Federation adds up the cost of conduct investigations

3 February 2021

Dyfed Powys branch secretary Roger Webb says the Federation will continue to campaign for improvements in the timeliness of investigations by the police watchdog.

Lengthy disciplinary investigations are a drain on the public purse and have a detrimental impact on police officers and their families, Roger said.

His comments came as new research by the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) estimated investigations into officers’ conduct by forces and the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) can run to millions of pounds.

Roger said: “The Federation’s Time Limits campaign has been calling for investigations to be completed within 12 months of the allegation. We know that professional standards have to continue to be maintained and improved, but there is a human and a financial cost that has to be understood.

“Lengthy investigations can have a detrimental impact on officers, their families and colleagues and there must be consideration as to how it effects them. And this investigation by PFEW also shows the cost to the taxpayer of lengthy probes into officers’ behaviour.

“While we have good working relationships with our own Professional Standards Department and the IOPC officials we deal with, we appreciate that this is not the case for other Federation branches and the money spent on these investigations could be better spent on improving the services forces can provide to the public.”

By taking into account the average cost of running investigators’ offices, legal aid and officers performing normal duties, on restricted duties or suspended, PFEW has estimated an investigation lasting up to six months costs £15,101 per officer. This increases to £302,012 when it drags on for five years or more, which is 20 times higher.*

When narrowed down to suspended officers only the costs are considerably higher. A six to 12-month investigation costs approximately £67,968 but increases to £453,115 per officer after five years. This is due to the force having to fully replace them until proceedings conclude with other officers backfilling and working extra hours to plug the gaps.

In addition, the BBC found £13 million was paid by 29 forces to officers who had been suspended between 2013 and 2018.

The findings have been shared with MPs in a dossier of evidence submitted to the Home Affairs Select Committee as part of its inquiry into the remit of the IOPC, the police complaints system and the time taken to resolve complaints.

Phill Matthews, the Federation’s conduct and performance chair, said: “Protracted misconduct investigations have not only ruined the careers of so many officers, but have severely impacted their mental health, their families and their colleagues – and now we can evidence they’re a huge drain on the public purse.

“This is a staggering sum of money and shows every day that an investigation goes on is a significant cost to the taxpayer. Just because an investigation goes on for longer it doesn’t mean it’s more efficient – in fact, they are often worse.

“Officers are rightly held accountable for their actions, and I absolutely condemn dishonest or inappropriate behaviour, but the IOPC often inexplicably pursues cases in which our members have acted properly.

“In many instances investigations which have gone on for five years or more have just ended in management advice or a written warning. We’re hoping better training for IOPC investigators will result in more time being freed up to uncover those that don’t deserve to be in the job.

“Public trust in the system will also erode if people do not think their complaints will be dealt with quickly.

“We’re encouraged the IOPC is keen to work with us on this matter. However, we must ask can these costs be considered good value for money for the taxpayer? We must make the system more efficient and conclude investigations in less than one year.”

*The analysed data covers the Metropolitan Police Service misconduct or gross misconduct investigations that were still outstanding, that is unresolved, as of 1 December 2018. The Federation assumed this is reasonably representative of the data it would have obtained had it been able to get data from all forces.