Only five police officers in England and Wales have been dismissed in the last three years following misconduct cases ordered by the police watchdog. Following a request under the Freedom Of Information Act, the BBC has reported that in 33 of the 48 cases pursued by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), gross misconduct charges were not proven. Just five of 15 officers against whom charges were upheld were sacked, and the remaining 10 received other sanctions.
The IOPC has powers to order hearings, known as ‘directed’ hearings, over allegations of gross misconduct when a police force refuses to hold them. Phil Matthews, working for the Police Federation of England and Wales, told the BBC that the legal test used by the IOPC to determine whether a directed hearing should take place is ‘wrong and needs reforming’, and the process can take years to progress. The police watchdog has previously come under criticism for delays in misconduct probes resulting in police officers still being paid despite being suspended and under investigation.
Mr Matthews went on to add that the IOPC ‘pursue the wrong cases and often have very little understanding of the evidence and give families and complainants unrealistic expectations’. An officer with Nottinghamshire Police who was cleared following an IOPC-directed hearing told BBC News after an investigation which took nearly six years to conclude that the process was a ‘nightmare’.
The BBC reported that Policing Minister Nick Hurd said that reforms which are due to be implemented this year would improve how misconduct hearings are prepared and conducted.