Police Watchdog ‘Woefully’ Inadequate, Say MPs

The police watchdog is “woefully under-equipped and hamstrung” and does not have the power or resources to get to the truth, a scathing report reveals.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) should be given a statutory power to require a force to implement its findings, the Home Affairs Select Committee said.

The watchdog is currently investigating the Hillsborough Disaster in the UK’s biggest ever inquiry into police misconduct.

And more cases should be investigated independently by the IPCC instead of being referred back to the original police force on a “complaints roundabout”.

The watchdog, which was established in 2004 and is chaired by Dame Anne Owers, investigates the most serious complaints against the police.

It also investigates allegations against the Serious Organised Crime Agency, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and the UK Border Agency.

A total of 31,771 officers were subject to a complaint during 2011/2012.

Committee chairman Keith Vaz MP said: “When public trust in the police is tested by complaints of negligence, misconduct and corruption, a strong watchdog is vital to get to the truth – but the IPCC leaves the public frustrated and faithless.”

He added: “Nearly a quarter of officers were subject to a complaint last year.

“Many were trivial, but some were extremely serious, involving deaths in custody or corruption – it is an insult to all concerned to do no more than scratch the surface of these alleged abuses.

“The IPCC investigated just a handful and often arrived at the scene late, when the trail had gone cold. The Commission is on the brink of letting grave misconduct go uninvestigated.”

The watchdog should have a statutory power to force implementation of its findings, the commitee said.

In the most serious cases it should instigate a “year on review” to ensure that its recommendations have been properly carried out, the MPs added.

Any failure to do so would result in an investigation by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and the local Police and Crime Commissioner, as a professional conduct matter relating to the chief constable.

The IPCC told the committee that a backlog of appeals had begun to build since the need to make financial savings had obliged it to reduce its complement of temporary staff.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “The Home Affairs Select Committee is right that the IPCC is not strong enough to tackle the problem when policing goes wrong.

“That is why I called for radical reform of police accountability last year, including replacing the IPCC with a new Police Standards Authority.”

Scores of police officers including a serving chief constable are being investigated by the IPCC over the Hillsborough disaster.

The deputy chairwoman of the IPCC, Deborah Glass said that “without a shadow of a doubt” the probe would be the biggest investigation carried out into police behaviour in the UK.