Prolonged police misconduct investigations 'costing taxpayers millions', says Federation
Protracted police misconduct investigations could cost taxpayers millions of pounds each year, research conducted by the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) has found.
The PFEW estimated the costs of officers being investigated by forces in the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) by taking into account the average cost of running investigators’ offices, legal aid and officers performing normal duties, being on restricted duties or suspended.
An investigation lasting up to six months costs an estimated £15,101 per officer, but this figure rises to £302,012 when the investigation lasts for five years.
The costs rise significantly in the case of suspended officers. A six to 12-month investigation costs approximately £67,968, but increases to £453,115 per officer after five years. This is due to the force having to fully replace them until proceedings conclude with other officers backfilling and working extra hours to plug the gaps.
The findings have been shared with MPs in a dossier of evidence submitted to the Home Affairs Select Committee as part of its inquiry into the remit of the IOPC, the police complaints system and the time taken to resolve complaints.
The PFEW is continuing to highlight the detrimental impact of lengthy disciplinary investigations on police officers, their families, their colleagues as well as public trust and confidence in policing as part of its Time Limits campaign, launched in 2019, which calls for investigations to be concluded within 12 months from the time an allegation is made.
PFEW conduct and performance chair Phill Matthews said: “Protracted misconduct investigations have not only ruined the careers of so many officers, but have severely impacted their mental health, their families and their colleagues- and now we can evidence they are a huge drain on the public purse.
“This is a staggering sum of money and shows every day that an investigation goes on is a significant cost to the taxpayer. Just because an investigation goes on for longer it doesn’t mean it is more efficient – in fact, they are often worse.
“Officers are rightly held accountable for their actions, and I absolutely condemn dishonest or inappropriate behaviour, but the IOPC often inexplicably pursue cases in which our members have acted properly. In many instances investigations which have gone on for five years or more have just ended in management advice or a written warning. We are hoping better training for IOPC investigators will result in more time being freed up to uncover those that don’t deserve to be in the job. Public trust in the system will also erode if people do not think their complaints will be dealt with quickly.
“We are encouraged the IOPC is keen to work with us on this matter. However, we must ask can these costs be considered good value for money for the taxpayer? We must make the system more efficient and conclude investigations in less than one year.”
Commenting on the findings of the research, a spokesperson for the IOPC said: “We don’t recognise the figures published by the Police Federation. We are disappointed these were not shared with us before publication as we believe they are inaccurate, misrepresent our work, and risk undermining the system set up to maintain public trust in the complaints system and policing as a whole.
“The police have extraordinary powers and in return the public expect them to be accountable for their actions. We independently investigate serious conduct matters ranging from corruption, fraud and abuse of powers for a sexual purpose, through to fatal police shootings and deaths in custody.
“We are playing our part in reducing unnecessary delays – 90 per cent of our investigations are already completed within 12 months and a large proportion of those within six months. Of the small number that take longer, these are complex investigations, often looking at historical allegations and can be delayed by concurrent inquests or criminal proceedings, legal challenges and other complications. There can be a wide of range of reasons for delays, many of which are outside the control of the IOPC.
“The Federation must also play its part. We have many examples where requests to interview subject officers have taken months to action and where witnesses are given Federation advice not tell us what happened without taking legal advice. In some cases officers who have been willing and prepared to speak to our investigators have withdrawn their cooperation on Federation advice.
“These actions unnecessarily prolong the process and contribute to the costs for everyone involved – the officers they represent, complainants, victims and bereaved families. The public deserve a system of police accountability that works together and is not divisive.”