IOPC Report on discrimination and bullying at Charing Cross
Following the release of the IOPC report on discrimination and bullying at Charing Cross Police Station, Sue Swan, Associate Solicitor and our Head of Police Law has provided her comments on what the report has revealed.
The recently published report by the IOPC reveals truly shocking misogynistic, racist and other discriminatory behaviour by a team of Police Officers based at Charing Cross where the culture of bullying prevailed unchallenged.
Although this team operated in isolation the IOPC state they know through other investigations these were not isolated incidents. There was no indication in the report as to how widespread this behaviour is. There is no doubt that this behaviour should not be ignored and be robustly addressed. The 15 recommendations are to be welcomed.
In my line of work, I do view things from the other side of the coin. Whilst I do not seek to defend the behaviour revealed in the IOPC’s report there is a danger that as a result of the report a disproportionate response will lead to injustices, not only against officers accused of discriminatory behaviour but also the victims.
The report is littered with references to zero-tolerance. Chief Constables will be keen to demonstrate they are taking this approach. Whilst this is welcomed to discover inappropriate behaviour, not all transgressions warrant an officer being dismissed.
Context must be properly explored and understood. A misguided comment may be said with good intentions with no offence intended. The public could lose the service of an excellent officer who after being pulled up for an inappropriate comment may be genuinely remorseful and will in all likelihood be a paragon of virtue thereafter.
In addition, victims may be deterred from coming forward and would rather suffer in silence because they merely want their colleague educated and warned about their inappropriate behaviour rather than it escalating into the job threatening arena.
It may be rare, there will also be an occasional ‘victim’ who will jump on the bandwagon to detract from their poor work performance or as part of their attention-seeking behaviour. They may escalate a mildly inappropriate comment by spinning it to sound far worse than it is and maybe add some further allegations which cannot be proven either way.
The IOPC’s report recognises the importance of an independent investigation but that is important to those accused as well. With that in mind, the IOPC’s recommendation 9 mentions engaging with ‘victims’ and ‘seeking their views about designating them as persons entitled to information during the investigation to ensure a victim-centred approach’. Whilst victims/complainants need to be supported one must guard against contaminating and compromising the investigation.
All advice is correct at time of publication.