The work they do carries a combination of personal risk, fast decision making and a great deal of sensitivity that is unmatched by any other job.
But what happens if they don’t uphold the standards expected of them?
Policing is a job that cannot be done without the confidence of the communities the police serve, or without there being independent scrutiny.
When things do go wrong, it is essential that mistakes are learned from and, where necessary, those who fall below the high standards demanded by their role face the most appropriate action.
That is where we, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), come in.
We oversee the police complaints system in England and Wales. We also independently investigate the most serious and sensitive police conduct matters ourselves.
Much of that work goes unseen but by being transparent about what we do – and how it is helping change policing for the better in this area – we hope to give the public greater confidence that police can and will be held accountable when necessary.
That is why we are publishing reports that show in the two years from April 2018 to March 2020, we carried out more than 1,400 independent investigations.
As a result, more than 800 police officers and staff were either found to have a case to answer for misconduct or faced action, such as unsatisfactory performance proceedings.
In the same time, 311 cases went to disciplinary hearings. Misconduct was proven in 181 of those. And 51 people were charged with criminal offences, with another seven charging decisions from the CPS awaited.
We also investigate matters where there may be no conduct issues identified, such as when someone has died or been seriously injured following police contact.
Each and every one of these investigations – even when no wrongdoing is found – ensures police forces are held to account through independent scrutiny. What these new reports don’t show is all the other ways our work is driving real change.
Like more than 400 learning recommendations we have made to police forces to ensure mistakes are not repeated. Or the dozens of inquests each year our investigations help to inform, making sure families get answers about how a loved one has died.
And that work continues right around the clock, 365 days a year. In recent months, outcomes of cases dealt with at our North East regional office have included:
A detective constable was given a suspended sentence for causing serious injury by dangerous driving following our investigation into a collision involving a police car responding to an emergency call.
A police officer was dismissed by a disciplinary panel after our investigation found he had abused his position for sexual purposes in relation to a young woman he had met while on duty.
A detention officer was given management advice and learning recommendations were issued to the force regarding working practices in a custody setting after a detainee seriously harmed themselves
And where we have made learning recommendations to forces, it is pleasing to see the positive response we get from them – and police and crime commissioners – as well as the efforts to improve community engagement and the way complaints are handled across the region.
Accountability takes many different forms and we don’t determine sanctions – that is for a criminal court or disciplinary panel to decide.
But the IOPC does play a vital role by making sure when things do go wrong, we are there to find out why.
Miranda Biddle is the Independent Office for Police Conduct’s regional director for the North East.
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