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
    +2

    Comment number 170.

    But then, everything is under-funded in this country at the moment except when it's in the interests of the politicians.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 169.

    150,

    Dave does like to tavel and make promises on our behalf. But the austerity that the police have to share along with the rest of us doesn' seem to figure with Dave away getting a tan. Loss of memory due to the sun, or is it that we don't matter to our war chief looking to be centre stage in world politics. Our economy is the boring stuff, no glory!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 168.

    After we have finished slating the Police, reducing their capabilities and replacing them with Private Firms; can we please look into how we can make our Elected Public Representitives (Government and other MPs) more accountable.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 167.

    @164 muff

    Indeed !

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 166.

    153.DW
    ... but police risk their lives daily, so that our society is free and safe.
    ---

    Don't pay your council tax for a few months, then take a walk round Wolverhampton town centre after dark on a Saturday night. Our society is neither safe or free.

  • Comment number 165.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 164.

    155 toughathebottom! just like their political masters then!!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 163.

    This Government is very much on the side of wrong-does and crooks. All the bodies required to regulate are under-staffed - border control, food,heallth, social services and of course banks.....

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 162.

    mmm...Govt comes out with a Solution -

    Privatise - IPCC - give them Bonus -

    Not mine - Government could come up with it..

    Theresa May would do it - in the Skip of a heart Beat - if she has a Heart

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 161.

    When the fear of chemical biological attack was at its height I reported (in person) to the local police desk that milk from a local petrol station always had foil caps that just fell off every time - something not experienced with any other store from which milk was bought - ever. His answer - 'complain to the manager of the shop'! The IPCC works the same way - basically it doesn't work.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 160.

    Most police officers do a fantastic job. I have worked with many and can attest to this.
    However the Police has a serious image problem at the moment and they have lost the trust of a huge number of people. The IPPC is not fit for purpose. We need a well resourced independant regulator with some teeth to restore public confidence in the Police. Get the rot out!

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 159.

    DW:

    My point is the police are very well paid for what they do. Firemen do an even more dangerous job. What about the army? What about squaddies? The most dangerous job in the UK is being a fisherman.

    The police are unaccountable.We see often, and very public examples of police wrongdoing. this is a betrayal of the public trust (and finance) invested in them. The IPCC should have real power.

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 158.

    The criminals that made false, collaberated and amended statements are no different to the villains sitting on committees, investigating these results.
    A 20 year cover up cannot be misconstrued as an oversight or mistake, its more a point of they are all in it together.
    Don't pay your council tax for a month and see how quick they react.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 157.

    What a surprise! Public service living on our taxes wants more of our money to do the job they are meant to properly.

    How about a levy on police wages to cover the costs. The more they behave well, keep an eye out on their own and prevent misconduct, the less it costs them.

  • 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
    +1

    Comment number 154.

    "The Bloke
    What about organisations that regard the killing of non-whites as infinitely important, but ignore the killing of non-whites?"

    If there were such an organisation then you would be right to be concerned, but since there isn't such an organisation and no evidence that there is then you can get on and worry about real problems not fictional ones.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 153.

    147.Ralphonzo Dinner-Jacket

    I'm not sure what the pension has to do with anything (apart from an immature greed complex), but police risk their lives daily, so that our society is free and safe. I doubt if you've lived in other countries, so you wouldn't understand what it's like to live in a place which is a real police state. The number of complaints against the police is miniscule.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 152.

    Like any close knit society, there are bound to be a FEW rotten apples, but by and large, I believe the UK force to be one of the worlds finest! The main problem is with the way Government (regardless of party) think they own the force, a legal system that rarely supports them, & a public that has a) lost respect for law & order, & b) to ready to moan at an already overstretched force

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 151.

    What do you expect when the Cons are cutting the police force to a bare minimum.If they won't finace the main police force why do you expect them to finace the IPCC?.They sack our fighting troops and then put a support force in Mali.How long before fighting troops will be sent there(TA's).The Cons will cut anything in order to lower the personel taxes that they pay-no matter what the cost.

 

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