Allegations of police corruption double in four years
The number of allegations of police corruption has doubled in four years. According to figures obtained by The Times under freedom of information legislation and published earlier in the week, 2,434 officers and police staff were referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) over corruption allegations over the last four years. The number almost doubled between 2012, when there were 275 referrals, and 2016 when there were 531.
According to the report, some allegations of serious corruption involved ‘a covert referral’ and so were not included in the figures. There were 113 corruption referrals last year from the Metropolitan Police, Britain’s largest force. There were 59 from West Midlands police and 20 from Greater Manchester.
The number of complaints about inappropriate use of force (‘from physical restraint to firearms and stun guns’) rose from 769 in 2012 to 912 last year. Overall referrals have gone up from 2,404 in 2012 to 3,793 last year.
The Police Federation of England and Wales told the Times that many of the complaints were malicious and a large proportion ended in no further action.
The increase comes as the IPCC is to be replaced by the independent Office for Police Conduct, with a new director general and increased powers.
In an interview with Radio 4’s File on Four last weekend. Dame Anne Owers, the IPPC’s current chair said it was ‘very disappointing’ that in four out of 10 of the cases that come to IPCC, the watchdog found that the local investigation was ‘flawed’ and had to be either sent back or else overruled.
‘It is a complex system and forces are not getting it right first time often enough,’ Owers said. ‘… In some cases, all lines of investigation aren’t followed, police evidence isn’t sufficiently challenged, there isn’t a sufficiently strong and robust investigation, or that they haven’t applied the proper tests when they’ve been looking at cases. If you are looking at 43 police forces dealing with tens of thousands of complaints every year, then no one is perfect and things will go wrong, and that’s exactly why you have appeals.’
The programme featured the case of Scott Winters, a black police officer who retired from Greater Manchester Police earlier in the year. Winters claimed he had been racially discriminated in the aftermath of a dispute with a white officer who he had told off. Winters alleged that a false claim that he physically assaulted a female officer was made at an employment tribunal.
GMP made an undisclosed payment with no admission of liability. However Winters remained concerned about the assault allegation. So the force referred the case to the IPCC who opened an investigation into the conduct of two officers. But last October 2016, that investigation was halted when the GMP refused to give the watchdog access to documentation between themselves and their lawyers citing legal privilege.
Winters pointed out the irony. ‘GMP sent the referral to the IPCC outlining, in my opinion, criminal behaviour, and then, when the investigation took place, they refused to cooperate with that investigation.’ In other words – and as the reporter noted – GMP refused to cooperate with the very investigation that they instituted.
The IPCC watchdog was forced to shut down its investigation and referred the case back to the GMP as ‘the appropriate authority to conduct their own inquiry’. A result which – as File on Four put to Anne Owers – ‘made a mockery’ of the watchdog. She agreed – but said such an occurrence was ‘rare’. ‘We can only operate within the powers that we’re given,’ she said. ‘I do think that it is important that we have the powers that we need and that we get the cooperation of forces and individual police officers. There is and there always has been resistance within some parts of policing to independent investigation. On one hand, the police will say, ‘Yes, we really welcome independent investigation,’ and then, when you start to do it, it becomes more difficult.’
Jon is editor of the Justice Gap. He is a freelance journalist. Jon's books include The First Miscarriage of Justice (Waterside Press, 2014), The Justice Gap (LAG, 2009) and People Power (Daily Telegraph/LawPack, 2008). Jon is a journalism lecturer at Winchester University and a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln. He is twice winner of the Bar Council's journalism award (2015 and 2005) and is shortlisted for this year's Criminal Justice Alliance's journalism award