Investigators from the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) need better training about Post-Incident Procedures, Federation conduct and performance leads have told one of the police watchdog’s senior leaders.
Kathie Cashell, the IOPC’s director of strategy and impact, took part in a virtual meeting with the Federation last week.
The IOPC is changing the way it operates and was seeking the Federation representatives’ feedback.
The conduct and performance leads reported that at times there seemed to be a ‘lack of empowerment’ and said IOPC investigators were slow in making decisions on whether an officer is a witness or a suspect or if the case will be referred to the force or the watchdog.
IOPC director general Michael Lockwood made a commitment to notifying officers of their status as witness or suspect within three months during a meeting with the Federation in May when similar concerns were raised.
The reps in last week’s meeting also said better disclosure training was needed since reps often struggle to obtain materials which would be used in officers’ defence.
Phill Matthews, the Federation’s national conduct and performance lead, said: “We will quite often ask for materials as we further our defence and we get answers either through gritted teeth or literally at the very last minute when our lawyers have to get involved. This is a waste of time, effort and energy when we are trying to prepare for a hearing or meeting.”
But he welcomed the opportunity to work with the IOPC to help it improve its processes.
The Federation stressed the need for better communication from both investigators and the IOPC media office with details given to reps and officers on the status of their case usually being ‘woefully unhelpful’.
Inflammatory language and factual inaccuracies in press releases were also an issue, the reps said, along with not being sighted on appeal decisions before they reached the media.
South Wales Police Federation chair Streve Treharne says the way in which the IOPC is now seeking an input from Federation conduct and performance leads is a step forward.
“These reps truly understand the police conduct processes and know where there are sticking points,” says Steve, “They can help the IOPC improve the way it operates which will be a benefit for everyone involved.
“It is time IOPC investigators underwent better training to fully equip them for the essential role they carry out but we also need to see better lines of communication. For far too long, we have had officers under investigation for months, and in the past, sometimes years with very few updates along the way. This is unacceptable and I am pleased the director general of the IOPC has pledged to tackle this.
“We all need to work together to ensure we have a police complaints process that is fair and proportionate.”