Posts Tagged 'House of Commons'

If you’ve got trouble…


The ‘plebgate’ affair has brought to light police misconduct regulations which are not necessarily straightforward to understand (Image from russavia)

As the ‘plebgate’ story progresses, many of the recent controversies have surrounded whether officers should have faced police misconduct proceedings after they had given an allegedly misleading account of their meeting with Andrew Mitchell .

To outline what had happened, following a suggestion that Mr. Mitchell had referred to officers as ‘plebs’ following a dispute on Downing Street, he had agreed to meet with police representatives to set the record straight.

Following the meeting, officers had given an account of what Mr. Mitchell had said during the meeting which, so the implication is, was different to what had actually been said according to a recording made of the conversation.

A complaint had been made about this and it concluded by a police Professional Standards Department following an investigation that this did not amount to misconduct and that there was no case to answer in terms of disciplinary action.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) however reviewed this conclusion and disagreed with it, suggesting instead that there had been a case of misconduct to answer.

The framework against which these decisions are made is The Police (Conduct) Regulations 2008 which set out how disciplinary matters are addressed and applies to police officers in England & Wales.

Police officers are held to a set of ten standards published in the Regulations, they indicate how officers are expected to act and behave.

One of the most important standards is that ‘police officers are honest, act with integrity and do not compromise or abuse their position‘.

When misconduct proceedings are proposed, it is because an officer is alleged to have fallen short of one of the standards expected of them.

If it has been decided that there is a breach of the standards, it then has to be decided whether the breach constitutes ‘misconduct’ or ‘gross misconduct’.

‘Misconduct’ is a breach of the Standards of Professional Behaviour whilst ‘gross misconduct’ means a breach of the Standards so serious that dismissal would be justified.

IPCC Deputy Chair Deborah Glass had suggested that rather than concluding there was no case to answer in respect to the officers’ actions, she thought rather the outcome ought to have been a finding of gross misconduct for which the officers had to answer.

To address misconduct where proven, officers can be offered management advice, a written warning, a ‘final’ written warning that could lead to dismissal and in the most serious cases, dismissal.

Officers have a right to appeal decisions made should they feel they have the grounds to do so.

As the 116 page Home Office guidance suggests, the Regulations are not the easiest to digest and so the above summary is only really a starting point to understanding how the process is intended to work.

I’m keeping an eye on the story and will look at blogging again when able to try and clarify how police misconduct regulations should work in the context of the story.

Say the right things, when electioneering…

Elected Police and Crime Commissioners will have the power to fire Batman if he's under-performing. Whether they'd be brave enough to do so is another question...

Last month the Queen wandered down The Mall to the Houses of Parliament. Once there she showed the guard her pass, they let her in and she went in to the Bill signing room. She adjusted her glasses, took a Biro from her handbag and wrote her name at the bottom of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act, thereby bringing it into law.

Amongst the provisions of the Act is the introduction of elected Police and Crime Commissioners who will from next year begin to replace the existing Police Authorities in all forces outside London.

As things stand at the moment, there are three separate influences on the control of a police force. These are the Home Secretary, the Police Authority and the force’s head honcho, its Chief Constable.

The Home Secretary has overall responsibility for policing, law and order on a national scale. He or she works closely with other related ministers in Westminster such as the Minister of State for Policing and Criminal Justice and the Justice Secretary.

The Chief Constable has overall control of a police force and is in charge of its strategy and operations. The Chief has the power to decide force policy and tailor his force’s organisation as he or she sees fit.

Thrown into the mix alongside the Home Secretary and the Chief are Police Authorities. Each force has its own and they are usually composed of around seventeen members, nine of whom are elected having been drawn from local authorities and the remaining eight are independent being drawn from the community. The Police Authority exists to scrutinise its police force, ensuring that value for money is being obtained and respect is being paid to the budget which it sets.

The Police Authority also plays an important role in setting local performance targets in the form of a Policing Plan. The targets are agreed, published, and then closely monitored with questions being raised if the force appears to be falling short.

With the introduction of the Act, Police Authorities will be replaced by single Police and Crime Commissioners who will be elected persons charged with all of the above responsibilities and also having the capability to dismiss a Chief Constable if circumstances dictate it necessary.

Anyone will be able to stand for the role so long as they are British, Commonwealth or EU citizens over the age of 18 and living in the force area. Terms will be four years long.

One of the arguments made for Commissioners is that they will help make police forces more accountable and in touch with the priorities and concerns of the public. By giving the public an opportunity to directly influence the priorities of their force, it is hoped that the force will come to better represent the people that they police.

Another argument is that Commissioners would be in a better position to properly scrutinise a police force that Police Authorities are. It has been said that Police Authorities lack the ability to stand up to Chief Constables or the Home Office when it comes to influencing change.

Detractors have questioned whether a single Commissioners really would be able to do a better job than a panel of seventeen members. Questions have been raised about the systems in place to hold Commissioners to account and also about how much the new system will cost.

Further to these concerns, there have also been doubts from some over the wisdom of potentially politicising policing. Would Commissioners make decisions based on the interest of their region or on their ambitions for re-election and would they be at risk from corruption?

Either way, the Commissioners will begin to take up their posts from next year and your local force will be providing information about how you can get involved in their election and so begin to participate directly in how your police force is supervised.

It’s going to be an interesting change and something that will require your input to work correctly. As such I’ll be posting updates on this blog as and when we know more about the elections, who’s likely to be standing and how you can get involved.

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