Better training would improve the time it takes investigators from the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) to decide whether officers involved in Post-Incident Procedures (PIP) are witnesses or suspects or if the case will be referred to the force or the watchdog.
This was the message given to Kathie Cashell, the IOPC’s director of strategy and impact, when she took part in a virtual meeting with Federation conduct and performance leads at the end of last month.
The IOPC is changing the way it works and was seeking feedback from Federation representatives to help it improve its processes.
The conduct and performance leads reported that at times there seemed to be a ‘lack of empowerment’ and said IOPC investigators were slow in making decisions when involved in PIP.
IOPC director general Michael Lockwood made a commitment to notifying officers of their status as witness or suspect within three months during a meeting with the Federation in May when similar concerns were raised.
The reps in last week’s meeting also said better disclosure training was needed since reps often struggle to obtain materials which would be used in officers’ defence.
Phill Matthews, the Federation’s national conduct and performance lead, said: “We will quite often ask for materials as we further our defence and we get answers either through gritted teeth or literally at the very last minute when our lawyers have to get involved. This is a waste of time, effort and energy when we are trying to prepare for a hearing or meeting.”
But he welcomed the opportunity to work with the IOPC to help it improve its processes.
The Federation stressed the need for better communication from both investigators and the IOPC media office with details given to reps and officers on the status of their case usually being ‘woefully unhelpful’.
Inflammatory language and factual inaccuracies in press releases were also an issue, the reps said, along with not being sighted on appeal decisions before they reached the media.
Roger Webb, secretary of Dyfed Powys Police Federation, said he felt encouraged by the way in which the IOPC was asking the Federation for its feedback.
“Federation conduct and performance leads are dealing with these issues day after day and are ideally placed to highlight where there are issues with the IOPC’s way of operating,” he explained.
“It is critical that we work with the IOPC to ensure that we develop a complaints system that is fair and proportionate. Improved training for investigators should be a key priority but improved communication should be right at the top of the list too.
“It is essential that officers are kept up to date with the progress of any investigation they are involved in. They suffer untold pressure and stress when they are not kept informed and sometimes they are left in limbo for weeks and even months.”