Cambridgeshire Police Federation chair Liz Groom has welcomed improvements in the timeliness of investigations by the police watchdog but says more could still be done.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) revealed in its new Impact Report 2019/20 that it completed 718 investigations, 210 more than it started.
Of these 35 per cent were completed within six months, an improvement of five per cent on the previous year, and 83 per cent within 12 months, excluding the most complex major investigations such as Rotherham and Hillsborough.
The number of open investigations was reduced from 548 to 327 and the average age of cases was reduced from more than ten months at the start of the year to fewer than nine months at the end
The report said that by the end of 2019/20, two thirds of the IOPC’s open caseload was fewer than six months old. Cases open for longer than 12 months decreased from 24 per cent to 17 per cent.
Liz said: “It’s pleasing to see a downward trend in the length of time it takes to complete an investigation.
“It’s not in the interests of the public, the police service or individual officers for investigations to drag on. They can have a huge impact on officers’ lives.
“We have long called for investigations to be completed within 12 months of an allegation through our Time Limits campaign, and there’s still plenty of work to be done to meet that.
“We look forward to building on our relationship with the IOPC to ensure the timeliness of investigations continues to improve and the best outcomes for our members in the future.”
The IOPC report said that it focused on improving the timeliness of investigations by:
- Piloting a new investigation model focused on quick-time decision making and improved early engagement with police forces, the Police Federation and CPS. This is now being evaluated for national roll-out
- Making changes to the way it identifies and engages experts to procure evidence more quickly
- Working with the Police Federation and other staff associations to improve understanding of its role, resulting in increased cooperation with investigations and securing earlier statements and interviews.
Michael Lockwood, director general of the IOPC, said in the report: “We completed over 700 investigations into serious and sensitive matters, with a continued focus on improving timeliness and quality of our work.
“Our investigations meant some officers faced discipline or dismissal from forces, but also identified that police acted appropriately, reasonably and proportionately in many cass.
“More significantly, our work identified learning recommendations which helped drive national and local changes to policing practice from making tactical pursuits safer for police to strengthening the way police respond to stalking and harassment cases.”
Elsewhere in the report, the IOPC’s work has seen an increase in the percentage of young people who are confident complaints are dealt with fairly by police from 41 per cent in 2018/19 to 52 per cent in 2019/20.
There has also been a 16 per cent increase in the number of people from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background who said they are now aware of the IOPC.
Mr Lockwood added: “We recognise we still have more work to do to improve this and continue to raise confidence, which will be informed by deliberative research we conducted with BAME and black communities during the year.”
The IOPC has also made 105 learning recommendations to improve policies, procedures and training on a local and national level on areas including stop and search, domestic violence, tactical pursuits and search warrants.
Mr Lockwood said: “I’ve been particularly keen to place a greater focus on learning to ensure we try and prevent the same issues happening again. To me, prevention is better than cure.”