Is the big question, are the IPCC fit for purpose?
The recent and continuing furore over the outcome of the misconduct investigation into three Police Federation officials and their meeting with Andrew Mitchell MP has once again put policing under a negative spotlight. However, the bigger questions should surely focus on the action, or more appropriately lack of action, by the IPCC.
It would appear, from a statement released by West Mercia, Warwickshire & West Midlands Police, the IPCC were invited to conduct an independent investigation into this affair.
"This has the potential to be a high profile investigation. There is also potential for the impartiality of the police investigation to be questioned. It is the view of the Appropriate Authority that the IPCC should be given the opportunity to conduct an independent investigation or as a minimum supervise the investigation."
The IPCC chose not to do so but instead chose to supervise the investigation throughout. I suspect it was obvious to a blind man on a galloping horse that this investigation would be extremely high profile and sensitive. It was obvious to the police that such an investigation needed to be independent; they asked for it. So why didn't the IPCC undertake an independent investigation? The IPCC either had sound reasons or they displayed poor judgement of breath taking proportions. If it is the former they should publicly reveal their rationale. If it's the latter then heads should roll.
At the conclusion of the investigation the IPCC had two choices. Either they accepted the findings or they should have directed the police forces to hold misconduct hearings for the three officers. They clearly don't concur with the findings so why haven't they directed the forces to hold misconduct hearings. ? If the IPCC has sound reasons for not directing a hearing then they should publicly reveal their rationale. If they didn't think to do so then once again heads should roll.
Instead of exercising their powers, the IPCC appears to have chosen to turn this into a media circus. It has publicly disagreed with the police forces' findings and subjected the three officers to trail by media, a forum where they are publicly pilloried without any right to reply. If the IPCC feels the officers have a case to answer then they should have exercised their powers & directed the police forces to hold misconduct hearings.
The Home Affairs Select Committee is calling for evidence into the outcome of this inquiry. I suggest that top of their list should be the Chair and Deputy Chair of the IPCC. Why didn't they conduct an independent inquiry? Why didn't they direct the forces to hold misconduct hearings? Why have they chosen to play this out in the media instead of exercising their powers?
Such questions must go to the heart of both police officer and public confidence in the IPCC; they must go to the heart of whether they are fit for purpose.