Thursday, April 16, 2009

dependent police complaints commission

The last post talked of why faith in the independence of the Independent Police Complaints Commission is misplaced.

They're people who took the police's word for it that Ian Tomlinson hadn't had contact with them, who believed the rush-job autopsy, who believed the cops that there weren't any CCTV cameras in the area of Tomlinson's assault. In case we need any more convincing, though...

You can tell who an organisation believes it is there to serve by who it asks about its service. Most retail businesses will buttonhole some customers as they leave the checkout and ask about their shopping experience.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is, you'd have thought, there to serve people with complaints against the police. But Afua Hirsch tells us

the IPCC - whose task is to independently investigate the police - was able to show that organisations including the Police Superintendents' Association, the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Police Federation were "satisfied" with the IPCC's performance; but it had no idea how the people making the complaints found its service.

The IPCC concedes this is a "weakness", but it is much more: it reveals an organisation that has failed completely to be outward-facing and customer-serving. It is culturally tilted towards the police forces it is supposed to monitor, and financially incentivised to rely on their resources.

A former IPCC Commissioner resigned last year, saying

Even allegations of serious criminal assault are now routinely left for investigation by the police, although just 1% of such complaints are upheld by the police.

It's not just the bias in the investigations, but the bias in choosing not to investigate at all.

Only around 100 IPCC investigations, plus 150 police investigations "managed" by the IPCC, are undertaken each year, compared to 29,000 complaints. The majority of those 100 are not even complaints about day-to-day policing, but concern incidents where Article 2 of the Human Rights Act - the police's duty to safeguard life - may be involved, and by law require IPCC investigation.

Some, such as the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell tube in 2005 and possibly the death last week of Ian Tomlinson at the G20 protests in London, rightly attract great public concern.

But the question, "Do you have to be dead before the IPCC takes an interest in your case?", is too near the truth.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have just had a complaint against Bedfordshire police not recorded by the IPCC even though I had clear evidence to back my claims. I thought my complaint would lead to the imprisonment of three "bent coppers" but no investigation. The whole thing stinks - the IPCC helps provide protection for the police. Cases are referred to local area standards department who instantly block investigations. An appeal is then needed against a case not being recorded (which the IPCC always reject without investigation).