Proposals to make it easier to sack rogue police officers
A feature of many miscarriages of justice cases is the malign influence of dishonest and rogue police officers who have managed to stay in post despite many years of red flags having been raised in some cases.
Recent tragic cases, such as the murder of Sarah Everard, have brought this issue to the forefront of policing. Now, the government has stated that it will act urgently to remove unsuitable officers from their jobs.
The law will be changed to ensure all officers must be appropriately vetted during their service and to enable officers who fail a re-vetting test whilst in post to be sacked.
Under the new system, a finding of gross misconduct will automatically result in a police officer’s dismissal, unless exceptional circumstances apply, speeding up the removal of officers not fit to serve.
Chief constables (or other senior officers) will also be given greater responsibilities to decide whether officers should be sacked, increasing their accountability for their forces, and will now chair independent misconduct panels. An independent lawyer will continue to sit on the panel, providing independent advice and helping to maintain rigour, but in a supporting legally qualified person (LQP) position. The outcome will be determined by a majority panel decision, as it is now, and hearings will continue to be held in public to maintain transparency.
Police chiefs will also be given a right to challenge decisions and there will be a presumption for former officers and special constables’ cases to be heard under fast-track procedures chaired by senior officers, cutting bureaucracy and saving taxpayers’ money, while making sure those failing to uphold standards are removed more swiftly.
Other measures announced this week include:
- working with the sector to create a list of criminal offences which would automatically amount to gross misconduct upon conviction.
- streamlining of the performance system to ensure it’s effective at removing officers who demonstrate a serious inability or failure to perform their duties.
- issuing new guidance to all forces to support the effective discharge of under-performing probationary officers using existing powers.
- improving data collection on performance and dismissals across all forces, including data on protected characteristics; and
- speeding up the system by allowing chief constables to delegate their responsibilities to other senior officers.
In addition to these measures to tackle rogue police officers, the Home Office is also launching a consultation on a new national framework for how police powers – including stop and search and use of force – are scrutinised at a local level. This delivers on a commitment made by government in its response to the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report.
The Community Scrutiny Framework aims to assist PCCs and police forces to establish and maintain effective community scrutiny panels in their local area and ensure a consistent approach nationally.
Community scrutiny panels allow members of the community to review individual police interactions with the public and provide observations and feedback via local police and crime commissioners and the police. This can support police officers to use their powers more confidently with the backing of their communities and aid public understanding of how and why police powers are used.
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Image credit: “West Midlands Police – Birmingham city centre protests” by West Midlands Police is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.