Watchdog now employs over 1,000 staff but less than 25% ex-police

In a recent reply to a freedom of information request, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) confirmed some important information concerning its workforce.

The total number of staff employed as at 31st March, 2021 was 1,013, a reduction of 19 from the previous year.. The total payroll cost was £53,950,000, an increase of £3,050,000 (6%) on the previous year. Average cost per employee £53,258. From the IOPC’s Annual Accounts it is reported that running costs per employee (mainly cost of office space) are £4,330.

The’watchdog’ oversees the police complaints system in England and Wales. Their remit is to investigate the most serious matters, including deaths following police contact, and, in theory, set the standards by which the police should handle complaints. In reality, most police forces ride roughshod over the statutory framework and the system in no longer fit for purpose. A very recent example can be found elsewhere on this website (read here). Public confidence in the police complaints system remains depressingly low: In a recent IOPC survey it was found that only 28% of police stakeholders felt that the watchdog was improving confidence. The figures were 38% for police accountability stakeholders and 30% of non-police stakeholders.

The IOPC also say that by using learning from their work they aim to influence changes in policing. There is little or no indication that any such changes have been adopted in a meaningful way. All the evidence points to police force Professional Standards officers treating the watchdog with scarcely concealed contempt. Given what is now revealed regarding average pay of the IOPC staff that is hardly likely to improve relations between them and police officers whose starting pay is in the region of £22,000.

They claim to be independent, and make decisions entirely independently of the police and government. A proposition that very many, including, notably, almost every bereaved family that has ever had dealings with them, has little or no basis in fact or evidence. Not least because they are completely mesmerised and dominated by the powerful staff associations. Most notably, the Police Federation of England and Wales.

The IOPC is led by Director General, Michael Lockwood. A former council officer, with a reported salary in the £185,000 to £190,000 band, he fronts the executive team and chairs the Board, which includes six non-executive directors. He is also supported by two deputies – the Deputy Director General (Operations) who leads an operational team including Regional Directors and a Director for Wales and the Deputy Director General (Strategy and Corporate Services) who is responsible for all of the IOPC’s non-operational functions. Deputy Directors are paid between £130,000 to £135,000.

In terms of staff retention and turnover, the total number of staff at 31st March, 2021 with (i) up to 3 years service was 365 (ii) 4 or 5 years service was 188 (iii) 6-10 years service was 290 (ii) more than 10 years service was 170. Which, on any measure, is very high. Less surprising, when one considers the staggering average salary and the comfort bubble in which they operate: Taking years to complete investigations that should take weeks or months. 18 of the 538 investigations carried over from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) on 1st January, 2018 remained open over three years later.

One of those was the IPCC (now IOPC) investigation into the Hillsborough Disaster. Over the past 5 years, £44.3 million has been spent on it. Many would argue to little effect, as not one single police officer has been convicted over the unlawful killing of 97 Liverpool Football Club supporters. The Match Commander was found not guilty, the prosecution withdrew from the trial of another controversial senior officer, Norman Bettison and the trial of the remaining two, Donald Denton and Alan Foster, was stayed at ‘half-time’ as the prosecution case collapsed.

Perhaps the most surprising disclosure is the total number of staff who formerly served as warranted police officers or police staff: The IOPC say that, of their 1,013 staff, 108 are ex-police officers, 96 ex-police civilians, 21 served as both during their career. The aggregate number of 225 being a fraction under 25% of the total. Ten years ago, when the watchdog was known as the IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission), the figure was nearer 50% and the perception of its critics was that figure being much higher.

By law, the IOPC’s Director General can never have worked for the police. Also, they say, none of their executive team, Regional Directors or their Director for Wales have worked for the police.

It is also worthy of mention that the IOPC, and by way of counterbalance to some of the other criticisms levelled at them, alone amongst a plethora of policing bodies and all the police forces on this journalists beat, takes its information rights responsibilities seriously. Whether that is via a FOIA request, a data subject access request or disclosure as part of civil proceedings  the response is, generally, intelligently presented, timely and in accordance with legislation or the applicable Rules. The watchdog’s own Annual Report bears this out with a reported 95% rate of FOIA finalisations within the statutory limit. The figure for subject access requests is 90%.

Indeed, the latest request is a case in point where more information than is sought is actually given. 

Page last updated at 0845hrs on Tuesday 10th August, 2021

Corrections: Please let me know if there is a mistake in this article. I will endeavour to correct it as soon as possible.

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© Neil Wilby 2015-2021. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Published by Neil Wilby

Former Johnston Press area managing director. Justice campaigner. Freelance investigative journalist.

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