IPCC - a clear independent complaints system is essential
Police and Crime Commissioner Candidate for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight David Goodall has met with the IPCC's Commissoner for the Hampshire Constabulary Mike Franklin to discuss how the IPCC works to improve policing and how they will operate in the new situation with a Police and Crime Commissioner.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has a legal duty to oversee the whole of the police complaints system and its aim is to transform the way in which complaints against the police are handled.
The IPCC has a statutory role as both a "first instance" complaints body and an "ombudsman". They use their own investigators to carry out independent investigations into:
- deaths and serious injuries where it appears the police may have caused the incident by action or inaction; and
- allegations of serious corruption and other misconduct.
Currently the IPCC also receive nearly 7,000 appeals each year from members of the public whose initial complaint has been handled by the local police. Complainants have an absolute right to appeal and the IPCC can require the local police to take steps to address their dissatisfaction.
As well as being responsible for complaints about the police, the IPCC is also responsible for handling serious complaints against staff of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the UK Borders Agency (UKBA).
The IPCC is a non-departmental public body (NDPB), funded by the Home Office, but by law entirely independent of the police, interest groups and political parties. By law, neither the Chair nor Commissioners can have worked for the police service, SOCA or the National Policing Improvement Agency. The IPCC is responsible for complaint and conduct matters in England and Wales only, Scotland, Northern Ireland have their own oversight bodies.
The meeting at IPCC HQ in London last about 2 hours and involved a presentation outlining how the IPCC works at present and how it will operate in future, plus a useful case study to illustrate how they operate.
The meeting highlighted one interesting fact that the same act that introduced the Police and Crime Commissioners for England and Wales also changed the law in respect to appeals. So that after the election of the Police and Crime Commissioner the most of appeals will be heard by the Chief Constable of the force the compliant is against.
Commenting on the new appeals procedure Liberal Democrat Police and Crime Commissioner for Hampshire and Isle of Wight David Goodall said:
"It is clear that one of the first tasks of the new Police and Crime Commissioner will be to set up a complaints procedure for Police managed investigations that is both fair and independent as it can given the restrictions of the new act that limit the IPCC involvement."
Another part of the IPCC's work is building up a portfolio of lessons learned. Mistakes and errors of judgement happen in walks of life and this includes Police work. The IPCC work in partnership with ACPO, NPIA, HMIC, the Home Office, the Police Federation and the Police Superintendent's Association of England and Wales to regularly produce a bulletin to help the police service learn lessons from investigations and other operations of the police complaints and conduct system (see www.learningthelessons.org.uk).
Commenting on the lessons learnt procedure, David Goodall said:-
"It is essential that when mistakes happen in Police work that all Police forces learn from this and a as result a better Police Service can be build across the country, as Police Commissioner I would aim that all possible lessons should be learnt by Hampshire Constabulary"