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Police Conduct Regulations must not be bypassed to allow vetting-based dismissal of officers, says PFEW

The Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) has warned existing Police Conduct Regulations “should not be undermined” following the introduction of new vetting standards last week

Officers who are unable to hold minimum vetting clearance will face dismissal proceedings under the College of Policing’s updated Vetting Code of Practice, which was laid before the Parliament on Thursday (July 20), and is effective immediately.

Chief constables are being given additional tools to root out officers unfit to serve the public who might previously have “flown under the radar”.

The revised code provides clarity that failure to hold minimum vetting clearance should lead to dismissal proceedings and an officer’s vetting should be reviewed following the conclusion of misconduct proceedings that do not end in a dismissal.

The PFEW is concerned that this opens a “veiled backdoor route to chief constables to dismiss rank and file officers”.

The code also makes clear that the barred and advisory lists must be checked as part of the vetting process, ensuring any officers who have previously been dismissed cannot re-join the police.

The PFEW said it “fully agrees” that chief officers must do more to prevent unsuitable individuals from joining and remaining in the police service and that the vetting process should tightened to ensure the “highest standards of policing and restore public trust”.

This means both existing and prospective police officers must be subjected to “robust vetting processes” to identify and remove individuals unfit to be in the service, it said.

“However, some of the provisions contained in the Vetting Code of Practice , authorise chief constables to dismiss officers without going through processes and mechanisms of dismissals,” said the PFEW.

“This clearly circumvents Police Conduct Regulations 2020 and opens a veiled backdoor route to afford powers to chief constables to dismiss rank and file officers potentially at whim.”

It added: “It is disappointing that the College of Policing has disregarded PFEW’s valid concerns submitted in March this year about handing out sweeping powers to chief constables to carry out vetting-based dismissals of officers in respect of contested allegation/s of misconduct falling within the Police Conduct Regulations.

“It is undemocratic to allow chief constables to revoke vetting clearance inconsistent with outcomes reached in misconduct proceedings, unless valid and justified, as this simply creates an alternate route to dismiss officers without a transparent process.”

PFEW national board member and conduct and performance co-lead, Melanie Warnes, said they supported “stringent vetting of officers to identify and remove undesirable individuals from the police service”.

“However, this does not mean existing Police Conduct Regulations, which have been established following a democratic process, should be outrightly undermined and the authority of independent Legally Qualified Chairs bypassed,” she said.

Fellow conduct and performance co-lead Phil Jones added: “Police officers must have confidence that they have the right to fair and transparent disciplinary processes to ensure individual bias does not govern or influence decisions which have serious consequences on an individual’s career and wellbeing.

“We have requested and await the College of Policing to share the Equality Impact Assessment to ensure no group of officers are unjustifiably disadvantaged by the revised code.”

(Source: Police Professional)

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