Fewer than 1 in 10 UK police officers lose their jobs after committing gross misconduct

The findings raise questions about the efficacy of the watchdog (Photo: Shutterstock)The findings raise questions about the efficacy of the watchdog (Photo: Shutterstock)
The findings raise questions about the efficacy of the watchdog (Photo: Shutterstock)

New figures have revealed that fewer than one in 10 UK police officers were dismissed from their roles after being found to have committed gross misconduct.

Recent data, obtained by The Guardian from the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), revealed that, while 641 officers in England and Wales seriously breached standards between 2015 and 2020, just 54 (8.4 per cent) lost their jobs after internal disciplinary action.

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Further findings showed that 848 officers had a case to answer over potential misconduct, but only 363 of these claims were upheld, after recommendations from the IOPC. In 151 of these cases, official warnings were given, and there were 16 resignations or retirements.

How effective is the IOPC?

The findings raise doubts over the effectiveness of the IOPC, which reportedly receives a sum of £71 million per year from the Home Office.

In February 2020, the IOPC was awarded powers to order police forces to investigate officers who have a case against them. However, internal police disciplinary panels still have the final say over these cases, with the IOPC saying that its role in cases is not to be "judge and jury".

The IOPC took the place of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) in 2018, after the IPCC was condemned over the handling of the death of Mark Duggan in 2011.

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The IOPC, however, has also come under scrutiny, with the complaints process, the body's independence, and the fact that some high profile cases have dragged on for years all coming under fire by critics.

One concern is that complaints can't be made directly to the IOPC. Instead, issues must be raised with the relevant police force, which then decides whether to refer itself to the IOPC, take no action, or investigate internally.

In the event of "serious injury" or death, a referral is mandatory, however.

'The police service is not held to account'

Victor Olisa, a former Met Chief Superintendent, told The Guardian that police officers "run rings round IOPC investigators" in what amounts to an unequal relationship.

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"The police service is not held to account like it ought to be," he said.

"This data shows the rate of IOPC ‘case to answer’ findings to actual disciplinary rulings really is quite low."

However, a spokesperson for the IOPC told the paper: "Very few cases referred to and investigated by the IOPC will result in criminal prosecution because only a small proportion of those matters involve allegations of criminal activity.

"Prosecution isn’t the only route for holding police officers accountable for wrongdoing and only applies where criminality is involved.

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"Disciplinary action can range from dismissal and reduction in rank to written warnings, all of which are determined by misconduct panels led by legally qualified chairs for misconduct hearings and senior police officers for misconduct meetings, not the IOPC."