Referrals to police watchdog nearly double since damning Casey Review into the Met

31 January 2024, 14:26 | Updated: 31 January 2024, 17:28

The police watchdog has said its case load has increased dramatically
The police watchdog has said its case load has increased dramatically. Picture: Alamy

By Fraser Knight

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is on track to receive 7,000 referrals from forces this year, despite only having the capacity to carry out 300 investigations.

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Following the damning review by Baroness Louise Casey into the Metropolitan Police, the watchdog says their workload - alongside internal police standards teams - has increased drastically.

In 2018/19 the IOPC received around 4,000 referrals to be considered, looking at potential criminal activity or misconduct by police officers and staff.

Senior figures in the office say they’re having to make difficult decisions about which complaints to pursue based on which ones ‘would benefit most from an independent investigation’.

A spokesperson for the watchdog said: “This figure has risen significantly in recent years and is 25 percent higher than 12 months ago. This has placed additional demands on our staff as well as police professional standards departments.

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“The IOPC currently has capacity to take on around 300 independent investigations a year. This has reduced over the last few years for several reasons. Like many public services, we have faced real term budget cuts and must focus our reduced resources where our work will have the greatest impact.

“As a result, we are concentrating our work on areas where independent investigation will have the most impact on maintaining public confidence in policing. This means we are taking on increasingly complex investigations, with higher volumes of digital evidence and where we may be required to provide support for vulnerable witnesses.”

“We would like to be able to do more and have been clear with the Home Office about the pressures the IOPC and forces are facing, and the impact this has on public confidence.”

A lack of resources and inflationary wage pressures are said to have contributed to the squeeze on the number of investigations taken on by the IOPC with one senior source telling LBC they’ve asked the Home Office ‘multiple times’ for more money.

They’ve said thousands of cases are instead being sent back to police forces to carry out their own internal investigations, with the Met Police’s professional standards team alone having more staff members than the IOPC has.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "The public put their trust in the police and we expect them to carry out their duties to the highest professional standards. We have taken steps to improve the culture within policing and raise standards across the board, including strengthening vetting standards and establishing the Angiolini Inquiry to uncover any systemic issues in policing."

"We are actively working with the IOPC on its funding requirements to ensure it can deliver its core functions."

On Tuesday, an IOPC investigation was opened into a fatal shooting in south-east London, where officers shot dead a 30-year-old man thought to have been armed with crossbows, a knife, sword and hatchet.

It’s the 29th fatal shooting by a police officer in the UK in the past decade with only four officers being treated as subjects of an investigation and one criminal charge having been brought as a result.

NX121, as he’s known, is now awaiting trial for murder after the killing of Chris Kaba in Streatham Hill, South London in 2022.

Fatal shootings by police officers require a mandatory referral to the IOPC meaning they will be immediately investigated.

A row has erupted about the length of investigations, though, with calls for a much quicker process of gathering evidence and prosecutors deciding whether charges should be brought.

The unease among armed officers led dozens of them to step back and reflect on their duties, sparking the Home Office to order an accountability review which is expected to report back in the coming weeks.

Chief Constable Simon Chesterman, who leads on armed policing for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, previously said he’d “never known anything like the current situation”.

“The pendulum has swung too far against armed officers in the decision making,” he said.

“They are more at jeopardy, and they are feeling very vulnerable. We could be sleepwalking into mandating that officers carry firearms.

“There are quite a lot of officers around the country considering their position and are waiting to see the outcome of the accountability review.”

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