Today (16th February 2012) the IPCC has published its guidance on communicating with the media and the public in IPCC independent and managed investigations.
This guidance responds to criticism in the aftermath of the shooting of Mark Duggan in August 2011 and the subsequent disorder. A number of bodies have made recommendations about communications in circumstances where the IPCC is investigating and at times when there is potential for community tension and public disorder. These include the Riots Communities and Victims Panel the Home Affairs Select Committee and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.
In drafting this guidance the IPCC has worked with ACPO communications leads and looked at lessons learned from August 2011. It draws upon previous guidance (currently part of the IPCC/ACPO media protocol) but separates the specific issue of what the police can say in the aftermath of an incident from other guidance which can still be found in the IPCC/ACPO media protocol.
Now that the guidance has been issued the IPCC will be working closely with the police both to update the agreed media protocol and to ensure that the guidance is widely understood throughout the service amongst officers of all ranks and not just police communications professionals.
IPCC Deputy Chair Deborah Glass said, “This guidance should provide greater clarity for the police service and for the IPCC about communicating with the public – often in testing and difficult circumstances. We have addressed the recommendations made by various bodies specifically acknowledging the information ‘vacuum’ that occurred during August 2011. This should not happen again. We now need to work closely with the police service to educate and inform officers of all ranks about this guidance so that the myth that police are gagged is finally laid to rest.”
• The guidance cites that the police service and the IPCC have a shared responsibility for communication with the media and the public in IPCC independent and managed investigations
• It states that silence is not an option – but recognises that information which is available is likely to be incomplete and / or unverified
• It states that referral to the IPCC does not stop the police commenting or responding to the media or public and gives examples of what sort of information the police can reasonably expect to be able to put in to the public domain
• It notes that the police service is responsible for dealing with public disorder or potential disorder and while the IPCC would object to any comment which may prove detrimental to a future criminal or misconduct case or put its investigative strategy at risk, the timing and content of any statement issued in these circumstances is a matter for the police, for which a named senior officer should be responsible
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