A change is as good as arrest

Today I tweeted that I believe it’s time for PSD/DPS departments to be disbanded. I said they rarely support the public in a positive way and that they frequently damage officer’s touched by their ‘investigations’. They are not trusted from within or without the organisation and frankly they are very poor value for money. It amazes me that the press in particular have not picked up on the broken bridge that is Professional Standards. Steve Evans, from the Police Federation rightly called me put on my sweeping statement. He asked what I suggested should replace PSD. So, not being one for empty words, this is my reply to you Steve.

Currently, PSD investigate individual wrongdoing. They actively look for misdemeanours and corruption. They are a conduit for Police Discipline. Everything about them is negative. Much of what the public complain about – or want to complain about but don’t – is not due to individual wrongdoing. It is due to skewed practices or unintended consequences. Disciplining an individual officer changes nothing but frequently reinforces negativity in other officers.

What is needed now is a department that looks at good practice and poor practice. It reports back ways to improve poor procedures, thereby better protecting the public as well as Officers and it communicates findings of good practice so others can learn and improve on the back of current successes. Officers communicate with a flexible, positive department which aims to support and improve their work rather than merely punish their mistakes.

The public would be able to report good and bad experiences to one department. The emphasis on communication rather then complaint. I believe that a reinvigoration with more positive actions and a wider view to making improvements rather than simply punishing or preventing
individual issues would be a change worth making and would be far more cost effective than  current arrangements.

What do you think? Please start a conversation in the comments. It’s a hugely important area and I think it’s overlooked.

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23 Responses to A change is as good as arrest

  1. PrincessofVP says:

    Speaking from personal experience, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a less professional and more incompetent department (in any walk of life) than the DPS.

    As a member of the public, they have failed me more whilst instilling such a massive sense of distrust that I find it difficult to support the police. Yet I know this is beyond individual officers and much more down to workloads, lack of knowledge/training, learnt processes etc. Well, that or a massive coincidence that every DPS officer bar two I have dealt with (numbered 12 and counting) has been appalling at their job.

    Whilst going to the IPCC helped to some degree, it has not helped address these issues within the police. I don’t see that lessons are learnt and, as such, I don’t see that the DPS or the IPCC, as they are, help the police to be better at what they do. And that surely is what they should be there for?

  2. Rachel Rogers says:

    I have no direct experience of police professional standards departments, though anecdotal evidence suggests that quality thereof varies wildly between forces. However, the model you suggest – where a single department receives feedback from the public in the form on comment, compliment and complaint – would mirror that which already exists in several local authorities, and particularly in children’s services. The model requires a maturity of approach and a leadership which is confident enough to celebrate its successes while addressing its weaknesses in an open and transparent manner. A challenge to rise to.

  3. Mel Dawson says:

    In my experience the problem is that those within PSD do not follow evidence or fact to investigate complaints. I’m sure their actions depend on the individual case and its potential impact on force reputation etc however, as a member of the public, in my particular case the problem was simply dishonesty. Both from the officers involved in the case I made complaint about and subsequently PSD and senior officer rank too.
    In my opinion, no matter what system is used, it can only be effective if those tasked to deal with complaints have the integrity to look for the truth and deal with the complaint in a fair and proper manner.
    It is also vital that the leaders who have oversight of PSD departments do not allow dishonesty and cover up situations.
    Three years ago I would not have believed some of the claims made against police and I have no doubt that some of the claims may have no substance, It is a sad fact that the police are losing trust and respect because of dishonesty and corruption in a number of cases, but making this worse is the fact that the people dealing with these cases (PSD) are sometimes as dishonest and corrupt as those they are supposed to be investigating.

  4. Paul says:

    Dyfedpowysfed – not an easy one this! Allegations of police wrong doing need to be looked at, everybody would agree that. I believe that PSD’s have a hang over from the mid to late 80’s when they were seen as a law unto themselves and did not serve the public well or the police officers themselves. They are in desperate need of rebranding! They also tend to be CID orientated officers who struggle to distinguish between a misconduct only investigation and a criminal investigation. They are as distinct as rugby union and rugby league. Similar in many ways yet fundamentally different.
    When wrong doing is identified or a complaint is made I believe there should be an assessment made by a panel of three involving people with PSD background, Fed background and HR background. A genuine assessment can be made to see where the issue sits (criminal, gross misconduct, misconduct, performance, grievance, local resolution etc). If it’s any of the first 3 then it’s looked at by PSD (who by now will have been renamed and rebranded!), if it’s performance and grievance then it goes down that route with supervisors (fully admitting that training is required here!). If it is to be locally resolved, it is always better done by a local supervisor in any case so refer back to station.
    This I believe could be a starting point for improving the system which at present is not great. Anyway just a few bed time thoughts. It’s not perfect but it’s a point of discussion. Au revoir!

  5. Pingback: A Complaint About Complaints | Nathan Constable

  6. Ian Pointon - Chairman Kent Police Federation. says:

    I write this having been a trained and active “friend” for about 20 years.
    I suspect that PSDs vary geatly from force to force – that’s certainly the impression I get from national meetings for discipline leads. The comments in the blog are rather sweeping and seem to condemn all PSDs, something we would not accept if applied to any other department in policing.
    We have an excellent working relationship with our PSD in Kent, but that’s not always been the case and can depend on personalities. You have to work at it but it is important to have that relationship, especially for the officer being investigated. Do PSDs always get it right? No, of course they don’t because human beings are involved with all the attendant frailities that involves. I do think that PSDs are in an unenviable position trying to establish the facts often between two polarised versions of the events. In reality they are never going to please both parties.
    In the main our PSD does investgate the facts or the incident as opposed to “prosecuting” the individual officer. I don’t accpet they just look to lay blame on an individual. They do look for learning for both individuals and the organisation. It often assists if an officer can recognise learning during the interview process. However, I do believe that in some high profile cases professional and emotional investment can seem to skew an investigation.
    We have an officer profiling process that identifies those who attract larger than average numbers of complaints and the trend of those complaints. The purpose is to change those officers’ behaviour through development as opposed to applying blame. I see that as a positive.
    Let’s be frank, PSDs do identify officers who shouldn’t be in the job, and they have to be dealt with for the good of both their colleagues and the public.
    I do believe it would be helpful if lower level complaints could be dealt with more quickly but with shrinking resources that proves increasingly difficult.
    In conclusion, the blog’s decription of a PSD is one that I do not recognise in my own force. As I stated at the beginning though, I do accept this will vary from force to force. I do think that working in PSD can be something of a thankless task – too often damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

  7. As the founder of the Independent Police Support Group, I have raised many complaints on behalf of clients to the National Poluce Federation concerning the conduct of pikuce federation representatives who have acquiesced in the unethical and often illegal practices of PSDs.
    Having dealt with many forces since our group began in 2004, my experience is that institutional corruption is a common feature of PSDs.
    Federaration representatives who have had the courage to challenge the corruption, usually at higher levels have been victimised and not been supported by the police federation. We are involved in one case where 2 fed reps were made ill, one contemplated suicide and the other self harmed.
    Often we have to assist officers in obtaining a police federation representative from another force as they have lost confidence in their own federation.
    I would disagree with Mr Pointon’s assessment of his own PSD as we have raised concerns regarding their conduct in a dismissal case where we attended in a Mackenzie Friend role at an appeal tribunal. We are also in posession of a letter sent from a member of SOCA to the Cjief Constable in Kent raising similar concerns.
    Our view from 10 years of exoerience dealing with PSDs and over 180 years of combined police exoerience of our core team is that PSDs should be disbanded and innvestigations conducted by a separate organisation.
    As a support group we also have concerns regarding police suicide and believe that the conduct of PSDs in some cases has been a contributibg factor. We have attended an inquest in the Met Police concerning a police dog handler who hung himself and although the coronor made recommendations, we still see similar conduct by PSDs who are unnacountable.
    when we have been able to have conduct matters substantiated against PSD officers, the usual sanction is management advice when any other officer or member of the public would most likely have been charged and appear in court due to the serious nature of the alegations.
    Further examples will be highlighted in due course which cannot be discussed at this stsge due to ongoing legal proceedings.

  8. I am also one of the founding members of the IPSG. I was recently blocked on twitter by the chair of Hampshire police federation. We had reported to him that one of his fed reps had been threatened and intimidated by the Chief Constable because whilst he was supporting a colleague he was challenging the illegal practices of PSD. Perhaps easier to shut us out than deal with issue which may have fallen into the too difficult tray.

    • CSTruthful says:

      I totally agree with the consensus that psd’s are unfit for purpose and should be disbanded and an alternative sought which actually demonstrates fairness, proportionality, honesty, integrity & transparency.
      PSD are part of the problem, SMT are the other part as they are well aware of the practices used by PSD and collude with them in order to manipulate the desired outcome.
      As already stated in a previous comment, forces are more interested in their reputation and if an officer is charged with an offence then the force/PSD do everything they can to dismiss the officer prior to the case getting to court.
      None of my accusations are unevidenced, PSD divulge personal information during their investigations & deliberately rely on companies lack of knowledge of the data protection act and therefore obtain information illegally. In some cases they are not entitled to the information but threaten a production order to scare people into giving the info over to them.
      Once someone in PSD forms the often unsubstantiated opinion that an officer is a ‘bad apple’ then the officer doesn’t stand much chance. Officers will receive the harshest of sanctions for the most trivial of breaches and SMT collude with PSD while deliberating the outcome in order to justify the outcome. When you appeal the decision, the police force actually stated to the officer that the decision was being upheld as the officer had an exemplary record & ‘should have known better’!
      Psd’s also don’t follow regs & attempt to introduce new evidence at misconduct hearings and SMT’s don’t follow regs at them either with the outcome already decided by them & PSD before a hearing even starts.
      PSD are there to do a job and quite rightly, rougue officers need to be dismissed but they have their priorities wrong. Officers are targeted & PSD make it personal, often based on their personal opinion rather than facts.
      SMT encourage their practices or passively condone it by doing nothing. PSD make so many excellent committed officers bitter & resentful as do SMT by their indifference to their methods.
      SMT need to do their job properly, one DCC swept a grievance under the carpet in which 5(five) separate officers evidenced bullying by a Sgt, it should have been referred to PSD, this just reinforces the distrust between PC’s & SMT.
      Forces destroy so many lives but never learn when an officer is reinstated by a Police Appeal Tribunal. Change is long overdue & needed in the interests of officers & the public.

  9. Wouldn’t it be nice if DPS/PSDs also went after those who were found to have made false/vexatious etc complaints about officers? And I’m talking with the same rabid fervour they do with regards to officers.

    • catemoore says:

      There’s a very good case to be made for DPS/PSDs to become a far more balanced department. They should be seeking out best practice, supporting where things go wrong (including dealing with vexatious complainants) & bridging public/police/senior officer gaps. Imo. I’m told some Forces are leaning this way now but I’ve seen nothing so far.

      • neither have i. in my experience, false allegations against police are generally just shrugged off with a ‘well, be happy you got off with that one’ kind of attitude. just another nail in the ‘why do i put up with this shit’ coffin…

  10. Mel Dawson says:

    Based on my own experience as a MOP and reading the opinions of many police officers, it seems that PSD’s and indeed the whole police complaints process is a complete shambles. Is it too much to expect a system and a group of people charged with running that system, which is intended for the purpose of establishing the truth to do just that?
    I have no doubt that many complaints / allegations are vexatious and unfounded in the same way that many are totally genuine and justified. The problem seems to be that regardless of the truth, facts or evidence, outcomes are engineered to protect force reputation.
    No consideration is given to the impact on individuals involved, police or public. But what makes the whole thing worse is that these outcomes are rubber stamped by senior officers who supposedly carry out reviews of investigations / outcomes.
    I see many claims that things are changing for the better but the reality is that nothing is changing.
    I find it difficult to believe that senior officers who one would expect to have enough experience and integrity to know when an outcome is not based on fact or evidence, lack leadership in not correcting practices.

    • Mel, if I may butt in, I couldn’t agree more. In the last 2 years I have read and heard more abject horror in relation to Professional Standards than I ever did when I was serving.. Nobody ever liked them, that goes without saying, but I truly believe that they were a more balanced, and fairer department 10 years ago than they seem to be now, and some of their conduct (if true) would appear to be Criminal. This does nothing for the confidence of the Public or the Service, and there is no place for it in Policing of any era, never mind the current one.

      • Mel Dawson says:

        I can’t claim to have any idea how things were 10 years ago as my experience as a MOP is ongoing now for just over 2 years. I can assure you that some of the conduct you hear about will definately be true, but to be fair, I would hope that anyone making such claims against police or PSD will be in a position to evidence or reasonably demonstrate their claims.
        I can only make informed comment based on my own experience of PSD and indeed the senior officers acting as the Appropriate Authority above them.
        I often see comments from police folk directed at people who have complaint against police, discribing then as anti police, biased, deluded, vexatious or even f**kwits. Maybe this is true in some cases but to make such comments about individual cases without knowing the grievance does not help the police cause. In fact for from being anti police or anything else, I fully support the majority of honest, hard working officers. I am however 110% anti dishonest or corrupt police, much the same as many officers will be.
        It would make a huge difference to police / public relations and to the morale of officers, if those in PSD and Appropriate Authority positions were to grow a pair, be honest and clean up the mess that benefits no one, either police officers or public.
        Too many people with heads in the sand for the sake of force reputation rather than what is right or wrong.

      • I don’t think I could disagree with a single word, except to point out that vexatious f***wits do exist. I once lost a Burglary case at Crown Court because the ‘Burglar’ made a complaint against me, alleging that I had systematically broken his fingers one by one until he confessed. He succeeded in convincing the Jury, despite the fact that he had been seen by the Police Surgeon, was treated in hospital and all recorded before I ever got to see him. Having successfully hoodwinked the Jury he withdrew his complaint the moment he was acquitted. I was not impressed, but those are the sort of things that happen when the Suspect can’t challenge the evidence, they have to attack Procedure or the integrity of the officer, with no comeback.

    • spot on, including your point re ‘force reputation’. all i’d add is that outcomes against officers are judged against a very low ‘3/10’ balance of probabilities burden of proof (he/she probably did it, even if we can’t prove it) whereby proven false and vexatious allegations, in my experience, are never followed up. it’s not fair and ultimately leads to weak policing, which isn’t to any decent person’s advantage.

      • Any Professional Standards department worthy of the name should be equally happy to DISPROVE an allegation and publish those figures too

      • … and deal appropriately with the false allegation.

      • Mel Dawson says:

        I agree, whatever the case may be, honesty and fairness must be applied and outcome must demonstrate an unbiased investigation to allegations.
        I could be wrong but i get the impression that PSD and above make sacrifices of some officers for what could amount to minor breaches whether proven or not, in order to cover up the more serious and potentially more damaging cases of dishonesty and or corruption.

  11. The important nature of the work requires a thorough investigation. If this is not done then the complainant or the police officer (or both) will lose out. If you work to lower burdens of proof you will get a lower quality of investigation. Good detectives always keep in mind the fact that the person everyone thinks has done it might not have. I don’t want to make sweeping statements but in my experience the lack of balance is a real concern. PSD should search for the truth but frequently stop at the ‘ they probably did it stage’ which is all that a Misconduct Panel requires.

  12. Felix Hammond says:

    Some very good and balanced comments raised above. ‘Professional Standards’ excesses are an all too common theme and are on the increase. There is compelling evidence in support of claims PSD staff act criminally and set out to persecute rather than investigate officers. Their own alleged wrongdoing is rarely (if ever) investigated.

    The methods used by many PSDs is reminiscent of those used by corrupt police departments in the 70s and 80s. History informs us that those practices resulted in miscarriages of justice and subsequent changes in the law. Judges rules were abolished and PACE introduced. PSDs (in my opinion) are benefiting from a lack of exposure. By that I mean a wrongly sacked officer is not going to generate the publicity that public high profile cases receive. This state of affairs allows rogue PSDs to continue without sanction.

    Chief Officer teams turn a blind eye to the corrupt working practices of their PSDs. Those Chiefs should also be held to account for wilfully ignoring well evidenced concerns raised by officers, Staff Associations, Police Federation or members of the legal profession. When did you last read or hear about a PSD officer being criminally investigated? It is more likely they will be moved sideways quietly to avoid a scandal. PSDs exist to protect the reputation of the force.

    PSD corruption will eventually receive the attention and scrutiny it deserves. It will require lobbying by the Police Federation, Councillors and MPs whose constituents (members or the public as well as police officers) are affected by the scourge of corruption.

    Officers should expose PSD corruption openly (or via other means). Investigative journalists should be provided with material where all genuine efforts to expose corruption are ignored.

    A change is needed in the interests of justice.

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