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New inquiry: Police Conduct and Complaints

7 August 2020

The inquiry will examine the role and remit of the Independent Office for Police Conduct in relation to the police conduct and discipline system. It will look at how the IOPC and police forces around the country work to resolve complaints and at progress in reforming the system following criticisms of the time taken to resolve complaints. It will also investigate what reforms are required to secure public confidence in the police conduct and disciplinary system.

In 2018-19, police forces recorded a total of 31,097 complaint cases (2% fewer than the previous year). These complaints involved 58,478 allegations (a 5% decrease on the previous year). The allegation rate was 264 allegations per 1,000 employees across all forces. Forces finalised 54,987 allegations in the year, with 48% being resolved locally and 40% being subject to investigation.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is responsible for overseeing the police complaints system in England and Wales. However, only the most serious and sensitive cases are dealt with by the IOPC—most complaints are dealt with by local forces themselves. Each police force has a separate department that oversees complaints. These are called ‘professional standards departments' (PSDs). Responsibility for ensuring that issues are handled in a fair and just manner by a local force PSD rests with the Chief Constable, who is accountable to the relevant Police and Crime Commissioner or other relevant office holder.

Concerns have been expressed repeatedly by Police and Crime Commissioners, policing representatives and others about the timeliness and effectiveness of IOPC investigations. Michael Lockwood, the director general of the IOPC, has himself acknowledged “legacy issues” of over-long investigations which the organisation is working to address.  More recent reviews, notably the inspection by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services of the Metropolitan Police Service's response to the recommendations made in the Henriques report on Operation Midland, also expressed concerns about the response of policing to problems identified through police complaints, including delays in taking responsibility for learning lessons and implementing recommendations made.

Terms of reference

Written evidence is invited on the issues set out below – but please note that submissions do not need to address all of these issues:

  • The role and remit of the IOPC within the police conduct and discipline system;
  • Progress in reforming the complaints system, including speeding up decision making;
  • How the IOPC is working with individual forces and policing bodies, including HMICFRS, in order to respond to complaints;
  • The need for the IOPC's new powers (introduced in February 2020), and their expected impact; and
  • Whether further reforms are required to secure public confidence in the police conduct and discipline system.

Please note that the Committee is not able to:

  • consider individual cases;
  • reopen any complaints against police; or
  • consider any matters that are currently subject to legal proceeding.

The Committee wants to hear your views. It welcomes submissions from anyone with answers to the questions in the terms of reference. More information about how to submit evidence is available here.

Further information

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