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UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 494-iii
House of commons
TAKEN BEFORE THE
Home Affairs Committee
Independent Police Complaints Commission
Tuesday 6 November 2012
Chief Superintendent Derek Barnett and Paul McKeever
Evidence heard in Public Questions 140 - 192
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
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Taken before the Home Affairs Committee
on Tuesday 6 November 2012
Keith Vaz (Chair)
Mr James Clappison
Dr Julian Huppert
Mr David Winnick
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Chief Superintendent Derek Barnett, President, the Police Superintendents’ Association of England & Wales, and Paul McKeever, Police Federation, gave evidence.
Q140 Chair: Our witnesses are Chief Superintendent Barnett and Paul McKeever in our inquiry into the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Mr McKeever, Mr Barnett, please accept the apologies of this Committee, we are also conducting an inquiry into child grooming and our last two witnesses provided us with fertile opportunities to ask questions. Thank you very much for coming.
If I can start with a general question. The Committee, as you know, is looking at the IPCC. Some suggest that the IPCC should be abolished, others believe it should be reformed. There are complaints being made by those who have made complaints to the IPCC, and I know from anecdotal evidence that police officers are not particularly happy with some of the workings of the IPCC. If I can start with you, Mr McKeever, what is wrong, why is this not working? Why do some police officers not have confidence in what was a new organisation designed to deal with police complaints?
Paul McKeever: Can I first thank the Committee for inviting us along here, Chairman, and having the opportunity to speak about the IPCC? You have said a number of things in your opening address there. We are very supportive of having an Independent Police Complaints Commission of some sort. We know that the nomenclature is important, but as long as there is an independent complaints commission of some sort in existence, we are content with that. Before its conception, we were one of the strongest voices in the policing family that said that we should have an independent investigative complaints process in the police service. We think it is vital important in a free and democratic society that that is the case, that there is independent scrutiny of the police service. We are heavily scrutinised elsewhere, through the courts, et cetera, but we are supportive of having that independent review of complaints of police officers.
In terms of what has gone wrong, a lot has gone right as well. We think that generally the IPCC investigations are appropriate and proportionate, but there are occasions when we are dissatisfied. We have done work with the IPCC in the past-we have had joint communiqués as well, which reflects a successful relationship, too. We are also aware of the fact there have been complaints from complainants and people who represent complainants. So the fact that both we, as the representatives of the officers who have been complained about, and those who are making the complaints, on occasions have reservations about the effectiveness of the investigations being carried out, means that probably they are getting it about right most of the time. That said, there are some instances where we are concerned about the length of investigations in particular, and the way some of the investigations are carried out. We also have concerns about some of the press statements that have been released in the past, although they have improved greatly. I have to say, credit where credit is due, they have improved greatly in the last year.
Q141 Chair: Can you tell us how many of your members are currently being investigated? Do you have a figure? Would somebody have a figure like that?
Paul McKeever: I would guess the IPCC would be able to assist you there, Chairman. I don’t have that figure because it is very fractured, there are 43 forces and we would have to get the evidence from them.
Q142 Chair: Would they come to the federation to seek assistance?
Paul McKeever: Almost certainly they would. They would come to the federation and they would speak to us on a force by force basis. But the IPCC will investigate a very small proportion of the total number of complaints against police officers, which runs to allegations-about 60,000 a year; complaints-30,000. The vast majority of those will be investigated in house by internal complaints investigation officers. It is also worth bearing in mind that many of those investigators within the IPCC, because of the skills required, have served in police forces as well.
Q143 Chair: Yes, we are going to come onto that in a second. Mr Barnett, what about your members? What is their concern about the way in which the IPCC has developed? You clearly support the idea of a complaints organisation, but do you have any concerns about the way in which it has been operating?
Chief Superintendent Barnett: Well, yes, we do support a complaints commission. I will not repeat everything that Paul said, but I share what Paul has said. However, I think it is important to emphasise that, certainly as an association representing the senior operational lead of the service, we believe that we have a police service that is admired worldwide, generally believed to be ethical and overwhelmingly free from corruption. So it is important in terms of public confidence, but also to strengthen the legitimacy of policing, that we have a body such as the IPCC. If we did not have the IPCC, I guess we would have to invent something similar. But in terms of our overall support for the IPCC, I think they do a very important job. I think, overall, they do it very well, but you have mentioned some of the things, for example, delays in investigation, and we have concerns about whether the IPCC is properly resourced to do the job that Parliament expected of it.
Q144 Chair: Yes, if I could ask you about that. I was surprised to note that the commission has fewer staff than the directorate of professional standards of the Metropolitan Police Service, which seems to have an awful lot of people working for it. Did you know that?
Chief Superintendent Barnett: I didn’t, but I think if you look at the history of the IPCC, the intention was that it would always be an organisation that would investigate the serious end of police conduct. I don’t think it is resourced sufficiently to be able to undertake the level of independent investigations that is required. I think it is important that, if you have a level of serious matters that require investigation, the determining factor should be the seriousness and not the resources of the investigating commission.
Q145 Chair: I am just looking at some figures here: 7,000 appeals each year from the public, 8,500 allegations of corruption, 837 people being referred to the commission, and the commission only investigated 21 of the most serious cases. Even though whenever you see it in the media, someone is always off to the IPCC, in fact the numbers are quite small, are they not, in terms of the actual investigations?
Chief Superintendent Barnett: Yes. My understanding was around about 100 a year and the intention-
Q146 Chair: Do you know how many of your members are currently being investigated?
Chief Superintendent Barnett: We are a relatively small organisation compared with Paul’s so, yes, I know those members who are what we would declare at risk. But that does not necessarily mean that they are being investigated by the commission. It is a relatively small number for our members.
Q147 Chair: When your members come to you if there has been a complaint to the IPCC, the views of some of the families of the victims are that the police cannot co-operate with an investigation. Do you encourage your members to co-operate with and complete investigations? Because as you said, Mr McKeever, some of these go on for a very, very long time.
Paul McKeever: Indeed. Most investigators will know that you have a pretty good picture of what you are investigating within the first two or three weeks, and one of the concerns that has been expressed, not just by us but by others, is that there seems to be perhaps a longer period of time than is necessary on occasions to decide whether somebody is going to be a suspect or a witness in a case. We are professional witnesses, we expect to have to co-operate with any investigation at all, but one of the problems that occurs in terms of getting that evidence into the investigator’s domain is deciding whether an officer is a witness or a suspect. There is a very clear differentiation between the two and something we are very guarded about for a number of different reasons. That is one of the problems we encounter because if you can have best evidence from officers, you should get it at the earliest stage possible, not wait four or six weeks down the line. Get that captured as soon as you can and when it is appropriate to do so, because it is not always best to get it immediately after an event. In some serious instances, where people are traumatised, it is better to take it two or three days or even two or three weeks. That is something we feel strongly about as well.
Q148 Chair: The shadow Home Secretary has called for the abolition of the IPCC and for a completely new body to be created. Would you support that or would you think that this body needs to be reformed, or is what she is asking for basically the same thing-a reform of the organisation?
Paul McKeever: I am not sure exactly what the shadow Home Secretary is asking for, and it is something that I would welcome the opportunity to speak to her about because nomenclature is important. It is very important when you are dealing with any organisation to get the name right. If there is a change of name, we would be quite content with that. If you are going to establish a new body and go through all the turmoil associated with that, we would have to see what is being proposed before we went down that route. It took an awful long time to get an Independent Police Complaints Commission set up in its present form. Yes, there are some wrinkles and problems there, but, personally, I would be reluctant to throw the baby out with the bathwater without knowing what the shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, is saying.
Chief Superintendent Barnett: We have been consistently in favour of the new college of policing. One of the things about the college of policing is that policing policy and practice and procedure should be based on evidence. What we would ask is, "Where is the evidence that the IPCC is failing to the extent that you need to create a new body?" Then, of course, there is the cost of creating a new body as well. It is important, and in our written evidence we have made the case that, over time, the mission of the IPCC has grown from being a police complaints commission to being one that now includes the HMRC, UK Border Agency-and soon, the new police and crime commissioners. So there is an issue about the name of the IPCC, whether it reflects what they do. That mission creep-and the issues we talked about, delays and resources-means they are taking on an increasingly large workload.
Q149 Chair: Do you have a name to offer us?
Chief Superintendent Barnett: It certainly has to have the word "independent" in it because it needs to be independent. The example I would give is that a lot of the IPCC’s work comes from self-referrals from the police service. Sadly, a lot of it is to do with incidents that have happened when people have been injured or died, where there is no blame attached to the actions of the police officer but it needs investigating. The very fact that the press will say, "This has been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission" implies that somehow there is some fault in policing so there is a very strong issue for me about the name of the IPCC.
Q150 Michael Ellis: Can I just say, Mr Barnett, that I agree with what you said about the police service? I think it is admired worldwide. It has very high ethical standards and sometimes is unfairly criticised both in the press and by politicians. I am concerned about delays, and there are clearly lengthy delays. Justice delayed is justice denied-that applies to criminal defendants as it applies to others. What are the reasons for these delays and do you think they are justifiable? In some cases, no doubt they are, but generally speaking should it take a year or more to investigate somebody?
Chief Superintendent Barnett: In an ideal world, it should not. Not all the matters under investigation by the IPCC take that long, but a good proportion of them do.
Michael Ellis: Some of them do.
Chief Superintendent Barnett: Partly it is down to resources, but I also acknowledge that many of the issues they are looking at are very complex and, in the same way that justice delayed is justice denied, if we were to rush the process unnecessarily, you may end up with an equally flawed outcome.
Q151 Michael Ellis: We would not want them rushing the processes but do you think there is room for speeding these things up and still getting a just result?
Chief Superintendent Barnett: Yes, I do.
Q152 Michael Ellis: Can you think of a way in which these things could be sped up? Surely it is not just a question of throwing money at it, is it? There are ways of improving things without throwing money at them.
Chief Superintendent Barnett: I do not claim to be an expert about the internal workings of the IPCC.
Q153 Michael Ellis: Mr McKeever, do you have any suggestions? You have seen it working.
Paul McKeever: Management of cases. There is no point in setting targets for yourself and then failing to meet those targets. If there is a fundamental problem within the system, then address that. I do not think there is a major problem there.
Michael Ellis: No.
Paul McKeever: You have to look at the individual cases perhaps and decide what went wrong there and learn the lessons from it. What I wouldn’t want to see is setting up another organisation that scrutinised the IPCC because we have to stop somewhere.
Michael Ellis: Who guards the guards?
Paul McKeever: Exactly, I know, and we go on and on.
Michael Ellis: Then who guards the guards who are guarding the guards? It would never end.
Paul McKeever: Absolutely.
Chief Superintendent Barnett: Can I just come back to Mr Ellis, please? One of the things that may improve matters later this month is the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act, which will change the nature of some of the complaints, the way they are recorded and dealt with.
Q154 Mr Ellis: Do you think that will help?
Chief Superintendent Barnett: That may take some of the workload out of the system, yes.
Mr Ellis: Thank you.
Q155 Mr Winnick: As a lifelong trade unionist I can hardly criticise any organisation that acts as a trade union and I do not intend to do so. What do you say, Mr McKeever, because this is basically the criticism of the Police Federation rather than your organisation, Mr Barnett-that it is a trade union in all but name, that it is very sensitive to any form of criticism, that it has a particular firm of solicitors, not in itself wrong, but nevertheless it does not hesitate to use those solicitors? You may be aware of an article very recently by a former Chair of a Home Affairs Committee that made these points. Unfair points, Mr McKeever?
Paul McKeever: Are you talking about Mr Mullin?
Chair: Yes, not about me.
Paul McKeever: Indeed.
Mr Winnick: He has had one or two disputes with the police, yes.
Paul McKeever: I understand that. I read the article very carefully myself, as you would expect.
Mr Winnick: Yes.
Paul McKeever: A lot of the criticism is historical and I would hope that we have moved on from perhaps some of the positions that he talks about. I don’t know the detail of what happened back in the 1980s, where he was writing from. I think that some of the criticism was unfair.
Q156 Mr Winnick: Is it unfair to look upon the Police Federation as a trade union in all but name?
Paul McKeever: We were set up especially by Act of Parliament not to be a trade union.
Q157 Mr Winnick: Yes, exactly and you can’t go on strike because of the legislation in 1919. It comes back to my question; the criticism, if it is a criticism, it would not necessarily come from me-or the accusation, whichever word one wants to use-that it is in fact a trade union in all but name in so far as the legislation-
Paul McKeever: We have been compared by others with a trade union. We do not see ourselves in that way. We try to influence and negotiate rather than take any form of direct action, which we cannot do. In terms of defending representatives of the Police Federation, that is part of our role and again it is determined by regulation. It is by Act of Parliament within the parameters in which we work, and we adhere to those very rigorously, yes.
Q158 Mr Winnick: In answer to the Chair, you said that you wanted to have a discussion with the shadow Home Secretary over possible changes to the organisation looking into complaints against the police, the IPCC. What does that mean in English?
Paul McKeever: I have heard that she wants to change the IPCC and some of the processes within it, but until I have the opportunity to speak to her face to face, I don’t know exactly what it is that she is proposing, and the form that she sees any future organisation taking. It is hard to comment, not knowing some of the factors that are in that equation.
Q159 Mr Winnick: You believe it is the role of the Police Federation to have discussions about what organisation could be established by Parliament to look into the police?
Paul McKeever: It is for others to decide what the final shape of that organisation should be. It would be highly improper for us to decide how we should be investigated. That is not our role at all.
Q160 Mr Winnick: Is that not a danger of what you just said?
Paul McKeever: I do not think so, no because we are not seeking to try and shape anything that she would intend to introduce at a later stage. It is incumbent upon me as the chairman of my organisation to know what that shape is going to be so that I can inform myself about any future recommendations that are put in place, which are going to affect all police officers whom I represent. That is where I would see myself coming from.
Q161 Mr Winnick: Mr McKeever, I should make it clear I have no criticism of yourself. You have carried out your duties as the chair of the federation but I am probing about the federation itself, as I am sure you understand. Can I just ask you this question about the IPCC? No doubt this is the reason that Yvette Cooper has some thoughts on the matter. There is a good deal of criticism about the organisation looking into the police: that it is inadequate, that it does not do the job that it should do, that it is very slow. Moreover, the point that has been made when witnesses have appeared before us is that some of the most senior investigators are former senior police officers so inevitably there seems to be a feeling that former police officers are investigating their former colleagues.
Paul McKeever: That is a conundrum we can’t get around because if you are going to look at who is qualified to become a senior investigator, there is a very limited pool. By the very nature of policing, most of the senior investigators-the best investigators in the country-are going to be within the police service, so that is where you are going to draw your staff from in the IPCC. There are other organisations that carry out investigative work, but very few to the level and standard that we do in the police service, so it is natural that the type of individual going into the IPCC will have come from the police service.
We have to put into context as well that the vast majority of complaints do not go to the IPCC or are not investigated by the IPCC; they are investigated locally by the local complaints branches and professional standards branches. That is the nature of the world we operate in. The more serious complaints obviously go to the IPCC and they are investigated by them. I cannot see a way around not using police officers. In an ideal world, you would say, "Yes, let’s have other people". Where are we going to drawn them from? It is a practical problem that we face in terms of getting that independence. They are working for the IPCC and they are not working for the police any longer.
Chief Superintendent Barnett: May I just come in on that one, please? First, a little bit of context. It is my understanding that there are approximately 30,000 complaints a year set against over 10 million 999 calls to the police service. It is important to put it in that context. The most recent survey that I have seen shows that 85% of the public had confidence in the police complaints process. So, again, the world we work in, in terms of policing-and inevitably, if you are going to investigate the police, that means that sometimes people, for whatever reason, are going to be dissatisfied with the service they have had or the outcome of their investigation-it is important sometimes to keep the context. When we criticise the IPCC, again, I suggest that we look at the evidence rather than sometimes some of the anecdotes.
Q162 Mr Winnick: One final question, Mr McKeever, again with apologies, Mr Barnett. What is the morale among police officers at the moment?
Paul McKeever: It is absolutely dreadful. I was at my home station yesterday and I was accosted by a number of different officers, who were bitterly upset by what has been happening in the policing world over the last few years. That was completely unsolicited, it was officers approaching me. In terms of the general feeling across the country, people are still going out there and doing the job because that is the nature of policing. There are two sides to this. Are we going out there and trying to do the job? Yes, we are. Are people feeling happy and content with the world and the police service? No, they are not. That distinction is lost sometimes when you listen to somebody like Sir Hugh Orde, the President of the Association of Chief Police Officers. He will always say, "Look, police officers always complain and always moan like they do in the Army. The Army do the same but they still get on and do the job" but the reality is no, the morale is extremely low at the moment. It is not just me saying that, you have only to go around police stations and people will approach you. If you are known to come from the senior echelons of the federation, they will accost you and complain about their lot. That has never happened in the past.
Q163 Mr Clappison: Just very briefly, I have a question for Mr McKeever. The police have to be answerable for their actions. It is in the nature of their work and their responsibilities that sometimes people are going to be dissatisfied with the response they get to complaints and also people have been known to make false complaints against the police.
Paul McKeever: Absolutely, yes.
Mr Clappison: Is this something that you think should be reflected in the organisation or the complaints system? Is it something that your members look to you for representation on and is it a factor that you think we should have in the background of our minds?
Paul McKeever: I do and I welcome that question very much. When I was a police officer, I received a number of complaints in the early part of my career and it was because I was getting stuck in and doing the job that I was expected to do. Some of the people who had been upset by my actions were some of the people you would want to be upset perhaps by having strong intervention from a police officer. Look at the type of the people we are dealing with on a daily basis: they are some of the most difficult individuals in society very often.
By the very nature of the job, you are going to get complaints and each year when the number of police complaints is published, I often do interviews and people will say to me, "Some officers had three complaints in a year" and I say, "Yes, unfortunately they are the sort of officers you would probably want to police your community because they are upsetting some of the criminals out there and trying to do their job". Clearly there are officers who are doing things that are wrong and inappropriate and that has to be addressed but having served in South London for most of my career and received complaints, I know what the nature of the complaints system can be. The vast majority of those complaints were not upheld.
Q164 Bridget Phillipson: In terms of the outsourcing of police services, are there people working in the delivery of police services today who would not come under the remit of IPCC investigations? Do you have any concerns or risks about further outsourcing and the role of the IPCC in relation to those?
Paul McKeever: Yes, we have to recognise that, first and foremost, the public have to have trust and confidence in those who are dealing with them with the badge on them, a police officer or police support worker or whatever, and that goes right across the whole policing landscape. If we are going to maintain that confidence, as I said at the start, we have to have independent investigation of what we do. That is right and appropriate in a free and democratic country. It is one of the pillars of society to have a police service that can be brought and held to account and individual officers, too. It is right and proper, if we are going to have outsourced services in the police, that those people working within those outsourced services, and their supervisors and managers, are also held to account in a similar way.
Chief Superintendent Barnett: When a body such as the IPCC is investigating matters within policing, the evidence will take them elsewhere than policing. It is important that the investigators in the IPCC are allowed to follow that evidence to wherever it takes them and to whatever organisation. That includes people who are involved in policing from the private sector but also other bodies. It is important that the IPCC has the ability to make recommendations that agencies other than the police should take due regard. I do not think that is the case now, so, as an association, we would be calling for the IPCC to have the power, very similar to the rule 43 that coroners have, where they can make recommendations to other agencies-other bodies that would be expected to comply with those recommendations. It is bringing it within the remit of the IPCC-first, those people who are involved in policing, wherever they may sit, but also then to be able to follow up with significant recommendations.
Q165 Bridget Phillipson: Just returning to complaints about police officers. Do you think there is room for improvement in how police forces deal with complaints before we get to the stage of the IPCC?
Chief Superintendent Barnett: I use the analogy of going into a large store or bank or whatever, where perhaps you have not had very good service, and bear in mind that, of those complaints that are received about policing, about 50% of them are about civility and courteousness and timeliness. Quite often, all you are seeking to do is get a first line supervisor to say, "That was not very good-we will try and put that right and make it better". The problem we have is that we build in a bureaucracy that leads complainants into a position where they are trapped in a system, when all they want is a very quick resolution and a way to say sorry. The legislation coming into effect this month may reduce the number of those-what I would call-wasted investigations. It certainly should not be the case that people are coming into a police station to make a comment and are being chased out the door, "Will you give me your name, address, date of birth and ethnicity?" when simply all they want is a very quick resolution and a sorry.
Q166 Bridget Phillipson: That is an important point and obviously we have touched on the fact that police officers are often criticised when things go wrong and do not always get praise when it is due, when situations are handled well. I appreciate for the individual officer that receiving that kind of criticism or what might be viewed as a complaint can be difficult if they feel they have handled a situation well. However, I am not particularly confident at the moment that police forces deal with those lower level complaints, perhaps around the issues you have talked about, and when they are not addressed people are then frustrated, but clearly they would not take an issue of that minor nature to the IPCC, it would not be appropriate to do so.
Paul McKeever: One of my concerns is very real. I understand the problems that forces are facing around the country with reduced budgets and the like. I know my own home force, the Metropolitan, is potentially going to be looking to reduce a lot of the line supervisors, sergeants, inspectors to try to concentrate on the constable numbers and keep those up. I understand that-I understand the dynamic within which a commissioner has to work within, but it means you are not going to have that intrusive supervision. You are not going to have the supervision whereby somebody can come in and deal with a complainant, perhaps as actively as they can at the moment. We might lose something if we are not careful in terms of somebody having redress immediately from a supervisor and resolving the problem quickly in a human way rather than a bureaucratic way. When we put the bureaucracy in place, as Derek says, you lose the human touch because you become more focused on getting the form filling correct rather than dealing with the individual. That is something we have to keep.
Q167 Bridget Phillipson: Of course most people do not necessarily want a formal procedure. They just want to know that their comments have been taken on board, that it will not happen again, that they have been listened to.
Paul McKeever: Absolutely. That is correct, yes.
Chief Superintendent Barnett: It is important just to recognise that for two consecutive years now, the number of complaints has fallen and part of that may be that the police service has recognised that that customer service type work is necessary to reduce those numbers of unnecessary lower level complaints about the releasing of information and explaining to people why police officers have acted in a certain way. I think there is some good news in there.
Bridget Phillipson: Thank you.
Q168 Mr Ellis: I want to say something that I think might surprise you, Mr McKeever, gentlemen. I think trade unions are very valuable and worthwhile organisations. They have achieved a lot over the course of decades, they serve a proper purpose and I support their continued existence. The Police Federation is, in all but name, effectively a trade union organisation-is that not fair? I realise that you can’t strike, but other than that it is effectively a trade union organisation and can be quite a hostile one, can’t it?
Paul McKeever: The Police Federation is not a trade union. We cannot be a member of the Trades Union Congress. We have some of the structures in place that are similar to a union, but that is outside our control, sir.
Q169 Mr Ellis: So, you would say that it is not just a question of nomenclature. It is not just the name. You are not a trade union because you are not a trade union, you are effectively very different from a trade union organisation?
Paul McKeever: If you look at why we were set up in the first place, we were set up back in 1919 not to be a trade union. The reason for that was very good, because Europe was in revolt, revolution was taking place and they did not want the police going on strike.
Mr Ellis: And there had been a police strike before 1919.
Paul McKeever: There had been a police strike, and a police union had been formed then, so we were set up not to be a union and we do not have the same provisions as unions.
Q170 Mr Ellis: On the issue of alternatives possibly to the IPCC, and I am not saying you are suggesting there should be one, I want to look for a moment at the professional standards department because they are staffed by members of the Police Federation as well, aren’t they?
Paul McKeever: They are, sir, yes.
Q171 Mr Ellis: Is this a conflict for you?
Paul McKeever: It is not a conflict because as a police officer you are a member of the Police Federation by Act of Parliament.
Q172 Mr Ellis: Yes, even if you are a member of a professional standards department that is examining misconduct or failure in standards in other police officers?
Paul McKeever: If you are looking for conflicts of interest in terms of the investigation, which I do not think are there, having experienced internal complaints investigations myself, like most police officers, there is a very clear delineation between those who are working within professional standards and those who are being investigated. That is understood and respected in the service throughout every force that I have been to, but we are all police officers and that is where our first loyalty is. It is not to the Police Federation; people do not go around thinking, "I am a Police Federation member" every day of their lives. They do not. They are very proud to be police officers.
Q173 Mr Ellis: Their first loyalty is to the Crown, is it not?
Paul McKeever: Absolutely.
Mr Ellis: Quite right.
Paul McKeever: First loyalty to the Crown and that gives us our independence and the independence of operation, too.
Q174 Mr Ellis: Rightly so. Thank you. Finally from me, do you think that police professional standards departments always treat officers fairly? Do you think there are examples of unfairness or that the system as it currently exists can be unfair? Mr Barnett, if you could answer as well.
Paul McKeever: Generally, I think professional standards operate in a very objective way; they try to get things right. There are occasions, and I have been subject to that myself, where things go wrong, but they are the exception rather than the rule.
Chief Superintendent Barnett: In answer to the question, "Is there a conflict of interest?" I do not think so, not as a member of the Police Federation. I do not believe they are in any way, shape or form like a trade union at all. There is a fundamental difference between a trade union and the-
Q175 Mr Ellis: Do you say the same thing about the Police Superintendents Association?
Chief Superintendent Barnett: Absolutely, but at a completely different level. I do not think the accusation of being a trade union-
Mr Ellis: I did not put it as an accusation; I merely put it as a question. Accusation implies something that is wrong. I prefaced my remarks by saying, "I support trade unions". I would not take Mr Winnick’s position of never criticising them, no matter what.
Mr Winnick: That is not fair. Mr Ellis should be very careful what he says.
Mr Ellis: Okay.
Chair: Order. Could we get back to the IPCC? This is getting far too jolly.
Chief Superintendent Barnett: I do think that the contrary may be true, that professional standards overwhelmingly behave in a way that you would expect. There are occasions where I think they may be zealous to the point of acting in the public interest. Rather than conflict of interest that they are not robust, I think they would err on the side of robustness.
Mr Ellis: That is just as relevant an issue, being overzealous. It is just as relevant an issue as being under-
Chair: Thank you so much, Mr Ellis, we are most grateful.
Q176 Steve McCabe: Presumably both of you would distinguish between poor performance and professional misconduct?
Paul McKeever: Absolutely, yes.
Steve McCabe: Are you satisfied that the IPCC does when it is dealing with your members?
Paul McKeever: That is an important question. There are occasions where there is a confusion between the two. They are very different indeed and we have to get that right and make sure that they are dealt with appropriately. Again, it is an individual case by case basis, you have to look at them from that perspective but, yes, I think that happens. In force as well-let us not keep it just to the IPCC. Occasionally in force, supervisors sometimes get it wrong, too, so it is a difficult area to deal with.
Chief Superintendent Barnett: I think you have to look back. When the Taylor report brought in the current misconduct regulations, the ethos there was separating what is bad and clearly either criminal or bad, and what is either human error or poor performance. The ethos was, "Let’s separate the two, but also try to work on the basis of improving it for the public, which is learning and development". Most of the time, both the IPCC and the professional standards departments get it right, but there are a small number of occasions when it is not right. It would be wrong to give you personal examples here, but we could give you some anonymous case studies if that would be useful to the Committee.
Chair: Please, that would be very helpful.
Chief Superintendent Barnett: There is a relatively small number, I have to say, but we could give you examples where people have been subject to gross misconduct, where their employment may be at risk, which we think is disproportionate to the circumstances. I am very happy to give that to the Committee.
Q177 Steve McCabe: I think that would be very helpful. Can I just ask one other thing? I noticed that the group INQUEST said in their evidence that there would be far greater public confidence in the IPCC if their procedures were modelled on those that the police use themselves. So, for example, taking control and securing a crime scene, interviewing people in the same way that the police do when they have people whom they think might be pertinent to their inquiries. Would you support that sort of approach?
Paul McKeever: There is something in what INQUEST says. We are the experts in the area as police officers and that is probably why there are so many police officers in the IPCC as well. It is important that you do secure scenes, you do use the gold marker very effectively to the best of your ability. There may be something in what they say.
Chief Superintendent Barnett: There is an issue about pragmatism and practicalities here that, to be able to do that, you have to do it instantaneously in many cases, and the first people to do that are the people who are on the ground, unless you have a standing organisation that has people waiting to go to what is, I have to say, a relatively rare occasion. So the theory and the idea behind that are very laudable. The practicalities of that are not realistic.
Steve McCabe: Thank you.
Q178 Chair: What do you say about the view that some very senior officers are escaping censure by the IPCC because they retire before an adjudication and therefore the investigation stops? I am talking at chief constable level. Do you find that there is a worry among your members that the higher you go, the more you can escape proper censure?
Paul McKeever: I do not know. It would only be me making assumptions so I am not prepared to do that. In terms of what is happening at the moment, I understand there are 10 senior officers who are suspended.
Paul McKeever: There is something happening there that is being dealt with. In terms of the most serious matters, if there is a criminal element, that will carry on. In terms of disciplinary matters, that will clearly stop, but for the moment it is up to each police authority from what I understand.
Q179 Chair: Does that happen to your members too, if they cease to be police officers, the investigation stops unless it is criminal?
Paul McKeever: In terms of complaints, the complaint would stop but if there was a criminal matter that would continue.
Paul McKeever: Yes, almost certainly.
Chief Superintendent Barnett: If I may, if the issue is serious enough to warrant criminal investigation, they cannot escape criminal investigation. If you are then looking for some sort of sanction, go back to the Taylor ethos-are you trying to put something right or are you trying to find somebody to blame and to publicly be held to account? There is a difference between the two.
Q180 Mark Reckless: I was previously a member of the Kent Police Authority and we used to try to ensure that the complaints system operated in the public interest by having one or two members every month dip sample the complaints in the professional standards department. We would assess those, then we would feed back whether we felt they were being dealt with appropriately. By the time I ended my involvement in that process, I felt that they were looked at appropriately. I wonder whether either of you feel there may be a role for the directly elected police and crime commissioners in oversight of police complaints, both at the local level but also potentially through the IPCC or a reformed institution that might replace the IPCC?
Chief Superintendent Barnett: The IPCC research would probably show this: one of the key determinants of whether it is an effective complaints system is leadership at the top of the service. So if the individual chief constable believes it important, then that oversight is better. As a BCU commander or as a chief superintendent, I would have made it my job to make sure that local complaints are dealt with effectively and appropriately. There is an issue of that local leadership, and I have no doubt at all that the role of the PCC will be vital in replacing the Police Authority. I cannot see a police and crime commissioner who would not want to take an interest in their local resolution of complaints. It is that personal leadership and example that they offer.
Q181 Mark Reckless: I understand the role you would have taken as a BCU commander or that a chief constable could lead it in this area but, rightly or wrongly, there may always be a certain scepticism from the public as to whether a senior police officer will necessarily be balanced and equidistant between the public, the complainants and the police. I just wondered whether by virtue of being an elected figure, the police and crime commissioner might be better able to oversee the process, even if all that may be required is simply explaining to the public that things are being done properly.
Chief Superintendent Barnett: Exactly. My understanding is that is enshrined in the legislation. That is the role of the police and crime commissioner.
Q182 Mark Reckless: With regards to the IPCC or at a national level, could you see scope for PCCs taking a role there?
Chief Superintendent Barnett: I must admit it is not a line of thought that I have developed. I would probably need perhaps to understand a little bit more of your thinking about that. I think at the moment that the IPCC do conduct themselves very professionally. There is an issue about resources, but they certainly hold the service to account and certainly my members would tell you that it does feel that they are being held to account by the IPCC.
Q183 Mark Reckless: Mr McKeever, could I put that question to you as well?
Paul McKeever: I concur very much with what Chief Superintendent Barnett has said. There may be a role, and I am very reluctant to comment about PCCs at all in the run-up to the elections anyway-we are trying to stay out of that arena. I can see that there might be some difficulties as well, so it has to be judged very carefully to make sure that it is done in an appropriate fashion. They are the elected official and I am sure they are going to want to have some input into relations with the local populace, so that is part of it.
Q184 Mark Reckless: We have another new body on the horizon, the college of policing.
Paul McKeever: Yes.
Mark Reckless: Could that potentially have a role in the complaints landscape?
Paul McKeever: Yes. What we have to be very careful about is making sure we get a clear delineation between all these new bodies that are coming into place, with the PCCs, the college of policing, the new HMI who has come into office as well. Where does the oversight and review of some of the processes and the outcomes take place? Where does that create change in the future as a recommendation for change? We do not think it should be with the IPCC. They can highlight and recommend but we do not think they should have the policy making power. That should be with the PCC or with the HMIC to recommend, and perhaps for Parliament as well if it is a more serious matter.
It should not be with the IPCC in terms of their powers. Certainly they could recommend, but not change. That would not be a good road to go down because they become less independent then, they are part of the policy making machinery and that would be wrong. In terms of the delineation, the change processes should be within the college of policing, perhaps with recommendations from HMI as well but not the IPCC.
Chief Superintendent Barnett: Just on the college of policing. I have huge optimism that the college will be a force for good in policing.
Q185 Chair: Are you all involved in the formation of the college? Will you all be sitting on the board?
Chief Superintendent Barnett: Yes, we have been and we will have a place on the board of the college.
Chief Superintendent Barnett: One of my hopes for the college is that it will deal with those things about recruitment, training, ethics of the police service in developing and enhancing that, but there is also a role in setting standards as well. So what I would see is the IPCC making recommendations, whether they be rule 43 recommendations or simply recommendations, that the college will build into their approved professional practice. I do think the college will play a huge role in that.
Q186 Chair: Could I ask for your quick views on whether mediation could be used before a complaint gets to the IPCC? The Committee is going to hear evidence later this year from those who are mediators. Would that help?
Paul McKeever: Anything that improves confidence in policing and the police service would be welcome. If perhaps there was a pilot to be run we would be willing to look at that. It comes down to this human element, doesn’t it? In everyday life when we deal with our friends, our colleagues, our family, we do not do it through paperwork, we do it on a face to face basis. When somebody comes into contact with the police and they are not content with what has happened, the last thing you want to do is go through a bureaucratic process. So if we could have some mediation to assist, whether it is at local level or further up the scale, surely that must help, I would think.
Chief Superintendent Barnett: Again, let us see the evidence. The evidence tells us in restorative justice that, when you have that, the victims are more satisfied and more content. Likewise, it probably improves the behaviour of the criminal. If you apply the same principles to complaints, our experience would tend to be when you put the police officer or the member of staff with a complainant, that conversation, even if they agree to disagree, leaves them with a lot better feeling that they have been listened to and their matter resolved.
Q187 Chair: In respect of those who refer to the IPCC for breaches, for example, of PACE-I know you are dealing with the Steve Fulcher case at the moment-do you have any concerns about the need to look at PACE again after 28 years to see how it can be improved?
Chief Superintendent Barnett: You will understand why I would not talk specifically about the case you mention but I would invite the Committee to look back at the Police and Criminal Evidence Act and why we have it. My view as a police officer of nearly 35 years and as a detective officer at the time that the Police and Criminal Evidence Act was brought in, is that it is one of the greatest safeguards that the public have against misuse of police powers. I would caution greatly anybody suggesting that somehow the Police and Criminal Evidence Act should be watered down or diluted. It is a great safeguard for the public and the legitimacy of what we do. I have to say, as a detective at the time, it brought in one of the best safeguards I had as a professional investigator because it just set down very clear guidelines and a code of what was acceptable and not acceptable. That is absolutely clear to everybody involved in the criminal justice system.
Q188 Chair: Mr McKeever, you are making your last appearance before this Committee in your capacity as Chairman of the Police Federation. You have seen a lot of changes over the last three years. I was with you, as you know, at your conference this year, and can I first of all thank you for the way in which the federation has dealt with this Committee? For the first time, you have invited us to attend your annual conference and you have engaged with us in a very positive way. It helps us make our recommendations to Parliament and this has happened under your leadership.
One of the points that the Home Secretary made at the conference was about the need for an independent review of police integrity, whatever that means. I want to ask you what you think that means. Going back to what David Winnick has said about police morale and your response to him, Lord Stevens over the weekend published his report in which he gave the figure of 90% of police officers feeling that they needed more support from the Government and an astonishing 56% of those surveyed contemplating leaving the force. What could be done to restore that confidence in the police and to restore morale?
Paul McKeever: Any leadership needs to give positive messages, whether that is from Government, from senior leaders within the police service, whoever. If the messages appear to be negative all the time, that will erode confidence within any organisation, and that is certainly what has happened over the last few years. In terms of individual officers, what is happening to them, some of them are going through a very difficult period indeed, both financially and within the service. There is little that can be done in monetary terms at the moment with the restraints on the money that is going into the service and budgets. We understand that, but I have spoken to a number of leaders around the country saying, "Please try and talk up the officers, talk about them in a positive way and try to commend them for what they are doing".
I know that does happen, but perhaps a little more often would be very useful indeed because there is a feeling, whether it is perception or reality, that they are unloved at the moment. It sounds very strange for police officers to say that, but it is something that is very important to them. That would assist. In terms of the integrity that the Home Secretary talked about, we seem to be going through a national process at the moment whereby a lot of institutions are being looked at and questioned for all sorts of different reasons.
Chair: And changed and abolished and reformed.
Paul McKeever: Changed as well and that is happening. I do not see anything wrong in looking at any institution and whether it is behaving in a proper way or not, but it has to be done on evidence, and I have not seen a great deal of evidence to suggest that the police service is in a parlous state that needs to fundamentally address integrity issues. The vast majority of police officers I know are people of the highest integrity, professionalism and honesty, and they are people who I am extremely proud to work with. The same is true in most of the organisations that are under great scrutiny and review at the moment, whether it is Parliament or elsewhere-we know that, but it seems to be the flavour of the moment. In any society, you go through these times and I think we are part of that.
Q189 Chair: How would you sum up your three years now that you have come to the end of your three years in office?
Paul McKeever: Sad to go. I am extremely proud to be a British police officer. One of the proudest boasts I think anybody can have within the United Kingdom is to say that they have served as a British police officer. It is something that is respected around the world. When I travel, in a limited fashion, people know what it means to be a British Bobby. They know and understand that we are different. We do not carry guns, we police by consent and that is something that is recognised elsewhere. So to have had the huge privilege of being the Chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales for almost five years by the time I retire is something I will remember forever and it is something I am very proud of.
Q190 Chair: On behalf of the Committee, I thank you for all the work that you have done with us. You have been an outstanding leader for your members and can I wish you well for the future, the best of luck.
Paul McKeever: Thank you very much, Chairman.
Q191 Chair: Thank you, Mr McKeever. Thank you, Mr Barnett, you are still with us, you are not going anywhere, I understand.
Chief Superintendent Barnett: No-this will be my last appearance as well.
Chair: Oh, Mr Barnett, I am sorry. What is going on?
Chief Superintendent Barnett: Unless you invite me back to repeat some of my evidence.
Q192 Chair: Can I reiterate and thank you? Sorry, I did not realise that. Thank you for all the work that you have done with this Committee. Whenever we have asked your association to give evidence, you have been extremely helpful. We have attended your conference as well and perhaps I can give you a couple of words. How would you sum up what has happened over the last few years?
Chief Superintendent Barnett: We have seen a huge amount of change under the banner of reform these last two years. Some of it we welcome and some of it obviously we do not. In terms of morale, I think morale is a strange concept and will change from day to day but there is no doubt at all that there is a sense within the police service of being undervalued at the moment. One of the great things about leadership is to have a workforce that will deliver change for you in the future. You have to value them and they have to know that they are valued. It is not just about the words, it is about the tone and the language.
I would say that the police service is still a wonderfully committed and talented organisation, dedicated to serving the public, but policing needs to be brought in from the cold if I could describe it like that. In the same way that we have had health summits and business summits at No. 10, I really do think it is an opportunity to bring all sides of policing, whether they be politicians, elected members, professional staff associations, in from the cold. Reform is so much better when it is done with the workforce rather than against it. My plea to anybody is you have a service that is very desperate to serve the public.
Chair: Thank you very much. You, too, have been an outstanding leader for your members. I thank you both and wish you both the best of luck. Thank you.
Paul McKeever: Thank you.
Chief Superintendent Barnett: Thank you.