Police dog bites in the dock at PIPs seminar
16 October 2018
Police dog bites should be investigated under Post Incident Procedures (PIPs). The calls came as delegates at the Police Federation’s PIPs Seminar debated new police watchdog guidelines governing deaths and serious injuries (DSI) involving the police.
Lawyer Mark Wardley predicted an upsurge in the number of PIPs being called and said: “In my view dog bites should be handled under PIPs, it fits the definition of a serious injury and we need to be ready,” as he told the audience he had been involved in a case where an officer had been charged over the Dangerous Dogs Act.
Dealing with biting incidents in this way would offer dog handlers greater protection, in the same way officers would benefit after DSIs in others areas, such as custody, roads policing and firearms incidents.
The seminar also heard from national policing firearms lead DCC Simon Chesterman who urged officers to follow Authorised Professional Practice (APP) on such incidents, saying it was a better bet and afforded more protection than the new draft statutory guidelines issued by the Independent Office for Police Conduct last week.
He said: “The new statutory guidance does offer some wriggle room and is much better now than it was in its original form when it first came out in 2014. But the APP has been tested in court and if you stick to it, you can’t go wrong.”
Mr Chesterman said he was pleased the guidance’s position on compulsory separation of officers post-incident had softened, even though it was still the IOPC’s ‘preferred option’.
He said: “The separation of officers made them feel that they were suspected of wrongdoing. They had probably just been through a life-threatening traumatic incident and rather than being treated like they were, officers were saying they would prefer to be arrested because they would then have more rights.”
He also said he still had concerns about the issue of anonymity for involved officers and access to reference materials such as body worn video when giving their detailed accounts. He said: “We should seek to protect officers’ identities until we know the full facts.”
Mr Chesterman also queried why officers shooting a ‘young black man in Tottenham, who might be a serious and organised criminal, would provoke a public outcry, when officers who shoot two black terrorists who have just murdered a soldier are treated like heroes.’
But he also said public opinion had shifted, and a watershed had been reached. “Instead of people talking about a paramilitary state, public opinion has shifted and we now have children lining up to have selfies taken with firearms officers. It’s just tragic how we got to this position – there is more support out there but it’s because of the terrorist threat.”
The seminar also heard from the Federation’s National Custody Forum chair Chris Bentley who said PIPs was not always easy to accommodate in the custody arena. “In firearms incidents, it is clear that officers have been briefed and tasked and sent to an incident. This does not always fit non-firearms incidents. Post Incident Managers need to be aware that this is guidance and shouldn’t try to hammer a square leg into a round hole.
“It’s also not that easy to take custody personnel away from the custody suite and send them to a PIPs suite. At 3am where are you going to find three custody sergeants and seven jailers needed for the 39 other detainees being held that night?” And he called for better PIPs training for non police custody staff such as detention officers and custody nurses.
The College of Policing PIPs lead Kevin Nicholson told the seminar that new non-firearms APP for PIPs was in the pipeline with a new consultation over the next four to six weeks. Firearms procedures would then be revisited before a final consultation for all forms of the APP with key stakeholders before it was adopted.