Radical overhaul needed

03 January 2018

Phill Matthews

Phill Matthews, PFEW conduct and performance lead

The new-look Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) - which replaces the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) – needs a radical overhaul if it is to improve as it takes up the mantle of investigating serious complaints against police officers.

The IPCC has been plagued by delays, sub-standard investigations and poor service – often leaving officers and others in limbo for months, if not years – before enquiries were completed or dropped.

Phill Matthews, conduct and performance lead for the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW), said the new IOPC had a chance to put things right and improve the way the whole organisation went about its business, after case upon case of bungled enquiries.

“It is absolutely right and proper that where there are cases to answer, officers are investigated and any appropriate action taken. But what is not right is that people’s lives are left in limbo and their careers in tatters for months and months on end. We have dealt with countless cases where delays for one reason or another have happened, with cases not being finalised for months, sometimes years. The stress this puts on the officers concerned is unacceptable – particularly when after all of that cases are dropped because it is clear officers where just doing their job, or no evidence to the contrary has been presented.

“The new Director General of the IOPC has a chance to put things right and set out their stall from the off and I sincerely hope that the failings of the past are recognised and that they will listen to advice as this cannot simply be a name change – radical improvement has to be made for them to have any credibility.”

Recently the IPCC apologised to officers following a five year investigation where they admitted they didn’t investigate or conduct matters properly and the complaint in to that – raised by Mr Matthews – took six months to deal with, during which time they further apologised for not meeting their own deadlines.

“We plan to have an urgent meeting with the current Chief Executive and the future Deputy Director General as a priority on him taking office if he values staff association cooperation so we can clearly set out our expectations. In the specific case I complained about, the IPCC admitted that they let officers down by not investigating this in the way it should have been and that performance was not at an acceptable standard. They also admitted they didn’t record or disclose material that they had a duty to and the evidence collected in that investigation indicated a lack of knowledge in some of the fundamental areas of the investigative processes and in record keeping. This is just one case but it is not isolated – time and time again we have been dealing with bungled enquiries and it has to stop as it is affecting people’s lives and impacting on their health,” added Mr Matthews.

“What is clear is that the vast majority of wrongdoing by officers is rooted out internally by officers and forces themselves anyway and of the most serious cases involving deaths, for example, an absolutely tiny proportion are perceived to have breached the codes of conduct and even smaller percentage of officers actually need to be dismissed because of it. The question we must ask is it really worth the huge financial costs involved in this body to satisfy the public that our members overwhelmingly act correctly in the vast majority of cases?”

The IPCC will become the Independent Office for Police Conduct on 8 January.