Home AffairsWritten evidence submitted by the Association of Chief Police Officers [IPCC 27]

Introduction

1. The ACPO Professional Standards Portfolio has specific responsibility within ACPO for raising and maintaining professional standards in the Police Service. In broad terms, the portfolio:

(a)Provides ACPO oversight of emerging threats and responds to national issues which impact on the Police Service’s professional standards.

(b)Leads for ACPO on the development of preventative strategies to combat risk and emerging threats to operational policing and the reputation of the Police Service.

(c)Identifies commonality with other ACPO business areas, (such as the Ethics portfolio), to reduce instances of, and improve the handling of public complaints to achieve improved public satisfaction and confidence in the Police Service. The portfolio oversees the integration of professional standards issues into the strategies, policies and procedures of other ACPO business areas as appropriate.

(d)Identifies opportunities to integrate unsatisfactory performance of officers and staff into professional standards, with a clear emphasis on ethical policing behaviour as opposed to mere compliance with regulations, and to improve public confidence in the Police Service through organisational learning.

2. The Professional Standards Portfolio is split into three areas, each led by a Chief Officer: The Complaints and Misconduct Working Group; the ACPO Counter Corruption Advisory Group (ACCAG); and the ACPO Vetting Working Group. These areas come together quarterly at the ACPO Professional Standards Committee which I chair.

3. The Chief Executive and Director of Investigations of the IPCC form part of the Complaints and Conduct Working Group and also attend the Professional Standards Committee. Senior members of the IPCC also work closely with ACCAG on a number of strategic areas.

4. ACPO strongly supports and works in close liaison with the IPCC in the discharge of the range of its statutory responsibilities. This is a stance that ACPO has taken since the IPCC was established recognising the value and the necessity of independent scrutiny and governance of public complaints and the value of the independent oversight of investigations into alleged police misconduct.

5. The wider Police Service, and more importantly, the public we serve expect that ACPO and the IPCC have an effective working relationship. We fully respect the independence of the IPCC and we recognise the value the IPCC brings to the guardianship of public complaints and misconduct investigations.

6. The Service relies upon the understanding, the engagement and the sense of purpose of the IPCC to enable it to discharge its responsibilities to improve standards of policing and to deliver a fair and effective policing Service, whether at local, regional or national level. Likewise the IPCC relies on senior Police Service leaders to be open and transparent and to engage and to play a full part in generating a learning environment where improvements to policing are at the forefront of our collective thinking.

7. ACPO and the IPCC share the common goal of wanting to improve standards and the quality of policing services. This includes dealing firmly with those officers and staff who prove to be wholly unsuited to the office they hold and the powers they have at their disposal. We want to educate and reform those officers and individuals who—for whatever reason—have been found to have exhibited standards of performance of duties that have fallen short of expectations. ACPO recognises and supports the IPCC in providing the public and the Police Service with confidence that there will be fairness and equity in response to criticism, and that findings of investigations will be accurately reported as expeditiously as possible.

8. In those incidents where investigations or concerns have led to the conclusion that the standards of conduct have been found not to have fallen below those expected and that the right action has been taken for the right reasons, we expect the IPCC to reassure the public that is in fact the case. Our experience is that the IPCC is fully prepared to undertake this responsibility just as it is capable and confident of holding the Service to account.

9. ACPO engage in debate, dialogue and discussion with the IPCC and my experience is that the IPCC has proved to be genuine and resolute in its understanding of policing in England and Wales and how law enforcement agencies work together for the common good. The independence of the IPCC should not prevent the development of joint work between it and ACPO for the good of the Service, this is exemplified by the recently jointly published work on the Abuse of Police Powers.

10. The relationship between ACPO and the IPCC is one of mutual respect. This does not mean there are not inevitable differences of opinion over issues, but these differences of opinion do not inhibit a constructive relationship focused on a joint desire to improve services wherever possible. .

11. I now turn to comments on each specific aspect of the terms of reference of the inquiry

Whether the Commission has Improved the Scrutiny of Police Practices

12. I have seen convincing evidence that the IPCC has improved scrutiny of police practices, through its own independent investigations and through those it has managed or supervised. There is no doubt that the IPCC has played a definitive role in the scrutiny of complaints against police and allegations of misconduct and has recognised the balance between individual accountability and organisational failings.

13. Recommendations from IPCC investigations have not only held individuals to account but where necessary have made clear and direct links to deficiencies in working practices.

14. Examples of the IPCC making recommendation which have led to improvements in guidance and practice include: IPCC improvements to policing practices and safer transportation and handling of detainees; improving standards of care for those in custody; addressing public safety issues arising from police pursuits; and better informed assessments of vulnerability, risk, threat and harm.

15. The IPCC has gained a unique perspective and understanding on the Service’s use and deployment of armed officers. This has resulted in the introduction of more effective and transparent post incident responses where death or serious injury has occurred in the police use of firearms, making recommendations which have assisted the Service to improve.

16. I consider the IPCC has worked hard to identify and promote learning. This ranges from the publication of thematic reports which inform and develop national thinking and policy making through to the involvement and commitment to organisational learning with the IPCC publication of frequent and informative Learning the Lessons bulletins.

17. The IPCC provides necessary independence and oversight. It makes recommendations which will assist the Service to make improvements. The detailed investigations it has conducted or managed place it in a unique and informed position to fulfil its scrutiny functions, leading to improved police practices.

Whether the Commission has the Right Powers and Resources to Carry Out its Role Effectively

18. ACPO considers that the IPCC has broadly sufficient powers to conduct fair and equitable investigations. We in the Police Service are acutely aware of the impact of the comprehensive spending review on our own budgets in seeking to protect and sustain front line policing services without doubt the IPCC will be alive to similar considerations.

19. I recognise the IPCC’s stated intention to forecast demand for its services accurately and to resource that demand as effectively as possible. I also acknowledge the IPCC’s intention to improve timeliness, and in so doing, provide greater resilience and focus to high profile investigations.

20. Issues of timeliness and resilience raise concerns across many levels of the Service in respect of investigations. Whilst it is clear certain investigations have a higher profile than others, it is recognised by ACPO that all those investigations that the IPCC have oversight of have at least a potential to be high profile. The Police Service is well acquainted with the often difficult balance to be maintained between expediting an investigation and its thoroughness. The IPCC is no different in this regard, and it is increasingly vital to the reputational standing of the IPCC that independent investigations can be conducted with all due regard to timeliness, which is often wholly dependent upon the resource available and prioritisation of demand.

21. Any real or perceived delay in holding individuals or the Service to account can undermine confidence in the IPCC, and by association, the Service. ACPO are conscious of the extent of criticism of the IPCC from some quarters, and whilst we do not share this (for reasons set our earlier in this evidence), it is in the best interests of the Service to assist the IPCC as best it can to reach conclusions that are both timely and thorough.

22. In recent years, the IPCC has quite properly reduced the number of managed investigations in favour of undertaking more independent investigations, which it recognises instils greater public confidence. What is perhaps less well recognised is the extent to which IPCC independent investigators work in close liaison and cooperation with force’s Professional Standards investigators upon whom they rely as the gateway or interface into the force subject of any particular investigation.

23. The working relationships between the IPCC and the Force’s Professional Standards Investigators, demonstrates sound practice. This aspect of cooperative working needs to be recognised and viewed as part of any consideration of resourcing issues for the IPCC, particularly in Article 2 ECHR cases where the IPCC discharges the obligation on the state to ensure that an effective investigation is undertaken.

24. There are firmly established procedures for referring Article 2 incidents to the IPCC. In fatal police shootings or those involving a death in custody, referrals must be expeditious. In reality, this means as soon as the incident occurs a telephone briefing with the IPCC’s on-call senior investigator will be given. This briefing is subject to on-going dialogue. Recently the IPCC has moved from regional to national coverage, and an on-call senior investigator can often be based some distance from the force reporting the incident. Whilst more regionally based deployment is still practised by the IPCC, the initial response to emerging incidents largely remains dependent upon mutual cooperation and the effective briefing and deployment of both force and IPCC resource.

25. It is critically important to the IPCC that their investigations in the circumstances set out above immediately focus on the over-riding requirement to identify, secure and preserve independent witness evidence as a matter of priority. In practice this sometimes can take days not hours, and it is often the experience of the Police Service that the effective resourcing of such lines of enquiry can be a challenge for the IPCC.

26. ACPO is acutely aware of the concerns of families where people lose their lives during police contact, and the ability of the IPCC to manage family liaison effectively and expeditiously is a concern to the Service.

27. There are sometimes questions asked about the extent to which the IPCC is reliant upon former police officers. The IPCC has gathered and sustained its own independence and draws upon investigative experience from a variety of sources and sectors. ACPO believes that the training and experience of some former police officer provide a valuable resource for IPCC, particularly in relation to the conduct of complicated investigations. The IPCC can rely upon the integrity and the professionalism of former officers in being best able to scrutinise and hold to account former colleagues in misconduct, or complaint investigations in any shape or form. The balance of such resource is, of course, a matter for the IPCC, but their ability to draw upon the capabilities of former police officers enhances, rather than reduces the effectiveness of the IPCC.

28. One impact of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 and the advent of the Police (Complaints and Misconduct) Regulations 2012 in November this year will see some shift of casework from the IPCC to police forces, most notably in respect of assessing and determining appeals against the outcome of investigations. These changes largely address proportionality at the lower end of the scale of seriousness and should afford the IPCC some opportunity to provide greater focus on matters of more significant public profile.

Whether Investigations Lead to Improvements in Police Practices

29. ACPO recognises that the learning outcomes of IPCC independent, managed and supervised investigations have led to improvements in policing practices.

30. The commitment of the police service and the IPCC alike to the Learning the Lessons bulletins is evidence of tangible and pragmatic means by which the IPCC influences policing practices for the better.

Whether Improving Police Services should be Formally included in the Commission’s Remit

31. ACPO support the IPCC’s approach to the transparent publication of the outcome of investigations and the emphasis, where appropriate, on organisational learning.

32. ACPO Professional Standards portfolio is committed to improving standards of professional behaviour and the quality of the service provided to the public. The work of the IPCC in practice contributes to the continued improvement of Police Services.

33. In those cases where standards of policing or individual conduct has been found to have fallen short of expectations, effective resolution invariably includes assurances to complainants and those adversely affected that steps are taken at the requisite level to mitigate, reduce or prevent future re-occurrence.

34. Improvements to policing services are brought about wherever and whenever possible as a result of exposure of the facts, the attendant circumstances and the underlying contributory factors. Bringing about improvements to policing services should have significant prominence in all aspects of the IPCC’s remit.

35. Improving policing services should be a commonly held objective of all parties in policing, and particularly those charged with the responsibility of holding the police to account, whether internally or externally.

The Commission’s Role in Scrutinising Elected Police Commissioners

36. ACPO Professional Standards acknowledges the IPCC’s statutory obligations in respect of conduct matters concerning an elected Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) and its responsibilities for determining whether to investigate matters of criminal conduct through either an independent or a managed investigation. It is difficult at this stage to make any realistic gauge of any impact on investigative capacity.

The Commission’s Role in Scrutinising Third Parties Commissioned to Carry Out Policing Duties

37. The increase in use of third parties in the provision of policing services has consequences for the Service’s own professional standards in ensuring clarity of accountability for the standards of work and conduct carried out under the direction and control of a Chief Constable, or services the public might see as inextricably linked to those provided by any individual force. ACPO believes the IPCC should have the same oversight of complaints or allegations of misconduct in relation to third parties carrying out policing duties as it does over the Service. Should third parties carry out the provision of policing services then the public are entitled to expect a high quality service and the opportunity for redress should there be a failure to meet appropriate standards.

38. ACPO believe that the IPCC’s remit should enable them to consider any public complaint or allegation of misconduct in its totality. This at times will require it to investigate or oversee an investigation which may involve another agency in the Criminal Justice system. The IPCC should not be restricted in an investigation which seeks to establish the truth and it should, therefore have a remit which allows it to consider the actions of members of these agencies should an investigation into police misconduct require that.

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

39. ACPO believes that the IPCC should have the ability to undertaken unfettered investigations in order to establish the truth. At times this will require the IPCC to enquire into the activities of other partner agencies within the Criminal Justice System and this indeed has been the case in investigations carried out by the IPCC to date. Further it will require the IPCC to comment upon the actions of other agencies and it is correct they should have the ability to make such comments. This does not, however, mean that the IPCC should become the regulatory body for other agencies. The extent to which the IPCC should pass comment upon the activities of other agencies should relate directly to their investigations into matters pertaining to the Police Service.

Whether the Right Balance is Achieved Between Independent, Managed and Supervised Investigations

40. The IPCC have significantly increased the proportion of independent investigations and reduced the proportion of managed investigations. This is with a view to reinforcing its independence and further enhancing the confidence of the public. This move is supported by ACPO and raises the question of the future of managed investigations.

41. ACPO questions the value of supervised investigations. It is recognised that there may be post investigation value in that there would be information available to the IPCC which would assist in commenting on issues of national concern for example, stop and search. It is the experience of the Service that there is little added value of a “supervised investigation” during the investigation process.

How the Work of the Commission Could be Effectively Scrutinised

42. ACPO believe that the decisions relating to the scrutiny of the IPCC are matters for others to decide. However it seems that whatever scrutiny mechanisms are put in place the IPCC would wish to demonstrate transparency and accountability to the public if it is to maintain public confidence in its independence. ACPO further believe that such public confidence in the independence of the IPCC is wholly beneficial to the Police Service.

Mike Cunningham
Chief Constable of Staffordshire Police and ACPO Lead for Professional Standards

October 2012

Prepared 31st January 2013