The Home Affairs Committee has announced that it will be launching an enquiry into the role and remit of the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
The enquiry will look at how the IOPC works with police forces around the country following criticisms of the time taken to resolve complaints.
For years now, police officers have been calling for an urgent review into the ‘no limit’ time scales which have often seen officers who have been the subject of IOPC investigation having to wait several years for investigations to be concluded.
The enquiry will also investigate what reforms are required to secure public confidence in the police conduct and disciplinary system.
Launching the inquiry, Chair of the Committee, Yvette Cooper MP said:
“When the Government established the Independent Office of Police Conduct in January 2018 it was with the promise of new powers, greater independence and faster decision-making.
“These reforms were meant to increase transparency and build trust in the police complaints and disciplinary process.
“Nearly two years on we continue to hear concerns that the system is not working as it should.
“In this inquiry we expect to look at the IOPC’s powers and effectiveness but, given that most complaints are dealt with by local forces under the scrutiny of Police and Crime Commissioners, we shall also look at whether wider reforms are needed to build a system in which the public can have real confidence.”
In 2017-18, there were 31,671 recorded complaints against the police– a decrease on the number in the previous year (34,103).
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is responsible for overseeing the police complaints system in England and Wales.
However, only the most serious and sensitive cases are dealt with by the IOPC—most complaints are dealt with by local forces themselves.
Each police force has a separate department that oversees complaints. These are called ‘professional standards departments’ (PSDs).
Responsibility for ensuring that issues are handled in a fair and just manner by a local force PSD rests with the Chief Constable, who is accountable to the relevant Police and Crime Commissioner or another relevant office holder.
The IOPC was created in January 2018, to replace the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which was heavily criticised by many stakeholders.
The Government promised “speedier decision-making” under new leadership, with a new board “to ensure greater accountability to the public”.
Under the terms of the Policing and Crime Act 2017, the IOPC is to be given several new powers, including the power to launch investigations without a police referral.
There will also be changes to the process for deciding whether an officer should face a misconduct hearing – giving the IOPC the final decision, without the need to direct forces to undertake misconduct hearings.
Police officers have expressed concern about the time taken to process complaints, since work restrictions on them while complaints are processed put burdens on colleagues.
One former Met Officer, Andrews Birks – who was subjected to an IPCC/IOPC investigation that lasted nearly 11 years – told Emergency Services News:
“I welcome the decision of the Home Affairs Select committee to hold this review, and hope that it remains firmly on the agenda for the new parliament.
“The current system for police complaints is broken beyond repair.
“The timeliness of investigations both by the IOPC and Professional Standards units, needs to be structured so that police officers are investigated expeditiously.
“Currently investigations are costing lives, health and welfare – that is completely unacceptable and must stop.
“Police officers and the public deserve better”.
There has also been extensive criticism of the lack of time limits for complaints to be brought after an incident has occurred.
Reacting to the announcement, PFEW’s Conduct and Performance Lead Phill Matthews said:
“We welcome any examination of the role and function of the IPOC.
“We have been deeply worried for some years about the standard and length of time its investigations can take to complete and have been campaigning for a 12-month time limit to be introduced to ensure the distress and anxiety caused to all those involved in the process can be minimised.”
Mr Matthews, who was speaking ahead of the Federation’s Conduct and Performance Liaison Officers’ Seminar continued:
“It is only right that the actions of police officers should be scrutinised, but the current system is not working as it should, and we feel there are significant areas where improvement can be made to make it quicker and more effective.
“We have seen a marked difference since Michael Lockwood took over as IOPC Director General, but one man alone cannot reform a whole organisation.
“I hope this inquiry will shine a light into all corners of the IOPC and its practices, so that police officers and the public are able to have the confidence they need in such an important organisation,” concluded Mr Matthews.
The Committee has invited submissions which could be considered by the panel as part of its overall enquiry into the IOPC.
For example, officers who have had both positive and negative experiences of the IOPC can forward their written submissions for the inquiry by midnight at the end of Sunday 8 December 2019.
However, the Committee cannot consider submissions which come under any of the below conditions:
- The Committee is not able to consider individual cases.
- The Committee is not able to reopen any complaints against police.
- The Committee is not able to consider any matters that are currently subject to legal proceeding.
Submissions can be sent to: