Police watchdog hits back over debate accusation

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THE police watchdog has defended its reputation after an MP said it was “not fit for purpose”.

In a debate in the Commons earlier this month entitled Deaths in Custody (Black People) launched by Conservative MP Charles Walker, Tottenham Labour MP David Lammy asked him: “Does he agree that one of the great sores in this debate is not just that no police officers have been prosecuted for the many deaths – hundreds – that have taken place in the past 20 years or so, but that the police continue effectively to investigate themselves because so many IPCC staff are police officers?

“That issue continues to be raised consistently in relation to deaths in police custody.”

Mr Walker replied: “I am aware that since 1991, although there have been nine verdicts of unlawful death passed down by the inquest courts, there has not been a single successful prosecution.”

Referring to a conference he had attended at the invitation of Black Mental Health UK, Mr Walker continued: “When I was at the conference at Wolverhampton and heard Dame Anne Owers of the Independent Police Complaints Commission present, I felt that perhaps the organisation was not fit for purpose.

“I had this terrible vision that this was the Care Quality Commission in front of me – we know that it is trying to address the failings of the past – but I felt that the IPCC was not in a good place.

“Now it is under new leadership, but I fear that it has so much ground to make up that it will never recover the credibility required to make it the force it should be.”

Asked to respond to the comments, a spokesman for the IPCC told the Yorkshire Post: “We have taken many steps to secure public confidence in our work; including reviewing how we investigate cases involving a death, strengthening the role of our Commissioners, and carrying out a major recruitment programme that will give greater balance to the range of skills and backgrounds among our investigators.

“The IPCC has been an integral part of the drive to reduce the number of deaths during or following police contact, which are now at their lowest level since 2004.

“Our investigations have resulted in wholesale changes to policies in a number of forces, including rape investigations, traffic pursuit policy and public order policing.

“We make forces hold misconduct hearings that can lead to officers being dismissed and have secured the conviction of officers in a significant number of high-profile cases.

“We welcome the Home Secretary’s proposal to strengthen our ability to provide independent oversight of police complaints and in particular to investigate more serious and sensitive allegations within the police service.

“We are discussing the proposals further with Government.”