needs to be addressed through legislation. There is an argument that there could be something akin to the Coroner’s Rule 43 to enforce change. This may prove difficult legally but we believe it could make some positive changes, especially in areas like continuing to use police stations as a place of safety for persons with mental health problems. This issue has been raised time and time again and there seems universal agreement that this should not be occurring, however there is nothing being put in place to change this.

Whether improving police services should be formally included in the Commission’s remit

Other than as outlined above the improving of police services should remain under the HMIC and potentially the proposed Police Professional Body (or College of Policing) although we accept that this is still in its embryonic format.

The Commission’s role in scrutinising elected police commissioners

We believe that there has to be some process for the scrutiny of elected police and crime commissioners and it would appear to be the logical solution for the IPCC to conduct any investigations of them independently.

The Commission’s role in scrutinising third parties commissioned to carry out policing duties

The difficult issue for the PFEW is that we have grave concerns at this time to the third party commission of Police Services (or outsourcing) so do not think we should comment on this area.

The Commission’s role in considering complaints which may relate in part to other bodies involved in the justice system, such as the Crown Prosecution Service

As stated in our response to a previous question we believe the IPCC should focus solely on public complaints in relation to the police and no other area. There are other bodies that can deal with complaints about staff within other organisations within the criminal justice sector.

Whether the right balance is achieved between independent, managed and supervised investigations

PFEW would prefer the IPCC to have sufficient resources to investigate independently the complaints they need to investigate, that is the high profile media cases and deaths and serious injuries following police contact. Proportionality is the key here, if it is low level let it remain internal to the Police and the IPCC concentrate on the more serious level. Too many valuable resources are focussed in the wrong areas to catch officers who have made mistakes rather than focussing on the high level incidents where there is serious corruption. There needs a clearer line with regard to someone not doing the job correctly (performance issue) and someone doing something wrong (misconduct).

How the work of the Commission could be effectively scrutinised

The current arrangement apart from one fatal flaw could be sufficient. As it stands another organisation such as Ombudsman for Northern Ireland or the Garda can be called in to review an investigation but only at the instigation of the Chief Executive of the IPCC. Whilst we have every faith in the current Chief Executive it just seems wrong in principle to have a self-referral only process. The alternative would have to be a legally chaired panel with representatives from amongst ACPO, PCCs, HMIC, Police Professional Body and staff associations which may actually be quicker and less expensive.

Conclusion

Whilst the relationship between the PFEW and the IPCC, both centrally and locally varies and at times we have differing points of view we do not feel there is the need to have a new organisation formed to oversee or investigate public complaints against the police.

We support the continued existence of the IPCC although would like serious consideration to be given to the points that we have raised in our response.

Police Federation of England and Wales

June 2012

Prepared 31st January 2013