Oral statement to Parliament

Home Secretary on police reform

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Home Secretary Theresa May outlines measures to improve standards of police integrity.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

Thank you Mr Speaker. With permission, I would like to make a statement about our ongoing work to ensure the highest standards of integrity in the police.

I have always been clear that I believe the vast majority of police officers in this country do their job honestly, and with integrity. They fight crime in our villages, our towns and cities. They deal with dangerous criminals. They strive to protect the vulnerable and keep our streets safe. And they have shown that they can cut crime even as we cut spending. Under this government, crime is down is down by more than 10% since the election – proving that it is possible to do more with less.

But as I have said before, the good work of the majority threatens to be damaged by a continuing series of events and revelations relating to police conduct.

That’s why over the last eighteen months, the government has been implementing a series of changes to improve standards of police integrity.

The College of Policing has published a new Code of Ethics, which makes clear the high standards of behaviour expected from all police officers.

A national list of chief officers’ pay and rewards, gifts and hospitality is now published online, and the final list of business interests will be published for the first time later this summer.

A national register of officers struck off from the police has been produced and made available to vetting and anti-corruption officers in police forces. And the government will legislate later this year to ensure that officers cannot resign or retire to avoid dismissal in misconduct hearings.

And we have beefed up the Independent Police Complaints Commission so that in future it can take on all serious and sensitive cases involving the police.

In addition to these specific measures, many of our other police reforms – the creation of the College of Policing, direct entry into the senior ranks, the election of Police and Crime Commissioners, the changes to Inspectorate of Constabulary – will make a positive difference when it comes to police integrity.

Since I began the government’s programme of work to improve public confidence in the police, further events and revelations have reinforced the need for reform.

We have had reports on the misuse of stop and search, and the poor police response to domestic violence.

We’ve had the findings of the Ellison Review which examined allegations of corruption during the initial, deeply flawed investigation of the murder of Stephen Lawrence.

And we’ve had Sir David Normington’s review into the Police Federation which recommended change from “top to bottom”.

Police Leadership

Mr Speaker, the measures we have introduced are vital. But we cannot stop there, so I want to tell the House about my plans for further change.

I want to open up policing to the brightest and best recruits. The government has already introduced direct entry to open up the senior ranks of the police and bring in people with new perspectives and expertise. In London, the Metropolitan Police received 595 applications for between 5 and 10 direct entry superintendent posts. 26% of the applicants were from a black or minority ethnic background compared to around 8.6% of traditional recruits, and 27% were female.

In addition, using seed funding I announced at the Police Federation conference in May, the Metropolitan Police is setting up Police Now, the policing equivalent of Teach First, which will attract the brightest graduates into policing.

But I want to go further. The College of Policing will undertake a fundamental review of police leadership. The Review will look at how we can go further and faster with direct entry, how we can encourage officers to gain experience outside policing before returning later in life, and how we can open up the senior ranks to candidates from different backgrounds. The review will start immediately.

Review of the Police Disciplinary System

In addition to these reforms, I also want to ensure that the systems and processes that deal with misconduct by police officers are robust.

That means where there are cases of wrongdoing they must be dealt with effectively, and where necessary, appropriate disciplinary action must be taken.

In March I announced I would be creating a new offence of police corruption through the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill.

But this alone is not enough. The police disciplinary system is complex. It has developed organically rather than been structured to fit its purpose. It lacks transparency for the public, it is bureaucratic and it lacks independence.

So today I can tell the House that we will be reviewing the whole police disciplinary system from beginning to end. This review will be chaired by Major General Clive Chapman, an experienced, independent and respected former army officer and I want it to draw on best practice from the private and public sectors.

I have asked Major General Chapman to look for ways to ensure that the disciplinary system is clearer, more independent and public-focused. I intend to consult publicly on the policies that emerge from the review later this year.

In addition to the review, I want to make some specific changes to the police disciplinary system. In particular I want to hold disciplinary hearings in public to improve transparency and justice. And I will launch a public consultation on these proposals later this year.

Whistleblowing

Mr Speaker, in my statement on the Ellison Review on the 6th March, I said I would return to the House with proposals to strengthen protections for police whistleblowers.

Police officers and staff need to know that they can come forward in complete confidence to report wrongdoing by their colleagues.

So the government will create a single national policy for police forces on whistleblowing to replace the current patchwork approach. This will set out the best principles and practices on whistleblowing, and ensure consistency of approach across all forces. And, following the publication of HMIC’s integrity inspection, I am prepared to consider putting the whistleblowers’ code on a statutory basis.

We will also require forces to publish more information on the number of conduct issues raised by officers and the action taken as a result. From 2015 onwards, the Home Office will collect and publish data about conduct and complaints brought by police officers and police staff about their colleagues.

But I still want to go further.

So in the autumn, I will launch a public consultation on police whistleblowing. The consultation will look at a range of new proposals to protect police whistleblowers. For example, I want to consider how we can introduce sealed investigations – which prevent both the force and suspects from learning that an investigation is taking place – into serious misconduct and corruption by police officers.

Police Complaints System and IPCC

Mr Speaker, I also want to take an in depth look at the police complaints system.

Last year I announced reforms to the IPCC to ensure that all serious and sensitive cases are dealt with by the IPCC. This included the transfer of resources from the police to the IPCC and measures to ensure that the IPCC has the right capacity to deal with demand.

As I told the College of Policing conference in October, this work is on track and the IPCC will begin to take on additional cases this year. But now is the time to build on those reforms.

Public satisfaction surveys on the handling of complaints show that satisfaction levels remain consistently low. According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales less than a quarter of those who complain to the police are satisfied with the outcome of their complaint.

The overall number of complaints being handled independently is still far too low. This year, a review undertaken by Deborah Glass, the former Deputy Chair of the IPCC, found that 94 per cent of cases referred to the IPCC in 2012 were referred back to be dealt with by the police.

And Police and Crime Commissioners are locally developing new and innovative approaches to police complaints. In Thames Valley, Anthony Stansfeld has announced a Complaints, Integrity and Ethics Committee to provide scrutiny of how the force handles complaints. In Greater Manchester, Tony Lloyd, has appointed an independent complaints ombudsman to resolve complaints before they become part of the complaints system.

We need the police complaints system to keep up with the changes we’ve seen in police structures, to reflect the changes made locally by PCCs and chief constables, and to meet public expectations.

So today I will launch a review of the entire police complaints system, including the role, powers and funding of the IPCC and the local role played by Police and Crime Commissioners. The review will look at the complaints system from end to end, examining the process every step of the way and for all complaints from the most minor to the most serious.

The review will commence immediately and conclude in the autumn this year. It will include a public consultation on proposals for a system that is more independent of the police, easier for the public to follow, more focused on resolving complaints locally, and that has a simpler system of appeals.

Highest standards

Mr Speaker, the measures I have announced today will ensure that we are able to examine the entire approach to cases of misconduct, improper behaviour and corruption.

But in working to ensure the highest standards of police integrity, I want to leave no stone unturned.

This year I commissioned Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary to carry out a review of anti-corruption capability in police forces. HMIC are also carrying out an inspection of police integrity as part of their planned programme of inspections for 2014-2015.

In addition, I have agreed with the Chief Inspector that HMIC’s new programme of annual inspections of all police forces – which will begin later this year – will look not only at a force’s effectiveness and efficiency, but also at its legitimacy in the eyes of the public. Every annual inspection will therefore include an examination of whether each force’s officers and staff act with integrity.

Mr Speaker, together these measures represent a substantial overhaul of the systems that hold police officers to account. They will build on our radical programme of police reform. And they will help to ensure that police honesty and integrity are protected, and corruption and misconduct rooted out. That is what the public and the many thousands of decent, dedicated and hardworking police officers of this country deserve.

And so I commend this statement to the House.

Published 22 July 2014