By John Wimperis, Local Democracy Reporter: The head of Avon & Somerset Police Federation has accused some of the country’s top officers of “petulance” and “whingeing” over calls to give them greater powers to sack rogue cops.
Mark Loker, (pictured) who represents the force’s rank-and-file officers, says the current regulations are already tough enough and transparent and that tightening them up further could turn misconduct hearings into “closed shops”.
In January, the Government launched a review into how police are dismissed, which it said aimed to ensure the disciplinary process was effective in removing officers who were not fit to serve because their behaviour fell way below expected standards.
Following the publication of the Casey Report in March, which branded the Metropolitan Police institutionally sexist, racist and homophobic, Met commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said it was “mad” and “nonsensical” that he did not have the power to dismiss cops and that independent legal tribunals could decide which officers the force had to retain.
London mayor Sadiq Khan also called for more power to chief constables, including the right to reopen misconduct investigations in the wake of shocking crimes by ex-Met officers.
Avon & Somerset Chief Constable Sarah Crew, meanwhile, said every misconduct hearing chaired by the force’s top officer over the last five years had resulted in dismissal or a finding that the individual would have been dismissed had they still been serving.
But she admitted it was “very difficult” to manage cops who were found to have committed gross misconduct by a panel led by an independent chair, called a Legally Qualified Chair (LQC), but were allowed to remain in the constabulary with a written warning.
Chief Constable Crew confirmed in March that nine officers were still serving despite committing gross misconduct – two for sexual harassment and one for racist comments – and that her predecessor had tried unsuccessfully to get the sanction of a warning in the latter overturned in court.
But in a blog post on Facebook, police federation chairman Mr Loker said too much focus was on “misleading statements from very senior police officers and politicians”.
He said: “Chief Officers stating that they are frustrated that they cannot sack whom they want and Sir Mark Rowley seemingly stating that the Met are sacking officers and that lawyers are reinstating them is all rather misleading and simply not true.”
Mr Loker said misconduct panels comprised an LQC, a member of the public and a senior police officer from the force – rank of superintendent or above – so chief constables were represented.
“The way this is all made to sound is that the Chiefs have no say in this, I can assure you they do,” he said.
“To me this is a petulance from a very small number of cases where Chief Officers did not get their own way.
“If we believe what these Chief Officers want us to believe in that misconduct hearings are just run by lawyers, that is not true.”
Mr Loker said policing was one of the most heavily regulated and scrutinised services in the country and the misconduct processes were “more than sufficient and appropriate”.
He said: “If the application of the current rules and regulations we have in place are followed and adhered to, there is no risk of the worst not being held to account. The failings are not in the conduct regulations.
“Sadly these misleading comments from very senior Chief Officers are reflections on their leadership and virtue signalling and changes in our regulations is not going to achieve what we all want.
“Culture change that is underpinned by process and regulatory change is only possible through effective leadership of Chief Officers and their senior leadership teams who need to support, reflect and accept where things have gone wrong, not whinge that their hands are tied.
“I fear the mendacious approach being played out will only serve to set us back to closed shops and a failure for the rank and file to feel supported.
“Chief Officers already have the power to dismiss ‘rogue’ officers, what they are asking for is the power to dismiss anyone they choose without due process and without any comeback on them.
“That is the truth in this and that is not justice and that is not fair and impartial.”
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