I have submitted the following for the Public Questions / Statements agenda item of the Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Panel meeting on the 9th of November 2016:
I would like to suggest the panel looks into the arrangements surrounding police misconduct hearings.
The notice for the misconduct hearing which started on the 31st of October 2016 contained no information about how to apply to attend the hearing, or “details of exclusions of attendance condition”s. The force’s published information* states that such information will be included on all notices. Without such information being included on the notice I cannot see how the hearing can have been considered to have been held in public. I publicly raised my concerns** about the omission from the notice with the police force and Police and Crime Commissioner in good time for it to be corrected but I received no response and no action was taken.
Many of the notices of hearings published to-date have not detailed the conduct that was the subject matter of the case. Allegations have been described in vague terms for example merely: “breached professional standards“*** without any further details given.
Cambridgeshire police have adopted a practice of removing notices of hearings from their website shortly after they have been published.
Notices of hearings are published on a page deep on the force website and are not routinely included in the force “news” listings, or publicised on social media.
The published material does not give me confidence that notices of hearings relating to officers from other forces routinely working in Cambridgeshire as part of collaboration arrangements would be publicised in Cambridgeshire.
The misconduct hearing outcomes reports are vague, anonomised, and appear inconsistent with the statistics published on the College of Policing’s “Disapproved Register”. ****
The force, under the Police and Crime Commissioner, appear to have adopted a policy of minimal openness and transparency. The restrictions on public access and reporting at hearings appear massively excessive.
Names of hearing chairs are not publicised, and are not included on notices of hearings, this means people can’t identify which chairs are failing to run accessible, public hearings, and can’t lobby the Police and Crime Commissioner to remove them from the Commissioners’ list of nominated chairs.
I am disappointed that the public hearing process is not yet being extended to cover those police complaints which it would be appropriate to deal with via such a process.
I think public hearings, if embraced, have the potential to improve confidence in policing. Current practice in Cambridgeshire in my opinion makes the police look secretive and unwilling to operate a policy which is in line with the spirit of the law.
I have observed the Police and Crime Panel often discuss matters without focusing and concluding their discussion with clear recommendations to the Police and Crime Commissioner. In relation to this matter, following consideration, the Police and Crime Panel could for example recommend the Police and Crime Commissioner:
- Reviews the arrangements for misconduct hearings which have taken place to-date and removes those chairs who have not made suitably transparent or legally compliant arrangements from the list of potential future chairs (or writes to them with a warning).
- Makes clear to panel chairs the intent of the law, and sets out a clear expectation the hearings will be run
asopenly and transparently; and reminds chairs to include information on public attendance in notices of hearings.
- Removes the onerous requirements for pre-registration, and photo-ID for attendees.
- Sets clear, consistent, rules permitting live text reporting from hearings, and allowing use of electronic devices including mobile phones in a non-disruptive manner.
- Encourages reporting at hearings including by use use of video and sound recording and photography; to bring proceedings to a wider audience and improve the quality of reporting and also encourages the police, and Police and Crime Commissioner’s communications staff to report, via official channels, on hearings.
- Requires chairs to include details of the alleged misconduct in hearing notices, and sets out the minimum requirements of a hearing notice so any key elements are not omitted from future notices. The name of the panel chair should be a required element of the hearing notice.
- Stops the practice of removing material relating to misconduct hearings from the force website other than in exceptional circumstances (such as an error) when the removal should be noted and explained.
- Sets out where notices of misconduct hearings should be published and publicised, including requiring reference to each notice in a dedicated, new, news item on the force website and in posts on relevant social media.
- Ensures the effectiveness of arrangements for publishing notices of misconduct hearings which relate to officers with roles in units where there is significant routine collaboration across forces.
- Reviews the local publication of misconduct outcomes and its relationship with the related material published by the College of Policing, and ensures it is full, informative, and consistent.
- Sets out plans to extend the use of public hearings to deal with appropriate police complaints.
* https://www.cambs-police.co.uk/about/profStandards/misconductHearings.asp – Force webpage on misconduct hearings.