Legislation has been introduced that will reform how complaints made against the police are handled and will, the Home Office said, improve the discipline system for officers.

The changes, which will come into effect on 1 February, ensure that complaints can be dealt with quickly, effectively and proportionately, not just for the benefit of the public but also for the police.

The reforms will also deliver a more efficient system for dealing with police misconduct, making the investigation processes simpler and therefore quicker, including a requirement to provide an explanation where investigations take longer than 12 months.

Policing and Crime Minister Kit Malthouse said: “The vast majority of our brilliant police are extremely professional, and standards remain high. When police forces fall short of these standards, it is important to have a system that can quickly establish what has gone wrong, hold officers to account, where necessary and ensure lessons are learned.”

These reforms will, he went on, deliver this and ensure the public can maintain confidence in the integrity of a world-class police service.

Importantly, the changes aim to make the discipline system more proportionate and to encourage a much greater emphasis on learning from mistakes.

National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for complaints and misconduct, Chief Constable Craig Guildford, said: “These reforms are aimed at all levels across the police service and have come together after work with the Home Office, Police Federation, the IOPC (Independent Office for Police Conduct) and the Superintendents Association”.

There will, he continued, be greater involvement for local supervisors and a move away from punishment and blame for lower level misconduct to a focus on learning and development.

The reform package

  • Simplifying the complaints system, making it easier to navigate and putting a greater emphasis on handling complaints in a reasonable and proportionate manner. An enhanced role for Police and Crime Commissioners will strengthen independence.

  • Increasing the IOPC’s effectiveness and independence in investigating all serious and sensitive matters involving the police.

  • Focusing the formal discipline system on breaches of professional standards that would result in formal disciplinary action, enabling line managers to focus on improving individual learning and behaviours in response to lower level conduct matters.

  • Increasing the transparency of appeals against misconduct findings by replacing the current retired police officer as a member of the panel with an independent layperson and introducing new provisions to improve the timeliness and efficiency of proceedings.

Last reviewed 13 January 2020