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Officers dismissed through vetting process 'may not know why'

BTP Chair Stuart Cowan took aim at the recently-announced changes to misconduct and vetting while speaking at the Fed's annual conference in Southampton.

The BTP Federation said serious questions need to be asked about changing the misconduct and vetting processes and queried why chiefs would want additional powers unless it it to sack officers with little or no evidence. 

Chair Stuart Cowan told the conference: "The carefully thought-out Taylor reforms, that promoted a culture of fairness, transparency and learning from mistakes, has been cast aside to be replaced with inherent unfairness and a lack of transparency. Rushed legislation is always bad legislation. Police officers judging police officers was not seen to be fair or transparent."

Under the reforms announced by the Home Office last month, a finding of gross misconduct will automatically result in an officer’s dismissal unless exceptional circumstances apply. 

Mr Cowan said Home Office data on police misconduct in the year ending March 2022, showed 58 of the 284 officers in England and Wales found guilty of gross misconduct were not dismissed.

He added: "We say again. We do not want to work with corrupt officers; we do not want to work with criminal officers. The current regulations allow Chief Officers to fast track these bad officers out of the force.

"They don’t need more powers. So why do they want them? Could it be so they can sack officers with little or no evidence? We don’t treat criminals that badly".

On the planned changes to using vetting to dismiss officers, he outlined a potential scenario.

"Professional Standards investigate an officer and cannot find sufficient evidence of wrongdoing or incompetence. That officer’s vetting is reviewed by, yes you’ve guessed it, Professional Standards (the very people who cannot find any evidence of wrongdoing or incompetence).

"The officer “fails” vetting (potentially on the same grounds that failed to prove wrongdoing or incompetence, although they are not told). The officer cannot fulfil the role of Constable because they have failed vetting and can therefore be dismissed.

"The officer can appeal the failure of vetting to, once again you’ve guessed it, Professional Standards but the officer is expected to make the appeal without knowing against what they are appealing. They may suspect what it’s about but they don’t know."

Mr Cowan believes that chief officers "want to use vetting as a tool to dismiss officers" and says the Fed will pursue judicial review proceedings at "the first hint of unfairness that does not meet the principles of natural justice".

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