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'About 10%' of vetting files examined by HMIC shouldn't have passed

HM Inspector of Constabulary Matt Parr told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that the issue of unsuitable officers joining the police is 'widespread' and 'has been historic'.

HM Inspector of Constabulary says the Uplift programme is no "excuse" for lowering vetting standards, after a HMICFRS report published last November revealed shortcomings in how effectively forces undertake this process.

Speaking to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme today, Matt Parr said: “When we reported back in November about vetting across the country, we looked at hundreds of officers that had joined the police…about 10% of them should not have got through vetting."

Mr Parr was referring to the 725 vetting files - relating to new recruits and transferees - that were reviewed as part of the inspection commissioned in October 2021 which produced the above report.

Of these, there were 68 cases where the review team disagreed with the decision to grant vetting clearance, and a further 63 where they may have agreed with the decision had greater detail been provided. 

This inspection assessed the forces linked to Wayne Couzens (the Met, Kent and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary) as well as Cumbria, South Wales, Nottinghamshire, Dorset and Devon and Cornwall.

Forces were asked to provide vetting files from the preceding three years, relating to police officers and staff who had previously committed criminal offences and those about whom there were other concerns.

Mr Parr added: "That was not a random sample, these are cases we had highlighted but a significant number of officers joined the police that, in our view, should not have done. This is a problem that is widespread, I think it has been historic."

With the revelations of the above report in mind, he stressed the dangers of allowing the quality of vetting to be diluted by the pressures of recruiting at pace.

“The general problem is public confidence in the police has definitely taken some serious knocks, and the most important thing now is to restore this confidence…I don’t accept that the new 20,000 officers can be used as an excuse for lowering standards of the people that join," he said.

Mr Parr was complimentary of work being done by the Met to clean up the misconduct in its own ranks, after Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley told the London Assembly this week that he expects two or three officers per week to appear in court over the coming months.

He said: “This is things improving. The fact they are coming to court does show the Met are detecting them, that they are rooting them out and they are getting them through the courts and they are getting them dismissed.”

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