What On Earth Has Happened To Professional Standards?

It’s a question I’ve posed before, but I’ve just read a book, The Crocodile Court, which is basically about a West Midlands Police Sergeant who falls foul of the discipline system and what happens after that.  I’ll not spoil it too much in case you want to read it.

Let’s be honest, Professional Standards, or whatever you want to call them, have never been popular in any of their incarnations, but they are a necessary evil.

My point is this, (and once again my experience is restricted to the Met so if any of you ‘Crunchers’ want to tell me how it is in your Force I’d be pleased to hear it), in the good old days, at least up to the beginning of the 2000s, in my opinion and experience, Professional Standards were at least reasonably fair and I’ve known several Complaints Officers who would look hard for an informal resolution rather than go the whole hog.

In Complaints and Discipline, as in Policing in general, it is important to be able prove or disprove any allegation.  No Man’s Land is a result that doesn’t really satisfy anybody.

There are those out there who won’t like this but it is a fact that spurious and vexatious allegations ARE made for a variety of reasons.

If, for example, an allegation of assault or incivility is made against an officer or group of officers and that/those officer(s) vehemently deny the allegation, it is possible that it’s a false allegation.  If it is possible to prove or demonstrate that the allegation is, or is likely to be, false, then why should we not do it?

In the early 90s I was asked by our Complaints Unit to do a Timeline for an allegation of assault made by a group of people against a DC and a DI.  So I read all of the ‘witness’ statements and produced a Timeline that completely covered a very large table, and when I presented my Timeline to the Complaints Unit they had no alternative but to concede that whether these officers had or hadn’t assaulted anybody, the evidence of the ‘witnesses’ could not be relied upon because they clearly weren’t all where they claimed to be in their statements, and could not possibly have seen what they claimed to have seen.  Result – Complaint Discontinued due to lack of evidence.

Fast Forward to 2015 and what do we have now?

Professional Standards Departments who seem to be hell-bent on prosecuting or disciplining officers at the drop of a hat.  It seems to me (my opinion only) that they’re not too interested in finding any evidence which would assist the accused or undermine their own case, or maybe even, just establishing the TRUTH.

When it comes to Crime (and allegations of assault etc against Police Officers are exactly that) the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 tells us exactly what our roles and responsibilities re Disclosure are,

The Code of Practice requires the police to record and retain material obtained in a criminal investigation which may be relevant to the investigation. In particular:

all police officers have a responsibility to record and retain relevant material obtained or generated by them during the course of the investigation. Material may be photographed, video-recorded, captured digitally or otherwise retained in the form of a copy rather than the original, if the original is perishable, or the retention of a copy rather than the original is reasonable in all the circumstances

  • the officer in charge of the investigation has special responsibility to ensure that the duties under the Code of Practice are carried out by all those involved in the investigation, and for ensuring that all reasonable lines of enquiry are pursued, irrespective of whether the resultant evidence is more likely to assist the prosecution or the accused
  • the Code of Practice creates the roles of disclosure officer and deputy disclosure officer, with specific responsibilities for examining material, revealing it to the prosecutor, disclosing it to the accused where appropriate, and certifying to the prosecutor that action has been taken in accordance with the Code of Practice.
  • the disclosure officer is required to create schedules of relevant unused material retained during an investigation and submit them to the prosecutor together with certain categories of material
  • non-sensitive material should be described on form MG6C and sensitive material should be described on form MG6D.

Most of the ‘Time Bombs’ sit within the Unused Material, i.e. material that the Police possess that they do not seek to use during their proceedings.  The most obvious, and recent example might be tha case of the TSG 6 where hours of CCTV were not disclosed to the Defence, CCTV evidence which ultimately helped clear those officers of any wrongdoing.

Their Judgeships feel so strongly about it they have issued a Judicial protocol explicitly for Unused Material.

“Disclosure remains one of the most important – as well as one of the most misunderstood and abused – of the procedures relating to criminal trials. Lord Justice Gross’ review has re-emphasised the need for all those involved to understand the statutory requirements and to undertake their roles with rigour, in a timely manner.”

Even the Attorney General’s Guidelines bangs on about it “The amendments in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 abolished the concept of “primary” and “secondary” disclosure, and introduced an amalgamated test for disclosure of material that “might reasonably be considered capable of undermining the prosecution case or assisting the case for accused“.”.

You can’t just ignore evidence you don’t like.

So what the hell is going on?  I have heard way too many instances in the past year or so where Professional Standards Officers stand accused of playing fast and loose with the requirements of Disclosure and Unused Material.  Why?

I have, occasionally, been described as an Organisational Terrorist (thank you for that SIB), god knows why, maybe it’s to do with the number of times I challenge the establishment and try to tease the truth out.  Now, I’m more in danger of being described as a Conspiracy Theorist.

It can be no coincidence surely that in the last decade or so, the number of occasions where we have heard about alleged abuse of process by Professional Standards offices has increased alarmingly?

Is this mass incompetence?

Is this a positive act to try and reduce the number of serving police officers cheaply?

Is this a vendetta against certain officers.

Is it lack of appropriate training (although I’d be horrified if it was)?

Have ACPO (or whatever they’re called today) had a National Meeting and decided upon a protocol to keep the plebs in their place?

Whatever the answer is, I find it absolutely frightening that this is not just one Force doing things somewhat differently to the others.  This is a Method.

I’m not going to rake them all up again, but in the last year or so we have heard several instances whereby Professional Standards appear to be operating to a different set of rules to everybody else, and if you read The Crocodile Court you’ll be familiar with one more, and the terrible consequences of incompetence.

I’m absolutely certain that if asked we could all name one, if not two or more, cases of DPS/PSD abusing the system and bullying the officer into submission, whatever the reason for that behaviour might be.

So what exactly HAS happened to Professional Standards?

Why has it happened?

Is it just in London or does it happen elsewhere (I know the answer to that one).

Any examples gratefully received.

Professional Standards – But My Way

If a certain well known Danish Brewery did Professional Standards Departments they MIGHT align with my version.

I would base it more or less on the model that existed in the Met in the late 90s under Sir Ian Blair.  Heaven only knows what the current model looks like.

I’m not going to go into Resources and Budgets as I don’t understand Resource Allocation Formulae and I’m crap with Budgets, I’d just find a reason to spend it all. So I will leave it for others to establish Budgets and Staffing Levels etc.  However many there are, INTEGRITY is key.

At the lower end of the spectrum I would have a series of Complaints Units covering one or more Boroughs,  equipped and capable of recording all Complaints made in their Area and Investigating simple (as in not complex) Complaints.  They would be empowered to investigate through to completion and issue a formal Result at the end, these results would include Not Proven and Not Guilty.

In the second tier, a centrally based unit capable of receiving Complaints referred upwards from the Area Units if they proved to be more complex than originally assessed. They would be RESPONSIBLE for Investigating all complex Complaints and allegations of Minor Crime. Once again they would be competent to pursue the allegation to the end and issue a Formal Result.

At the top end would be a centrally based, smaller unit, investigating Major Crimes and Corruption. Once again, investigating to the ultimate end and issuing a Formal Result.

Three things would be absolutely VITAL to maintain the confidence of Police and Public alike

  1. No numerical Targets
  2. Definitely no inappropriate use of Professional Standards to silence Whistleblowers or Witnesses.
  3. A corporate willingness to accept that some of the officers subject to an investigation might actually be innocent, and they should not be afraid to find accordingly.  To prove and demonstrate that an officer is Not Guilty should be a matter of pride and is equally important as proving guilt, possibly more so.  In tandem with this would be the innovative practice of pursuing offenders found to have made malicious/vexatious complaints against officers, often in order to aid their defence in a Criminal trial. The Police Service has been absolutely rubbish at doing this for an eternity, and it would do wonders for morale if the practice were to be adopted.

The Public need reassurance that appropriate action is being taken at all levels, but I do believe that don’t, generally speaking, support unfounded witch hunts just for the sake of numbers.

Police Officers, and Public alike, need reassurance that appropriate action is being taken against Corrupt Cops.

To use the full weight of Professional Standards to crush Whistleblowers and the like does no one any credit, and I don’t believe that the Public expect or want that sort of behaviour.

Several examples of seemingly criminal conduct by professional Standards Departments have made their way into the public domain, courtesy of t’internet, in the last couple of years, and cases such as these do immense damage to Public Confidence. Investigations by Professional Standards should be exactly that – PROFESSIONAL. A good, quality investigation, fully complying with the legal requirements of Disclosure (We haven’t forgotten the TSG6 and others) and a balanced, properly compiled file at the end of it, a transparent result that is clear to follow.

I don’t believe that having the IPCC investigate everything is the way forward, as we need the Public and the Police to have confidence in the system, and not convinced that EITHER sector has confidence in the IPCC.  However, there is no reason why Complaints etc can’t be investigated  by another Force, the important factor must surely be that all investigations are proportionate, fair, and ultimately justifiable.  I’m sure we can all quote examples of disproportionate disciplinary investigations, or nvestigations that appeared to have no justification. Take away the mystery, and the practice of using Professional Standards for inappropriate reasons, and I’m sure we’re beginning to arrive at something better.

Finally, the Management Information bit, publish comprehensive data which includes Allegation Withdrawn Not Proven and Not Guilty. Discontinued is not a result we can have faith in.

Possibly a website showing a League Table, OCU by OCU of the various category of investigations to help restore Public Confidence that the Force are taking it seriously.

I’m fully aware that not all of this is doable, but it’s My Model. My idea of how it could operate. The Model can be tweaked for individual Forces with regard to their size, or enlarged if Regions become the order of the day.

I have been retired 13 years now and I’m certain that the Disciplinary process has probably changed in that time, so if I’ve made any horrendous gaffs please let me know and I’ll go hide under the stairs, but nothing will ever improve if nobody ever demands change or suggests ‘improvements’. So these are my suggestions, a Starter For 10.

I can accept that my model may not be perfect. Hopefully it would be an improvement on what we have. Let it be a beginning and provoke discussion and suggestion. At the end of the day, both sides of the fence want the same thing don’t they?  System that is open, fair, consistent, proportionate and accountable.

There’s my Model suggestion, anyone else want to suggest one?

Deep Joy, Kick The Cops Time Is Here Again

Last week we had the keenly awaited report from Uncle Tom’s Flock of Sheep regarding Integrity and Corruption within the Police Service. It clearly didn’t say what a lot of people wanted it to say as it led to some really slanted reporting by the Media. As I pointed out last week, it included nuggets like “Police are committed to tackling Corruption”, “Corruption is not endemic within the Police” and “122 out of 125 previous recommendations have been adopted”. Instead we had headlines such as “Police told to review 2, 000 cases of alleged Corruption”, “Police need to do more to tackle Corruption” and “Hundreds of suspected corrupt police officers evade justice by RETIRING”

I guess Investigation Finds Police Acting With Integrity isn’t much of a headline.

Today we get the IPCC’s version of the situation and are treated to headlines like “Police Complaints at Record High” and “IPCC: Obviously The Figures Are Worrying”. Dame Anne Owers, chair of the IPCC, said that the figures were “obviously worrying”, and also cited concerns that some complaints were not being properly dealt with.

Let me make it clear, I’m not in favour of Complaints being ‘whitewashed’. I don’t believe or pretend that all Police Officers are faultless and all complaints are malicious. Professional Standards Departments are one of the few departments not to have had their budgets slashed. It is incumbent upon them to establish the Guilt or Innocence of all officers who have allegations made against them. Guilt or Innocence.

Apparently there were nearly 35,000 complaints made in 2013/14, some 35% up on the previous year. 35,000 complaints relating to a workforce of 128,000 (ish). One in four assuming that no officer received more than one complaint. Is that so very awful? Not brilliant or desirable, but we’re talking Complaints now, not Corruption. More than one allegation can be included in a complaint “case” and the police watchdog said some of the increase was due to the broadening of the definition of a complaint.

The highest number of complaints were regarding police neglect or failure in duty, followed by complaints about police being rude or intolerant. Neglect or Failure in Duty? At a time when the Police have never been under such immense pressure, increased demands upon Police resources combined with a planned and deliberate reduction in manpower levels. Is that such a great surprise? Less cops, more work to be done. Is it any great surprise that Failure in Duty should be the greatest cause for complaint?

IPCC. The I stands for INDEPENDENT.

How “Independent” is it to state that the increased number of complaints is “Alarming”. Would/Should an Independent Authority not look beyond the headlines for a possible or probable cause? Maybe it’s just too easy to kick the cops and ignore the reasons?

Now for the bits hidden away at the end of the IPCC report and beneath the headlines in the Press.

The 35,000 complaints made resulted in almost 62,000 allegations being made against Police a Officers and Police Staff. Of these 62,000 allegations, less than half of them warranted an Investigation. Of those, less than 4,000 were upheld.

When Society encourages more reporting of anything, unsurprisingly the number (in this case, recorded Complaints) goes up, but less than 4,000 of the 62,000 were substantiated.

So what’s the headline now?

Less Than 4% of Cops Break The Rules

Doesn’t have quite the same impact does it?

Time to stop the witch hunts, report complaints and discipline in a fair and balanced way and establish the TRUTH. I’m sure that’s want the Police and Public both want to hear.

Stop this constant kicking and just be fair and honest.

Incidentally, the figures used in the IPCC Report are very confusing. There are numerous tables at the end, the numbers contained within each table do not seem to tally with each other and no explanation offered. If I have missed something there please do put me right, I’d hate to have misinterpreted the data.

#CutsHaveConsequences

So Just When Will Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe Resign?

I’m sure you don’t need reminding that Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe is the ‘top cop’ in the land, the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, Big Cheese, Top Johnny. He is in charge.

Under his stewardship we have seen one of the biggest scandals to rock the Met for decades, (but by no means the only one, where do I start?).  The recording of Crime Statistics for Metropolitan Police District.

It has been known by almost everyone within the Met that Crime Figures have been fiddled, it has been going on for decades and quite probably since the very first year that numerical targets were first introduced.

The then Police Constable James Patrick (amongst others) gave evidence to the Public Administration Select Committee and they eventually reported back that crime figures were being manipulated.

Tom Winsor of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary admitted that the manipulation of crime figures was taking place. The UK Statistics Authority withdrew the Met’s gold standard national statistics status. Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, was forced to admit the numbers were being fiddled and said the issue was a cause for concern.

FOUR eminent authorities all admitting that Crime Stats were being fiddled.

So what happened next? Was it put right?  Is all OK now?

Personally I have no idea whether I can yet trust the Met’s Crime Stats.

What happened next is that Police Constable James Patrick was hounded out of his job for daring to speak up.

Bernard Jenkin, the chair of the parliamentary committee that investigated the manipulation of crime stats, said: “The most depressing part of our inquiry is the way in which the Metropolitan police have treated my constituent, PC James Patrick, who was our key witness.”

The Grauniad went so far as to report this;

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) made repeated attempts to silence a whistleblower who exposed the widespread manipulation of crime statistics, it has emerged.

Documents seen by the Guardian show that senior officers made three separate attempts to stop PC James Patrick speaking out over the course of less than five months.”

Not a very honourable course of conduct in my opinion.

We also have the sorry tale of the TSG6, also on Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe’s watch.  If you missed that story previously you can read the transcript here.

In the last few months two senior people have resigned from Tesco due to ‘an accounting error’.  First we had the Finance Director falling on his sword, and just this week the Chairman.

So isn’t it about time that someone from the Met fell on their ceremonial sword and resigned as a point of honour over the most dishonourable things that appear to have happened, not to mention ‘an accounting error’ i.e. the Crime Stats?

Anyone want to run a book on when this will happen?

This One’s For Regie

So we’ve had James Patrick, Mental Health Cop, The Real (or Fake) British Cop, Sgt Gary Watts and now Newquay Sarge.

Newquay Sarge

Newquay Sarge

What the hell has he done wrong?

He has been disciplined by his Force, Devon and Cornwall, and labelled ‘incompetent’

‘Sarge’ has more than 4,500 followers on Twitter—including councillors, locals, and many journalists.

He also writes a popular blog on policing in the resort. Yet his comments barely registered until somebody in his police force took offence and insisted on starting an investigation.  Why, oh why, would somebody do that.
Here’s an open invitation to you all:-
  • Can you give me one example of an ‘Inappropriate Tweet’ by the Sarge?
  • Can you give me one example of a ‘Drunken tweet’ by the Sarge?
  • Can you give me one example of a Tweet by the Sarge that was ill-conceived?
  • Can you give me one example of an unprofessional Tweet?
  • Can you give me one example of Sarge failing to engage with his ‘audience’?
  • Finally, can you give me one reason why ANYBODY would want to report Sarge to Professional Standards and kick off a Disciplinary?

Thought not.

In his blog he says “It has not been an easy journey,  I have made mistakes, the force have made mistakes. But we are constantly learning how to use this medium,  it is scary for many of our senior officers. They do not control this medium, and in many cases have no understanding of it. That breeds suspicion,  and with suspicion comes resistance.”……..”There has not been one complaint raised by any member of the public, every complaint was from within the organisation.”

Doesn’t that just say it all?

Sarge said his most recent discipline investigation by Devon and Cornwall Police’s Professional Standards Department has found that due to “ongoing issues” with his Twitter account, he would be placed on Unsatisfactory Performance Procedures – meaning he cannot be assessed as being “competent” in his role.

“This has another impact: because I am ‘not yet competent’ I lose my entitlement to competency payments,” said Mr Butler. “This is being phased out (by December 2015) but I will lose a few hundred pounds”  So there we already have a financial penalty, for what? Tweeting, that’s what.

Another example of Professional Standards using the Iron Glove to control what they cannot control.

Sarge thinks that  some senior officers working for Devon and Cornwall Police find the social network medium “scary” and believe it will “tarnish the image of the police.”

Then, just to show what a true, humble gent the Sarge really is he had this to say “I know many will be outraged and blame the police but don’t, this is all new and we have to protect the reputation of the police,” he said.“They do not control this medium, and in many cases have no understanding of it. That breeds suspicion, and with suspicion comes resistance,” he said.“I will probably face further questions and will get into more trouble for writing this blog,” he said.  “They will argue I am bringing the force into disrepute.”   Oh no Sarge, they don’t need your help with that, looks like they;’re doing fine bythemsleves.

 

Come on Mr Sawyer, you always had a reputation for being fair.  How about you use the Chief Constable’s prerogative and intervene in this nonsense, or tell us all what it’s all about so that we can make our minds up whether D&C are being unfair or not.

In my humble opinion Newquay Sarge is an excellent ambassador for his Force, and Corporate Accounts ion SM.  What say you folks?

And why not vote for Regie in the Annual Twitter Awards? http://t.co/aaoof2CGB9

regie

stand by regie

regie teddy

banana regietwitter onHand for regie

Without brave whistleblowers, Ali Dizaei would be running the Met police

I almost never have any time for Richard Littlejohn, so this is probably a first for me, and maybe for you.This is an old article from the Daily Fail dating back to December 2012, prophetic in parts, and probably not too inaccurate.

If you really must read the whole article you can find it here, but the potted highlights include:-

“Of course it was ‘disproportionate’. [The arrest of a Police Officer under #Plebgate] Disproportionate is what Hyphen-Howe does these days, ever since he became Commissioner.”

“On Merseyside, he was the ‘Hail Fellow Well Met’ chief constable, always happy to share a drink and a meal with reporters. After arriving at the Yard, he now sees himself as a true and perfect knight in shining riot gear”

“Seasoned crime correspondents have received menacing phone calls from anti-corruption officers demanding to know where they got their information. The Met even used the Official Secrets Act in an attempt to force a Guardian reporter to disclose her sources.”

“Within the Yard, officers speak of a reign of terror as the professional standards unit, under Deputy Assistant Commissioner Pat Gallan…….”

Gallan is a ferociously ambitious, former Merseyside colleague of Hyphen-Howe, said to fancy her chances of becoming the first black, female Met Commissioner. The aim is to stop any information getting out, except through rigorously  controlled official channels.”

“A Met constable, PC James Patrick, [December 2012 don’t forget] is also being investigated for gross misconduct for criticising police practice and reforms in a book based on his Twitter postings.

Compare and contrast his treatment with the book published by bent copper Ali Dizaei, which was serialised in The Times and featured as Radio 4’s Book Of The Week. [Book of the Week? FFS]

Far from being disciplined, Dizaei was subsequently promoted, even though his book was fiercely critical of the Met and he was forced to pay libel damages to two senior officers.”

I apologise for the lazy copy/paste style blog but on this occasion Littlejohn says everything that we’ve been saying, so why paraphrase it?

Littlejohn has encapsulated everything that is wrong with the Met at the moment. Normally I would actively avoid him and his articles, but on this occasion seems he has been practicing with tea leaves etc.

One thing I will agree on is that the Met and NSY are not happy places to be right now, and, yes, Ali Dizaei could easily have ended up as Commish.

Stating The Bleeding Obvious

What is it that’s so bleeding obvious?

That the Met has lost its way.  Never before have I known it to flounder and flap around like a fish out of water as they are at the moment under their current leadership, Sir Bernard Hogan-Who and his team of muppets.  Even in the disappointing times under McNee (The Rubber Hammer) they were a more positive organisation than they are today.

Take the case of James Patrick. I’m not going to bore the pants off you by repeating everything, and James is currently waiting his Employment Tribunal, but just look at what’s already in the public domain about his treatment by the Met and the disciplinary matters that have arisen.

He was subject to Gross Misconduct proceedings, a review by an outside Force decreed this constituted no more than Misconduct. A process that hung over his head for 18 months or more was concluded in a hearing lasting no more than 10 minutes, you can read James’ views of this elsewhere.

James decided that be had no alternative but to resign, then whilst serving his ‘notice’ was served with further discipline papers alleging Gross Misconduct once more. James has now the left the Met, as you know, but has the disciplinary process been staid? No it has not. James now runs the risk of facing a disciplinary hearing after his resignation, possibly in his absence, and be added to CoP’s list of Struck-Off officers, with all the consequences of that. This seems to me to be driven by spite and revenge. The Met clearly don’t know how to handle a man like James, but is this any way for an ethical organisation to behave?

Take the case of the TSG6 as highlighted by Tessa Munt MP recently. She was covered by Parliamentary Privilege when she made her revelations but they were absolutely staggering, accusing senior members of the Met of criminal acts, and, once again, highly questionable behaviour by Directorate of Professional Standards officers. You can read the transcript or watch the video elsewhere. Is this any way for an ethical organisation to behave?

Call me picky but I can’t think of a single Freedom of Information request that I have submitted (in relation to James) where the Met has actually told me anything. On at least one occasion I truly believe that the Met has LIED to me.

Another FOI is delayed while they consider the Health and Safety implications of supplying me with a set of Minutes of a meeting.

In relation to another I have asked for a redacted copy of a letter sent to James by DPS. They have refused this request on the grounds of Personal Data. The only Personal Data this letter could contain is someone’s name, i.e. the author of the letter.

This from an organisation that has had a policy for over 10 years that officers will display their first name and surname on their uniform or name badge.

So Personal Data under the terms of the Data Protection Act doesn’t really float does it?

Members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords have expressed their disapproval of James’ treatment at the hands of the Met. Is this any way for an ethical organisation to behave?

The Met briefed Counsel to oppose James at the first hearing of his Employment Tribunal, specifically to oppose Interim Relief, which, if granted, would have ensured a basic income continued up until his ET was settled one way of the other.  A few thousand pounds. The Met spends millions on defending actions, paying compensation for something or other.  There was a time when the Met would pay up without even questioning what it was for, but thankfully those days are over at least.  All in all it has the smell of VINDICTIVE about the whole sorry saga..   Is this the way an ethical organisation should behave?

I find myself with three questions;

  1. Are the Senior Management of the Met and the officers of Directorate of professional Standards so out of control that they can treat their ‘underlings’ in this manner with impunity?
  2. Is this merely blind panic as they find themselves in a situation they don’t know how to deal with and haven’t got the balls to admit it?
  3. What on earth would happen if a PC/PS/DC/DS etc treated a member of the public, or even the criminal fraternity, with such venom and apparently a total lack of regard for Disclosure and the law in general?

 

It wouldn’t be a pat on the back and a quiet retirement I assure you, but then I’m stating the bleeding obvious again.

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