Performance Expectation: The impending changes to the police misconduct regulations and what effect this should have on our Officers

15th April 2019 Business Crime

Eagerly awaited revisions to the Police Misconduct Regulations are just around the corner, and not before time, some might say.

Due to the seriousness with which Police Forces and the Government take the integrity of serving officers it is not uncommon to see over cautious approaches taken to investigation and the sometimes subsequent prosecution of Officers. Officers will frequently face criminal and misconduct proceedings for what would be seen by many independent observers as minor or insignificant incidents. Whilst it can be understood in some circumstances that formal investigations have to take place, delays are not so easy to swallow when investigations take many months or even years to complete.

The BBC have reported the devastating effect that suspensions pending the outcome of misconduct hearings are having on officers, many of whom experience severe depression and suicidal thoughts having had their integrity questioned, often by the very force that they serve. The BBC has reported that in some of the worst cases, officers from certain forces have been suspended for in excess of 1000 working days whilst their cases are investigated and an outcome decided upon.

The alternative and supposedly lesser option to suspension is restriction which will often see officers prevented from fulfilling their proper duties, and prevented from (for example) taking part in the evidential chain or having contact with members of the public. In practical terms, this means that qualified officers are taken from their posts (often on the streets dealing with suspects) where they are often so sorely needed, and given administrative tasks to complete until such time as their cases are concluded. This is done with a view to protecting the officer and the force from further complaint, and whilst in some cases necessary, restrictions are too frequently being applied in an overzealous manner and for too long a period given the length of time many investigations are likely to take to conclude.

Where appropriate, and where an officer is ultimately found guilty of poor conduct, these measures it could be argued are properly applied, however the fact of the matter is that large number of officers are simply put through the torturous process of investigation and associated delays when ultimately no criminal allegations or instances of misconduct are proven. This leads to the obvious question of what can be done to prevent this injustice.

Changes to the Police Conduct regulations are expected to see a significant reduction in the number of officers facing formal misconduct proceedings, with a focus on learning and improving performance for appropriate cases, where Officers conduct or performance is not as expected, but where the case is not so serious that misconduct proceedings are a necessity.

This system is to be known as the Performance Requiring Improvement system, and it is anticipated that this will cut Police Misconduct cases by 80%. This would mean that misconduct proceedings would be reserved for only the most serious of cases and for lesser instances of misconduct, the PRI system would be implemented. Officers would, through this system be assisted in correcting their performance through training, reflection, learning and development. This in turn should, it is hoped, expedite any misconduct process and in turn for appropriate cases, reduce the number of officers restricted and awaiting a hearing before a misconduct tribunal.

It is not yet clear when the new regulations will materialise, but it is hoped that these regulations will bring positive changes for Officers and the public alike.

Should you require assistance of advice with any aspect of Police Misconduct or Criminal Investigations into police officers, please do not hesitate to contact Catherine Gaynor or one of our other Police Misconduct specialists here at JMW.

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Catherine Gaynor is an Associate located in Manchester in our Business Crime & Regulation department

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