Police watchdog chief joins call for more funds

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THE police watchdog said its huge investigation into the Hillsborough Disaster could provide a “model” for future inquiries if new powers and funding are provided in the wake of a damning report by MPs.

Dame Anne Owers, chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), said she agreed with many of the concerns raised by the Home Affairs select committee about the lack of resources and power available to the commission.

The committee described the IPCC as “woefully under-equipped and hamstrung” in a bombshell report which warned it risked leaving serious abuses of power not being investigated.

Dame Anne said: “This report recognises that we do not yet have the resources or powers to do all that the public rightly expects and needs from us. That is what we have been saying for a long time.

“Without that, we will continue to struggle to meet the legitimate expectations of complainants and of families who have lost someone in tragic circumstances.”

Last year the IPCC launched the biggest-ever inquiry into British policing in the wake of fresh revelations about the Hillsborough Disaster.

It is now investigating thousands of serving and former police officers, mainly from the South Yorkshire force which was responsible for a catalogue of failings relating to the 1989 tragedy in which 96 people died.

Home Secretary Theresa May has promised the IPCC extra powers and funding to cope with the unprecedented scale of the inquiry and Dame Anne said yesterday this could provide a potential way forward for the IPCC.

“All of this needs resources and powers,” she said. “That is what we have been promised for the Hillsborough investigation, which will allow us to show what we can do and how we can do it. We want that to be a model of how we go forward.”

Yesterday’s report said around 200 police officers retire or resign each year to avoid disciplinary hearings.

A total of 31,771 officers – one in four – were subject to a complaint during 2011/12 and when appeals were made against the way forces handled a complaint, the IPCC found that the police were wrong in one in three cases.

The watchdog should have a statutory power to force implementation of its recommendations, and in the most serious cases it should instigate a “year-on review” to ensure they are properly carried out, the committee said.

It also warned that the IPCC – which has made 63 staff redundant in the past two years has a smaller budget than the Professional Standards Department of the Metropolitan Police alone.