Investigators from the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) need better training about Post-Incident Procedures, Federation conduct and performance leads have told one of the police watchdog’s senior leaders.

Kathie Cashell, the IOPC’s director of strategy and impact, took part in a virtual meeting with the Federation last week.

The IOPC is changing the way it operates and was seeking the Federation representatives’ feedback.

The conduct and performance leads reported that at times there seemed to be a ‘lack of empowerment’ and said IOPC investigators were slow in making decisions on whether an officer was a witness or a suspect or if the case would be referred to the force or the watchdog.

IOPC director general Michael Lockwood made a commitment to notifying officers of their status as witness or suspect within three months during a meeting with the Federation in May when similar concerns were raised.

The reps in last week’s meeting also said better disclosure training was needed since reps often struggle to obtain materials which would be used in officers’ defence. 

Phill Matthews, the Federation’s national conduct and performance lead, said: “We will quite often ask for materials as we further our defence and we get answers either through gritted teeth or literally at the very last minute when our lawyers have to get involved. This is a waste of time, effort and energy when we are trying to prepare for a hearing or meeting."

But he welcomed the opportunity to work with the IOPC to help it improve its processes.

The Federation stressed the need for better communication from both investigators and the IOPC media office with details given to reps and officers on the status of their case usually being ‘woefully unhelpful’.

Inflammatory language and factual inaccuracies in press releases were also an issue, the reps said, along with not being sighted on appeal decisions before they reached the media.

Liz Groom, chair of Cambridgeshire Police Federation, says she feels encouraged by the way in which the IOPC is now giving the Federation the chance to give it constructive feedback.

“There appears to be a willingness to work with us rather than against us so that together we can improve the police complaints system for the benefit of all involved,” said Liz.

“We need a system that is fair and proportionate, we need better trained IOPC investigators and we need better lines of communication so that officers are not left in limbo for months and months at a time.”