High professional standards matter
As part of my ongoing work to monitor complaints against Essex Police, I am now publishing details of conduct matters for the six months to the end of March 2014.
Lindsay Whitehouse, the Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, has been working with Essex Police to produce a quarterly document which can be placed in the public domain in its entirety, without any risk of jeopardising ongoing investigations or proceedings, and which protects the welfare of individual parties, most especially victims.
The quarterly Complaints and Misconduct report for October – December 2013, and the report covering the period from January – March 2014, can be read or downloaded from the links below:
On December 1st, 2013, the College of Policing created a “Disapproved Register” of all officers who have resigned whilst facing gross misconduct charges or been dismissed for gross misconduct. The “Disapproved Register” ensures that these individuals cannot become police officers in other forces, and is similar to the concept of a doctor being “struck off” from the Medical Register. The quarterly Complaints and Misconduct reports identify cases where Essex Police has ensured that a former officer’s details are added to the College of Policing’s “Disapproved Register”. I welcome this important step.
I am very conscious that police officers, PCSOs and police staff are currently working tirelessly to investigate the murders of James Attfield and Nahid Almanea, and to keep both Colchester and all the communities of Essex safe. Many officers and PCSOs are working back-to-back 12 hour shifts, day after day. They deserve our respect, our support and our thanks.
I have yet to speak to a member of Essex Police who does not believe high professional standards matter. The vast majority of police officers, PCSOs and police staff feel that acts of misconduct, or those even more rare acts of criminality, performed by their colleagues let down everyone in the force.
It is not my role to intervene in the disciplinary process. It is my role to ensure that Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh operates the disciplinary process fairly, consistently and ultimately with the interests of the Essex public, whom officers serve every day, at its heart.
I expect the Chief Constable to support his officers and staff as day by day they exercise discretion, often in very difficult circumstances, to keep the people of Essex safe and to deal with offenders in a way that makes it least likely that subsequently they will reoffend. When Essex police officers and staff do their best and act in accordance with their training, with integrity, and with compassion, they should expect and will receive support. Where this does not happen, I expect there to be a fair but rigorous disciplinary process.
In reviewing the quarterly reports, I am aware that several of the cases involved inappropriate access to police systems. It is essential that police officers, PCSOs and staff understand that there must be a legitimate policing purpose before police systems are accessed or searched, especially if we are to retain public confidence in policing.
I also note that some of the cases involved inappropriate contact with victims or witnesses. This is a matter that I will continue to raise with Chief Officers. Police officers, PCSOs and police staff regularly come into contact with individuals who are in a vulnerable condition. Police officers are figures of authority. They and their colleagues must act responsibly and professionally at all times, and never abuse that vulnerability.
I am publishing these reports as part of my commitment, as Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex, to openness and transparency. In the past, some of these cases would never have become known to the public, and I am aware that there may be public shock and disappointment at some of the details. I would ask everyone to remember that, including police officers, PCSOs, police staff and Special Constables, almost 6,000 people work for Essex Police, and there are hundreds of thousands of interactions between the public and the force, often in difficult circumstances, every year.
Mistakes and errors of judgement occur in every organisation. The test of an organisation is how it deals with misconduct. Both Chief Constable Kavanagh and I are committed to ensuring that the culture of Essex Police is one where everyone understands the critical importance of high professional standards, and constantly strives to deliver the best possible service to the people of Essex.
Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex