The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has been launched by the Home Office to replace the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), the established police watchdog. According to the Government, new leadership under a director general will mean speedier decision-making with a new Board put in place to ensure greater accountability to the public.
This is the latest move in the Home Office’s programme of reforms specifically designed to strengthen the organisation and will lead to new powers. The new single executive head will ensure clear lines of accountability and a streamlined decision-making process.
As well as these changes, the Policing and Crime Act 2017 includes further provisions which will increase the IOPC’s powers, clarify its investigative processes and further safeguard its independence.
The major reforms were announced by Prime Minister Theresa May during her time as Home Secretary and these powers will allow the IOPC to initiate its own investigations without relying on a given police force to record and refer a particular case for investigation, re-open cases it has closed where there are compelling reasons for doing so (such as the emergence of new evidence), increase the IOPC’s independence from the police by abolishing ‘managed’ and ‘supervised’ investigations, investigate all disciplinary investigations against chief officers and present cases against officers in the police disciplinary process when the force disagrees with the IOPC’s findings.
Nick Hurd, Minister for Policing and the Fire Service, stated: “We’re absolutely determined to make the police complaints and discipline systems simpler and more transparent for the benefit of the public. We want confidence in policing to continue to grow and be underpinned by the vital role the reformed IOPC will play. Under the leadership of Michael Lockwood and the newly-appointed Board, the IOPC will provide powerful scrutiny for policing, with new powers to begin investigations when deemed appropriate and added decisiveness in concluding cases.”
Michael Lockwood, the new director general of the IOPC, explained: “Public confidence in policing is best served by robust and independent oversight. People need to know that, when things go wrong or serious allegations are made about police officers, those allegations will be thoroughly investigated by a truly independent body. That’s the role of the IOPC. It’s crucial work, and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
Like the IPCC before it, the IOPC will continue to investigate the most serious and sensitive matters involving the police, including deaths and serious injuries as well as matters such as allegations of corruption. It will also oversee the police complaints system in England and Wales and set the standards by which complaints should be handled by the police service.
The Home Office has announced the appointment of new Board members Geoffrey Podger (senior independent director) and Manjit Gill, Catherine Jervis, Mary Lines, Andrew Harvey and Bill Matthews as non-executive directors.
The non-executive directors will form the majority of the new Board and provide independent support and challenge to the director general as well as oversight of the overall running of the organisation.