Figures suggest that police officers in England and Wales accused of violent and sexual misconduct are less likely to face disciplinary action under the new complaints system than the previous discredited one.
An investigation by the Guardian and BBC Radio 4’s File on 4 programme found that local forces only referred 8% of the 22,000 allegations scrutinized under the new system for possible disciplinary proceedings in 2020-21.
The figure is lower than the percentage of allegations investigated under the old regulations, which referred 10% of the 21,000 allegations in the same year.
At the start of 2020, the government introduced the new system to restore public confidence in the police of England and Wales, as people had perceived a lack of accountability.
However, the shake-up left local forces responsible for handling the vast majority of complaints against their own officers, with ministers and police chiefs at the time promising to focus more on “learning from mistakes” than punishment.
The Home Office provided the dataset under freedom of information rules, and it shows that local forces did not refer any of the 13 allegations of sexual misconduct by officers for possible disciplinary action under the revamped system. However, the old regulations referred 23 out of the 36 allegations related to sexual conduct for possible disciplinary action.
The data shows that the old system only referred 3% of the 2,157 allegations of misuse of force, while 5% of the 2,742 allegations of assault by officers led to possible disciplinary action.
Deepening Crisis In Policing
These revelations come amid a deepening crisis in policing in England and Wales , with public confidence shattered by a series of scandals, including the convictions of two serving officers – Wayne Couzens for murder and rape and David Carrick for a string of rapes.
They were allowed to continue their misconduct despite a history of allegations or complaints against them.
In September 2020, armed police made Jamar Powell, who was 16 years old at the time, kneel in the middle of a road with a stun gun pointed at his head during a search. Rachel Hewitt, Jamar’s mother, filed a complaint with the Metropolitan police regarding the incident.
They found nothing, and they released him without charge. Hewitt said that her son had feared for his life and was still living with the consequences. “He is 19 – he was 16 at the time – and meant to be out there living his life… but instead, he got this cloud over him,” she said. “[He] is suffering from severe post-traumatic stress.”
The accused officers’ line manager, who is a Met inspector, considered her complaint under the new regulations.
He decided that the incident did not warrant a formal investigation and that the “service provided was acceptable” in all respects.
The Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC), which investigates only the most serious or sensitive incidents, reopened the case after Hewitt appealed.
Two of the officers involved are now facing misconduct charges, and the CPS is considering charging one with occasioning actual bodily harm. However, Hewitt said that the system seems designed to discourage people from making complaints.