IPCC Chair launches another attack on ‘defensive attitude’

Dame Anne Owers says refusal to answer questions can cause huge delays in inquiries.

The chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has levied more criticism at the “defensive” attitude of some officers when investigations are carried out.

Dame Anne Owers (pictured) said her organisation often encountered “a circling of the wagons” when serious probes were carried out, which led to frustrations and huge delays.

She added that when Parliament had agreed a power to compel the watchdog to require officers to attend an interview, the Police Federation had advised its members they did not need to answer questions.

Addressing the Improving Public Confidence in Policing conference, Dame Anne added: “I suggest that – given the current state of public confidence in the police – it is at best unhelpful or at worst positively self-destructive for elements in the Police Service to be, or to be perceived to be, obstructive and unwilling to take part in the processes of accountability and transparency that Parliament has set out.

“We operate policing by consent – we also need consent to proper processes of accountability.”

Dame Anne said there were other aspects in relation to IPCC investigations that the watchdog wanted to change – including stopping officers colluding after incidents.

However, she denied that the IPCC was “out to claim scalps” as national firearms lead Deputy Chief Constable Simon Chesterman claimed on PoliceOracle.com.

Dame Anne told conference delegates: “We are out to get the truth and we will of course be of no use to the Police Service, if the public perceive that we either don’t or can’t, for then they won’t believe us when we exonerate officers or commend their actions.”

She added that the current complaints system – or the way complaints were handled – was not designed to enhance public confidence.

Dame Anne was also critical of a defensive attitude to complaints.

She said: “In a commercial organisation, complaints are gold dust. They tell you what your customers think about you even when that is a perception rather than a reality.”

From Police Oracle

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2 Responses to IPCC Chair launches another attack on ‘defensive attitude’

  1. Kevin Morris says:

    I doubt if any of us on here would seek to protect those who do wrong and bring our once proud Service into disrepute. I doubt any of us would disagree that complaints need to be investigated.
    What I find disturbing is the ease at which Dame Anne seems to suggest it is alright to remove the rights of citizens of England and Wales, for that is what officers are. The public does have the right to make complaints and to have them investigated but Dame Anne’s suggestions and rhetoric is surely suggesting that the Police are not simple witnesses but suspects and that they must be compelled, against everything we have fought to maintain, that is the rule of Law. When Dame Anne said, if the report is correct, “there were other aspects in relation to IPCC investigations that the watchdog wanted to change – including stopping officers colluding after incidents” she should be mindful of the language she uses. Colluding collude |kəˈl(j)uːd| verb [ no obj. ] come to a secret understanding; conspire: suggests that any officer talking to another involved in an incident does so to hide something. I doubt she understands perception differences in evidence, or how even the smallest difference gets picked up on in a Court by some smart ass barrister to “prove” there is “reasonable doubt”. I have no doubt her other comments are well meant but this emphasis that she is to be seen as the witch-finder-general of corrupt and dishonest police officers is starting to annoy the hell out of me. I would still regard some of our top detectives, like Brian Woodfield, leading an investigation as far more likely to get to the truth and route out wrongdoing than the IPCC. Dame Anne is doing her IPCC a disservice using this rhetoric and constant sniping as it suggests they are incapable of investigating complaints properly unless they walk all over officers rights.

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  2. Dick Grundy says:

    Absolutely right Kevin. The root problem she is now facing is the lack of experienced and competent investigators within the IPCC.
    She also misses the point when she talks about complaints being ‘gold dust’ to private companies. They are not dealing with professional criminals or the remainder of the dregs of society who have no interest in improving the service, only in muddying the water and using any investigation as a means of escaping justice.
    If she is the best on offer to head up such an important organisation such as the IPCC then there is little hope. This government will bend over backwards to remove the rights of citizens in uniform (police officers) as she is suggesting and when that happens the rule of law will be lost.

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