IPCC: Police watchdog 'woefully under-equipped'

 

Dame Anne Owers: 'We have to look at the resources we need to be available to provide confidence to the public'

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The police watchdog for England and Wales is overwhelmed, woefully under-equipped and failing to get to the truth of allegations, MPs have said.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission needs more resources and powers, the Home Affairs Select Committee report said.

IPCC chairwoman Dame Anne Owers welcomed the report, saying the body was struggling to meet expectations.

One in four officers faced complaints between 2011 and 2012.

About 30,000 officers had faced complaints, which were mostly trivial and dealt with at a local level, committee chairman Keith Vaz, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"What we would like to see is the IPCC concentrate on the really serious issues. When they have dealt with serious corruption cases, 45% of the corruption cases they have investigated have ended up with the Crown Prosecution Service," he said.

The report comes as the IPCC prepares for its biggest investigation, into the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.

'Not yet capable'

In a scathing report, MPs said the IPCC was overloaded with appeals. Serious police corruption cases were being under-investigated while resources went on less serious complaints.

Keith Vaz MP: "What the public have said to us is that they've not had justice"

"Police officers are warranted with powers that can strip people of their liberty, their money and even their lives and it is vital that the public have confidence that those powers are not abused," said the MPs.

"We conclude that the Independent Police Complaints Commission is not yet capable of delivering the kind of powerful, objective scrutiny that is needed to inspire that confidence."

MPs said the IPCC had too many former officers among its investigators and delegated too many complaints to the forces to investigate themselves, only to overturn the conclusions in a third of appeals.

The body also lacked specialists capable of analysing crime scenes in the critical hours after an incident involving the police, they said.

"Compared with the might of the 43 police forces in England and Wales, the IPCC is woefully under-equipped and hamstrung in achieving its original objectives," said the MPs, adding that it was smaller than Scotland Yard's own internal investigations team.

'Plebgate'

The MPs say the government should provide ring-fenced funding for investigations affecting police integrity.

IPCC

  • Established in 2004 after its predecessor criticised in the Stephen Lawrence inquiry
  • Aims to increase public confidence in the police complaints system
  • Police forces deal with the vast majority of complaints and IPCC investigates the most serious
  • Considers appeals from people who are not satisfied with force response to a complaint
  • Also investigates the Serious Organised Crime Agency, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs and the UK Border Agency

They also said the IPCC should be investigating the Downing Street "plebgate" affair involving police and then-Cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell.

Dame Anne said the fact the Metropolitan Police had assigned 30 of its officers to that investigation - the equivalent of a third of her whole investigative capacity - illustrated "the choices we have to make every day".

The report said the IPCC needed to be able able to interview officers under caution.

And private firms - like G4S, Capita, Mitie and Serco - involved in delivering services that would once have fallen solely to the police should fall under the IPCC's watch.

The IPCC is preparing to investigate allegations that police officers were involved in a cover-up of failings following the 96 deaths at the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy.

Parliament has passed legislation to give the body more powers for the massive inquiry and ministers are guaranteeing funding for extra investigators currently being recruited.

Dame Anne told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think there's quite a lot of validation in the report, but what the committee says, and what we have been saying ourselves, we can't do enough independent investigations, we can't exercise sufficiently rigorous oversight about the way that police deal with complaints.

"We cannot do the job the public expect us to be able to do and if we are to do that job then we need to be properly resourced to do it and given the proper powers to do it."

Types of complaint, 2011-12

Five categories made up 68% of allegations:

  • Other neglect or failure in duty - 28%
  • Intolerance, incivility, impoliteness - 17%
  • Other assault - 11%
  • Oppressive conduct or harassment - 7%
  • Unlawful/unnecessary arrest or detention - 5%

Chief Constable Michael Cunningham, of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said the police service was keen to work with the IPCC to improve its response to police complaints, in particular to achieve speedier outcomes.

But he said developing the role of the IPCC must also not mean the police service outsourced its own responsibility to manage complaints.

"Serious allegations of misconduct must be rigorously investigated, in many other less serious cases the police service itself is the body best placed to identify and put right mistakes, learn necessary lessons and rebuild public trust," he said.

A Home Office spokesman said: "Improving police professionalism and integrity are at the cornerstone of the sweeping reforms we are making to the police force, and the IPCC has a key role to play.

"We are already working to ensure the organisation has the powers and resources it needs to manage the challenges it is currently facing and we will shortly announce a package of new measures designed to further improve the public's trust in the police."

Recorded allegations against police personnel, 2011-12

Police force Recorded allegations Allegations per 1,000 personnel

A complaint case may have one or more allegations attached. For example, a person may allege that a police officer pushed them and was rude to them. This would be recorded as two separate allegations forming one complaint case. Source: IPCC.

Avon and Somerset

1,446

243

Bedfordshire

435

181

British Transport Police

767

171

Cambridgeshire

828

305

Cheshire

719

174

City of London

200

149

Cleveland

854

378

Cumbria

282

128

Derbyshire

1,061

284

Devon and Cornwall

1,648

258

Dorset

644

219

Durham

498

198

Dyfed Powys Police

649

309

Essex

1,563

236

Gloucestershire

570

244

Greater Manchester

2,041

156

Gwent

578

222

Hampshire

1,647

249

Hertfordshire

743

175

Humberside

905

216

Kent

1,103

162

Lancashire

1,471

240

Leicestershire

780

203

Lincolnshire

766

316

Merseyside

1,860

253

Metropolitan

12,255

220

Norfolk

740

234

North Wales

514

184

North Yorkshire

908

318

Northamptonshire

492

176

Northumbria

1,416

209

Nottinghamshire

804

181

South Wales

1,041

194

South Yorkshire

786

138

Staffordshire

618

153

Suffolk

474

179

Surrey

1,150

253

Sussex

1,028

180

Thames Valley

1,850

216

Warwickshire

469

233

West Mercia

964

217

West Midlands

2,808

220

West Yorkshire

1,662

166

Wiltshire

614

250

Total

54,651

213

 

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  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 348.

    Remember, police officers are not made in a factory. They are members of the PUBLIC who grew up in their respective communities and who signed up to do a job. They will reflect all the strengths and the flaws of society In general, because that's where they came from. Get rid of police tomorrow, what would you replace them with ? More members of our society ie same people from the same place.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 328.

    Well, it IS the UK. Everything is "run on a shoestring", always second best, always penny pinching. Always short of money. It is the UK's dull and make-do-and mend mentality. Never, flamboyant or extravagant in anything it does.
    The Concorde days are over. It is now the Cessna mentality.

  • rate this
    +19

    Comment number 156.

    Why am I not surprised.
    The body that watches the police is under-resourced, making it easier for the police to do what they want.
    Every time something like that happens, it's always the public that gets the nasty end of the stick. If I were paranoid, I'd say all the similar instances of poor funding to overseeing bodies (e.g. the FSA) were deliberate.

  • rate this
    +20

    Comment number 155.

    With an ever growing list of senior police officers found guilty, suspended, sacked and even jailed for a variety of reasons as well as other ranks being jailed for everything from fraud, violence and sexual offences it is not difficult to see why public confidence is failing.

    The mantra 'It's just a few bad apples' is rapidly running out of credibility.

    Total reform needed, starting with the PM

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 91.

    I made 21 phone calls to the police to inform them that I had information in regard to a missing child. Every phone call was a marathon phone call and every time I was told I would receive a call back and never did. The information I had could only be passed to them electronically and I had no way of doing it. I made a complaint via the IPCC and they couldn't help. The whole system is perverse.

 

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