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New misconduct guidance places emphasis on public trust

The College of Policing has today released revised guidance on outcomes for police misconduct proceedings.

The updated guidance is designed to bring tougher sanctions against officers who damage public confidence, with the College saying that undermining trust should be at the heart of decision-making in disciplinary proceedings. 

CC Andy Marsh CoP CEO said: “Today’s new guidance helps bring common sense and consistency to a process that is crucial to maintaining public trust in police.

“We need a misconduct system which is transparent, timely and isn’t afraid to show the door to officers who betray our values.”

The guidance has added a specific section on Violence against Women and Girls which clarifies that behaviours that fall into this area, whether on-duty or off-duty “will always have a high degree of culpability” and that the likely outcome will be “severe”. 

Following national scrutiny of high profile cases, policing needs to make it clear that this type of misconduct is “wholly unacceptable”, it says. 

Even in the absence of harm to specific victims, misconduct that undermines discipline and good order must be taken "seriously" and the risks associated with the officers’ behaviour need to be considered including the likelihood of that harm occurring. 

“How such behaviour would be, or has been, perceived by the public will be relevant, whether or not the behaviour was known about at the time,” the guidance explains. 

“If applicable, consider the scale and depth of local or national concern about the behaviour in question.”

It clarifies that objective evidence of harm to the reputation of the service should be distinguished from "subjective media commentary." 

In cases where serious harm either to individuals, the community or public confidence is caused, dismissal is likely to follow. 

Aggravating and mitigating factors are included, however, and if the case concerns misconduct that took place several years prior, the outcome must consider the standards of the time and well as officers’ conduct in intervening years. 

Misconduct hearings are either held by an independent legally qualified chair or, in cases where the evidence is clear – such as where there has been a guilty verdict or plea in court - by a chief officer.

Home Office figures have shown that 30 per cent of recordable conduct allegations against police officers that went to a misconduct hearing chaired by legally qualified chairs resulted in dismissal in the year ending March 31 2021. 

It compares with hearings chaired by chiefs in which 47 per cent of officers were dismissed. 

The Federation has previously pushed back on calls that Chiefs should have more control of conduct hearings to sack officers and instead has said that they should make full use of reforms brough in by the Home Office that allow PCCs to intervene - setting sanctions for reflective practice as well as escalating serious cases quickly. 

Following today’s guidance, CC Marsh said:  “Officers who commit violence towards women and girls should expect to be sacked and barred from rejoining the police.

“I know from more than 30 years in policing that the vast majority of officers are dedicated public servants who work hard every day to keep people safe.

“They do not wish to work alongside officers who commit crimes or impact the trust people have in us.”

National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Complaints and Misconduct, Chief Constable Craig Guildford, said: “This new guidance gives misconduct panels unequivocal direction that policing wants to see behaviour driven by misogyny, racism or any other form of discrimination treated with the highest gravity.

“This supports all the recent work policing has undertaken to tackle violence against women and girls.

“It shows the public that we are determined to eliminate toxic behaviour and damaging culture.”

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