Government plans to automatically dismiss police staff guilty of gross misconduct

Police chiefs will chair independent public hearings responsible for removing corrupt officers from their force under new plans to strengthen the police dismissals process.

In a move to ensure the public are getting the high level of professionalism and service they deserve from police, speed up the process of removing rogue officers, and to restore confidence in forces, the government has unveiled a raft of changes to the rules governing officers’ disciplinary, vetting and performance processes.

The law will be changed to ensure all officers must be appropriately vetted during their service and to enable officers who fail a re-vetting test whilst in post to be sacked.

Under the new system, a finding of gross misconduct will automatically result in a police officer’s dismissal, unless exceptional circumstances apply, speeding up the removal of officers not fit to serve.

Chief constables (or other senior officers) will also be given greater responsibilities to decide whether officers should be sacked, increasing their accountability for their forces, and will now chair independent misconduct panels.

An independent lawyer will continue to sit on the panel, providing independent advice and helping to maintain rigour, but in a supporting legally qualified person (LQP) position. The outcome will be determined by a majority panel decision, as it is now, and hearings will continue to be held in public to maintain transparency.

Police chiefs will also be given a right to challenge decisions and there will be a presumption for former officers and special constables’ cases to be heard under fast-track procedures chaired by senior officers, cutting bureaucracy and saving taxpayers’ money, while making sure those failing to uphold standards are removed more swiftly.

The reforms follow a comprehensive review of the police disciplinary system launched following the conviction of David Carrick, who is spending 30 years behind bars for numerous serious sexual offences committed whilst he was a serving police officer.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman said:

“Corrupt police officers and those who behave poorly or fail vetting must be kicked out of our forces. For too long our police chiefs have not had the powers they need to root out those who have no place wearing the uniform.

Now they can take swift and robust action to sack officers who should not be serving our communities.

The public must have confidence that their officers are the best of the best, like the vast majority of brave men and women wearing the badge, and that’s why those who disgrace the uniform must have no place to hide.”

National Police Chiefs’ Council Chair, Chief Constable Gavin Stephens said:

“We welcome the change that will ensure any officer guilty of gross misconduct is automatically dismissed, and that any officer who fails vetting can be sacked.

It is also right that chief constables take the lead on the misconduct process. We are resolute in our commitment to rid policing of those not fit to serve the public and the changes in the dismissals process announced today significantly strengthens our ability to do so.

Chief constables are the employers and so it is right they should lead the process with support from independent legally qualified panel member/s. Not only will this streamline the process, but it will ensure the swift and effective removal of anyone who does not meet the high standards our communities deserve.”

Responding to the plans, Ellie Butt, Head of Policy Public Affairs and Research said that Refuge welcomes the Home Secretary’s announcement today that police officers and staff found guilty of gross misconduct will face automatic dismissal. She added:

“This would be the default policy in any other profession, and it is only right that this is the case for policing when the public’s protection relies on it. It is startling that it has taken a string of atrocious high-profile crimes committed by serving officers against women for this change to be made.

For too long corrupt officers have been serving in the force with police chiefs saying they do not have the power to dismiss them. These changes give police chiefs the power to root out corrupt officers and with this power they must ensure that instead of closing ranks and protecting their own that they are committed to overhauling the culture, supporting survivors and re-establishing public confidence in the police by removing predatory police officers and staff who should not be there.”

She added that she would “like to see the police give clear guidelines as to what accounts for gross misconduct and ensure that all VAWG (violence against women and girls) is included and specified in this guidance”. Ellie continued:

“We would also like to see these changes go much further to root out abusers at an earlier stage.

Refuge is particularly concerned that accused perpetrators of VAWG continue to work in roles that involve women and girls, including domestic abuse and sexual violence survivors, while awaiting the outcome of misconduct investigations. We are calling on the Government to introduce immediate suspension of all police officers and staff accused of Violence Against Women and Girls, pending the outcome of an investigation. More needs to be done at an earlier stage to stop these huge abuses of power and improve trust in the police so that women and girls can come forward with confidence.”

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