IPCC announces plan for dealing with Metropolitan Police Service referrals on racism allegations
The Independent Police Complaints Commission has begun two further independent investigations following referrals received from the Metropolitan Police Service on Tuesday, 10 April.
This brings the total number of current IPCC independent investigations into allegations involving racist behaviour in the MPS to five. On 12 August 2011 an allegation of racist language and assault against a 21-year-old man by MPS officers was referred to the IPCC. On 24 August 2011 a referral was received regarding a 15-year-old youth who was allegedly assaulted by MPS officers at Forest Gate police station. The CPS is currently reviewing both of these investigations. On 5 April, an independent investigation commenced into allegations that racist comments were made within a group of MPS officers.
A further six cases referred last week involve matters that have been investigated by the MPS or the investigation is at an advanced stage. These referrals were made at a stage where the opportunity for the IPCC to carry out a meaningful investigation had already passed. For that reason we expect the MPS to conclude those investigations and inform the IPCC of the outcome in order for us to assess whether robust and appropriate action has been taken. Details of these decisions are below.
The IPCC shares the public concerns generated by these referrals, and as a result we now plan to closely scrutinise how the MPS is handling racism complaints. We want to be satisfied that these cases are being dealt with effectively and in line with our previously-released guidance on handling allegations of discriminatory behaviour and our position on stop and search (see Appendix).
This further scrutiny will consist of:
• Reviewing a sample of concluded and ongoing complaints dealt with directly by the MPS where racist behaviour has been alleged, to assess the extent to which our guidance is being followed;
• For future complaints, requesting the MPS to refer all public complaints to the IPCC where there is an allegation of racism, in relation to behaviour since 1 April 2012. Some of those cases may well meet the criteria for an independent investigation; others will be supervised by the IPCC. This will also allow the IPCC to undertake a thematic review of those cases to identify any trends and learning for the police service. We intend to publish the findings of this review.
In addition the IPCC will be reminding all other police forces in England and Wales of the guidance on handling allegations of discriminatory behaviour and its position on stop and search, and asking them to review how they have dealt with such cases. The IPCC remains willing to repeat the plan it is putting in place for the MPS elsewhere.
Commissioner Mike Franklin, who assessed the MPS referrals and has overall responsibility for the five current independent investigations, said:
“Responsibility for tackling racism in the police and for most complaints about racism by police officers rests squarely with the police, who must demonstrate that they are not being passive and are taking action to root it out. However in view of these referrals the IPCC is increasing its level of scrutiny over these cases.
“Equally, the police must not hide behind statistics and must recognise that actual recorded allegations of racism are probably an indication of much wider disaffection and dissatisfaction. We know, for example, that young black men who are the most likely to be stopped and searched are also the least likely to use the formal complaints system. At the heart of people’s concerns are issues of fairness and respect – the British policing model which relies on policing by consent simply cannot deliver a professional service if sections of the population perceive it to be unfair and discriminatory.
“The IPCC is investigating a number of these cases – but IPCC investigations are not and will never be the only answer. We know that allegations of racism are often difficult to prove as in many cases they are a complainant’s word against an officer or officers, but that does not necessarily mean it did not happen. There needs to an understanding of the complainant’s perception of what has happened to them, which is often a product of their experience. The police must see all complaints as evidence of a potential problem, and address the systemic issues underlying the complaints they receive. This must involve an examination of culture, training, supervision and leadership.”
The IPCC has already issued guidance in two key areas that focus on the problem. Guidance on investigating discrimination complaints is part of IPCC Statutory Guidance. The IPCC position on stop and search makes clear that we expect stop and search to be carried out in a way that is demonstrably fair, effective and carries public confidence. It says that it is not enough for a stop and search to simply be within the law, an officer should always be able to explain the reasons for a stop so that it does not lead to feelings of unfairness or give the impression of discrimination.
The IPCC’s decision, taken by Commissioner Mike Franklin, on the eight referrals received from the MPS on Tuesday 10 April is as follows:
1. Allegation by member of police staff alleging bullying and racial comments, previously referred to IPCC in August 2011. The MPS investigation is in fact concluded and three officers are pending proceedings for gross misconduct. In the circumstances this has been referred back to the MPS for conclusion. We expect to be informed of the outcome of the hearings so we can assess whether robust and appropriate action has been taken.
2. Allegation by police officer against two female colleagues; this is already being investigated by Directorate of Professional Standards and has been referred back to MPS for conclusion. We expect to be informed of the outcome so we can assess whether robust and appropriate action has been taken.
3. Allegation against drunk, off-duty MPS officer of racial abuse in September 2011. Officer was investigated by British Transport Police; he was prosecuted and convicted for racially aggravated public order. He is currently awaiting a misconduct hearing. We are surprised that this was not referred at the time, but in the circumstances that the officer has already been convicted this has been referred back to MPS for conclusion. We expect to be informed of the outcome so we can assess whether robust and appropriate action has been taken.
4. Allegation by several officers against an officer making racial comments. Internal investigation already being carried out by the MPS. This matter has been referred back to MPS. We expect to be informed of the outcome so we can assess whether robust and appropriate action has been taken.
5. Allegation against call handler alleged to have mishandled calls from the public over a period in 2010. The officer has been interviewed and the MPS investigation is nearing conclusion. This matter has been referred back to MPS. We expect to be informed of the outcome so we can assess whether robust and appropriate action has been taken.
6. Public complaint previously referred to IPCC in July 2011. IPCC had referred back to MPS as it was sub judice and with specific direction that case be re-referred following outcome of court case against complainant. Complainant had been acquitted in March 2012, but case was not re-referred as previously directed. IPCC assessment has established that investigation by MPS is close to completion; in the circumstances it has been referred back to the MPS, with a direction that we be provided with the final report to satisfy ourselves that the investigation was properly carried out. The complainant will also have a right of appeal to the IPCC when the investigation is concluded.
7. Public complaint made in January 2012 about incident in December 2011 in which complainant alleges racial abuse. The complaint was referred to the IPCC on 13th February 2012 who decided the matter should be the subject of a local investigation by the DPS. DPS enquiries failed to identify any officer near the vicinity at the time of the alleged incident. Since the matter was re-referred in April 2012 the DPS have identified a patrol car in the vicinity of the complaint. Given the lack of early action by the MPS in response to the complaint, the IPCC will carry out an independent investigation.
8. Public complaint made on 6 April 2012 about an incident at Forest Gate Police Station on 24 September 2011. Complainant alleges racial abuse and excessive force in custody. We have considered the credible reasons for delay in making complaint; given the nature of the allegations and other cases being dealt with against officers from this borough, the IPCC will carry out an independent investigation.
IPCC guidance already issued to the police service –
• Guidance on handling allegations of discriminatory behaviour (part of IPCC Statutory Guidance issued 1 April 2010). This guidance is underpinned by the understanding that racism complaints can be difficult to prove, that they are made in good faith and that those who discriminate on racial grounds will rarely admit it, even to themselves.
• IPCC position on stop and search issued in May 2010. This position is based on the principles that stop and search must be fair, effective and carry the confidence of the public.
Note to editors: For media enquiries please contact the IPCC press office on 020 7166 3028, 3082 or 3951
The appropriate authority can be:
- the chief officer of the police force
- the Police and Crime Commissioner responsible for the police force you complained about
- the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (if your complaint is about the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service)
- the Common Council for the City of London (if your complaint is about the Commissioner of the City of London police).