Police statement following BBC coverage into delays surrounding the police misconduct process.
Police response to BBC allegations
BBC news locally and nationally has today, Monday 28 January, reported on the cost of police officer suspension and the length of time police misconduct panels take to reach decisions.
However, the BBC report has not carried a full statement from Devon and Cornwall Police, despite requests for them to do so.
We believe it is important for the public to understand why delays may happen and the measures put in place by Devon and Cornwall Police to support officers when they are suspended.
Public Misconduct Hearings were launched in March 2015 by the Home Secretary to ensure police disciplinary hearings are held in public and led by legally qualified independent chairs as the public need to have confidence that the complaints system is fair and effective.
Misconduct matters are usually extremely complex and will require a full and thorough investigation to ensure that public confidence in the process remains. In relation to delays of hearings, adjournments are decisions for the Independent Chair alone to decide on, and not the police force undertaking the misconduct process.
Where officers are suspended from duty they are subject of a monthly review by the Deputy Chief Constable which includes ensuring the investigation is progressing appropriately. These checks also ensure that the officer is receiving welfare support on a regular basis and they still have full access to the services offered to all our staff and officers by Occupational Health, plus local welfare support.
The force will only suspend an officer in the rarest of circumstances and we keep this under continual review. We have been criticised in the past for not automatically suspending officers by the Independent Office for Police Conduct and we have stood firm - we consider the nature and seriousness of the allegation, needs of the complainant, welfare of the officer(s) concerned and the wider public interest.
The BBC has further reported on the specific case of former police officer Rachel Short.
Rachel Short resigned before the conclusion of her gross misconduct panel, but her panel found she would have been dismissed on grounds of gross misconduct by breaching the standards of professional behaviour expected from a police officer. A further appeal against this decision by Ms Short has been unsuccessful and ruled the original panel decision was sound and correct.
There were a host of issues related to her gross misconduct panel and the subsequent delays around its ability to sit. This included extended legal argument, often initiated by Ms Short’s counsel.
The force will always work with an independent chair to ensure proceedings are brought to a conclusion as quickly as possible, but complex legal proceedings will often take considerable time to conclude.
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