News – National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and College of Policing – Policing must be ‘ruthless’ in responding to police-perpetrated VAWG, says national lead

The national police lead for violence against women and girls (VAWG) says policing must be “ruthless” in removing any officer who undermines the integrity of a force.

Deputy Chief Constable Maggie Blyth said this was “imperative” in rebuilding public confidence in the police.

A learning review on police-perpetrated VAWG, published on Friday (October 14) by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and College of Policing, identifies improvements to ensure forces respond “robustly and systematically” to any allegations.

The review builds on previous work by the College of Policing, His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services and the Independent Office for Police Conduct report on the Centre for Women’s Justice super-complaint into police-perpetrated domestic abuse.

As part of a national police framework to improve the response to VAWG launched in December 2021, police forces were asked to conduct an urgent review of sexual misconduct, domestic abuse and other VAWG-related offences against officers and staff and to share their learning with the NPCC and the college.

These reviews were analysed to provide the latest overview of themes, learning and recommended improvements.

Ms Blyth said: “It is imperative policing is ruthless in removing any officer who undermines the integrity of a force, rebuilding the confidence the public should rightly have in us.

“Strong leadership is needed to challenge the pockets of culture in policing that do not hold our values, that quieten victims and discourage people speaking up.

“I hope this learning review contributes to a greater understanding of the current strengths and weaknesses of the police misconduct system alongside significant independent reviews and inspections.

“It identifies improvements that will ensure police forces are robustly and systematically responding to reports of police-perpetrated violence against women and girls.”

The review shares various examples of effective practice. It also makes a number of recommendations including:

  • Chief constables should immediately act to ensure professional standards departments have a good working knowledge of current criminal investigation practice and access to expertise from rape and sexual assault investigators.  They should also ensure effective joint working when misconduct and criminal investigations are being conducted by different teams.  The review found investigators working on parallel criminal and misconduct investigations were not always sharing information and expertise effectively.
  • Chief constables should regularly review live cases to ensure that statutory guidance on managing parallel misconduct and criminal procedures is being followed.  The review identified that some misconduct investigations may be unnecessarily delayed because they are paused to avoid prejudicing criminal proceedings when statutory guidance says “the presumption is that action for misconduct should be taken prior to, or in parallel with, any criminal proceedings”.
  • The NPCC and College of Policing to provide new guidance and training to professional standards departments to improve recording and analysis of police misconduct and complaints data.  The review identified some knowledge gaps in data recording and collection, and records were not being updated throughout the lifecycle of a misconduct investigation inhibiting forces’ understanding of the scale of problem.

The review also called on police chiefs to continue to prioritise giving officers and staff the confidence, support and mechanisms to call out and report any abusive, inappropriate or discriminatory behaviour they see in policing.

The NPCC said it will work with Crimestoppers and partners to expand the police integrity line to the public by 2023, allowing them to report allegations of police misconduct anonymously.

Chief Constable Andy Marsh QPM, chief executive officer of the College of Policing said: “In order for the public to have trust in the policing response to violence against women and girls in society as a whole, it is essential that we show that we can tackle it effectively in forces. When the College of Policing published the findings of the super-complaint into police-perpetrated domestic abuse, we were clear that forces had some way to go to get their own houses in order.

“This learning review builds on the work of the super-complaint and commits the college, the NPCC and policing more widely to taking important steps to restore and build the confidence of our communities.

“Strong policing leadership is required to drive the changes needed and ensure that officers and staff are confident they will be listened to and supported when complaints are made.”

NPCC lead for misconduct, Chief Constable Craig Guildford, added: “Addressing the areas of learning identified in this review will see high standards in misconduct and criminal investigations, fewer unnecessary delays and a fuller picture of the threat within policing from those who seek to abuse their position or harass or discriminate against women.

“There are many positive examples of where professional standards departments are already tackling the issues included in this learning review. The NPCC portfolio will continue to work closely with the college and staff associations to improve standards across the system.”

In December, the NPCC and College of Policing will publish the first performance report against the national VAWG framework. This will include a national assessment of the scale and nature of police-perpetrated VAWG, including misconduct and complaints data, the formal outcomes of misconduct and complaints and the timeliness of investigations.

Zainab Gulamali, policy and public affairs manager at Women’s Aid, said: “While we welcome investigations into police-perpetrated violence against women and girls, we hope to see concrete recommendations or solutions to improve understanding of domestic abuse within the force, going forward.

“Only one in five women report domestic abuse to the police, and, following a string of high-profile cases such as Wayne Couzen’s murder of Sarah Everard, women have told us their confidence in police is lower than ever.

“To strengthen women’s confidence in the police, leaders within the force must acknowledge a need for change, with robust responses to police perpetrators and improved responses to violence against women and girls more widely.

“To aid this, mandatory training must be delivered by domestic abuse specialists across all levels of the police. Survivors must be shown that they’ll be supported when coming forward.”

Andrea Simon, director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), said: “We’re facing an endless stream of revelations about police perpetrated violence against women, racism, misogyny and discrimination, and there is a tidal wave of public demand for change.

“This latest report confirms what women’s groups and campaigners have been saying for years – that we have to deal with an institutional policing culture which enables officers to evade accountability for abuse. This has a tremendous impact on women’s trust and confidence in policing, and must be dealt with before we can take seriously promises that violence against women is a priority for the justice system.

“We are still hearing police leaders, including the new Met Commissioner, talk about dealing with individual corrupt officers, but we need to understand how they will tackle transforming the culture of policing and deal with the devastating scale of police perpetrated abuse.

“Core processes around vetting, ethics, standards and training are inconsistent and need root and branch reform. Officers can too easily avoid serious consequences for misconduct and there must be greater external scrutiny of internal misconduct processes as well as greater accountability to victims and their families.

“We call on the Government to ensure that recommendations from this report and the many others that have scrutinised police failures are finally implemented across all 43 police forces.

“If we’re serious about addressing damaged trust and confidence, this is not the time to reduce accountability and oversight of policing, or to hand the police more powers in legislation.”

Verified by MonsterInsights