From The Times Wednesday, July 5th 2023 James Woode Crime Correspondent “Home Office plans overhaul to tackle scourge of rogue police Ministers will make sacking disgraced officers easier after series of scandals.
Sir Mark Rowley has called police disciplinary procedures “completely crazy” AARON CHOWN/PA
At least 2,000 police officers in England and Wales face losing their jobs under government plans to overhaul the misconduct system.
Ministers will make dismissing failing or disgraced officers easier after police chiefs including Sir Mark Rowley, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, said the present system was “bizarre and over-regulated” and hampered the ability to clean up the ranks after a series of scandals.
Under the plans, officers who fail to maintain their vetting status will face automatic dismissal. At present, they can continue to work.
The proposals could lead to misconduct panels being chaired by chief constables rather than independent legally qualified chairmen and women, whom police chiefs have accused of being too lenient. The system can lead to officers being sacked for serious misconduct only to be reinstated on appeal.
The Home Office is set to announce changes that could transfer power to chief constables, enabling them to root out officers whose standards fall short or bring shame on the organisation.
Chris Philp, the crime and policing minister, is said to be working on the overhaul, which the Home Office is expected to announce in the coming weeks.
Police forces are trying to regain public trust after scandals including the murder of Sarah Everard by Wayne Couzens, a Metropolitan Police officer, and the case of David Carrick, a firearms officer who was jailed this year for more than 80 sexual offences.
They are two cases among many to have cast doubt on the effectiveness of the misconduct system and exposed weakness in the vetting process.
Rowley has repeatedly voiced his desire to cut the rot from the Met. During an interview with The Times last year, he called for the government to change the regulations to give him greater powers to sack racist, sexist and homophobic officers.
He said that managers were prevented from taking swift action against those “doing a bad job” because the six-stage process took more than a year.
Rowley has said that “well over 500” Met officers are on restricted duties and several hundred are suspended. If the new disciplinary process comes into force it is thought that could translate into more than 2,000 officers across England and Wales losing their jobs.
In January, the Home Office ordered a review into the effectiveness of removing officers deemed unfit to serve after the “atrocious behaviour” of Carrick. He was jailed for a minimum of 30 years after admitting more than 80 sexual offences, including 48 rapes, during his two decades in the force.
Rowley, who took charge of the Met last September, has led calls to overhaul the disciplinary system and said Suella Braverman, the home secretary, had been “really helpful” after he identified weaknesses in police regulations.
“We’ve been too weak, too forgiving of standards that in any sensible organisation would say, ‘That’s a red card, you’re gone’ — and we haven’t done that,” he said recently.
“Cops aren’t subject to normal employment law. There’s this whole framework of police regulations and changes over the last decade that mean those decisions aren’t always taken by a chief constable, or in my case, commissioner.
“We’ve got people who have committed serious criminal offences who we’ve sacked and they’ve been reimposed — they wouldn’t pass vetting. It’s completely crazy.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “Officers who fall seriously short of the standards expected have no place in our police, and we must ensure they can be dismissed as swiftly as possible.
“Culture and standards in policing must improve. This review is part of our common-sense policing approach which prioritises fighting crime and putting the public first ahead of [needless] bureaucracy.”
I know this may sound simplistic, but surely:
- Behaviours must be explicitly labeled as acceptable and unacceptable – with consultation with vulnerable groups and Police Federation. Yes, I know policing is very stressful, but all adults, by definition, must to be able to manage their own behaviour.
- Every officer must understand equality legislation. During training those representing the different protected characteristics should come in to talk to trainees about what problems have been caused by police officers not understanding situations from their perspective. They should also explain what language is offensive and why.
- Even informally, using the N-word should only be tolerate if someone is quoting a suspect and then as ‘the N-word.’
- Loyalty to The Job must come before everything else. If an officer witnesses a colleague behaving unacceptably, they know they must call it out – if in appropriate circumstances and or report it.
- What we should be trying to achieve is a police force that will police themselves. Sure, there should still be an oversight, but things wouldn’t get that far if police officers held colleagues accountable.
- Those found guilty of a crime should have to pay back all the income they received whilst suspended.
- There will be those who slip through – when that happens there needs to be forensic examination as to why they got thorough vetting and if and why colleagues didn’t spot anything. If you look at the two worst rogue officers, their colleagues knew something wasn’t right – Dave Carrick’s nickname amongst colleagues was Bastard Dave, and Wayne Couzens’ was nicknamed The Rapist. So colleagues’ gut instincts proved correct. I’m not saying officers should be spying on their colleagues, but surely someone up the chain of command had heard of these nicknames; if they hadn’t, why hadn’t they? Surely if officers are nicknamed Bastard Dave and The Rapist, someone should be checking why? Colleagues of both Carrick and Couzens need a debrief – what can the police learn from their experience – what were the red flags?