The Independent Office for Police Conduct’s “case to answer” test received a bashing by the Federation of England and Wales which dismissed it as “completely broken” and a “waste of public money” this week.
The case to answer test is applied when an officer comes under investigation by the IOPC, when the decision maker must conclude whether ‘in their opinion’ the police officer has a case to answer for misconduct.
But Phill Matthews, the PFEW’s Conduct and Performance Lead, (pictured) received a round of applause from officers when he took it apart at this year’s annual conference in Birmingham.
Mr Matthews told IOPC Director General Michael Lockwood:
“We think the case to answer test is broken and it needs completely resetting. It doesn’t actually improve public confidence in any way shape or form; it lets families down because they believe something might actually happen and it really undermines officer morale – not just for the person that is subject to that case to answer, but also the team but sometimes the whole force.
“It can completely demolish morale for a long time afterwards. It is a waste of public money, public time and from our perspective does nothing to improve public confidence.”
The IOPC also came under criticism for the excessive time taken to resolve investigations, and for a lack of transparency.
However, the body has come a long way in making improvements, Mr Lockwood told the conference on Tuesday (22 May).
“We have a lot of comments from serving officers that “we are out to get coppers and we are the criminal’s friend”. And then we get the same from members of the public – that we are the officers’ friend. If we chase popularity we are not going to win, but respect from all sides is what we are trying to achieve.”
Mr Lockwood said he wanted investigators to have a good understanding of what it means to be a firearms officer, custody officer, police driver or neighbourhood officer, which is why around a quarter of staff come from a police background. He also said he was sympathetic that officers and their families come under stress when they are investigated, but that he could not compromise the quality of the investigation to speed it up.
“The single biggest criticism against us is length of time investigations take. The headline is that we are bureaucratic and slow. Tackling this issue will be a priority for me. Last year a third of investigations concluded within six months and two thirds concluded within a year. Last year we closed more cases than we opened and the closure rate was up 60% on the previous year.”