THE BLOG

The Independent Police Complaints Commission: Living in a World of Tangerine Trees and Marmalade Skies.

11/03/2016 15:53 GMT | Updated 11/03/2017 10:12 GMT

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Police using force last Saturday to prevent Spurs thugs from attacking visiting Arsenal fans.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) report on the use of force by police could have been headed "Ours is the Most Restrained Police Service in the World And Will Strive to Improve Still Further." Of course they didn't; instead we saw the IPCC attempting to justify their beleaguered existence and ingratiate itself with a public who, like front line police officers, distrusts them. The result; a morale damaging report on the police use of force.

The 105 page report, full of charts and statistics that include conclusions from ridiculously small samples, is almost totally devoid of any sympathy or empathy for front line officers who are facing increasing levels of violence, abuse and assaults on the front line.

That, perhaps is not surprising, given that the person overseeing this report is Dame Anne Owers, the chairperson of the IPCC who wrote the introduction. If we look back to the Daily Telegraph in March 2014, this appeared.

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How much faith can police officers have in the IPCC when its head makes comments which would be more appropriate coming from an extreme police hating activist? She is seemingly oblivious of the trust/approval ratings shown in various surveys which are way ahead of those of her political masters.

One factor that has been confirmed however, is that there is no major public concern in relation to the force used by police and, despite the best efforts by the IPCC, that situation is likely to remain unchanged. Members of the public are not fools. They can see for themselves either directly, or via the plethora of police 'fly on the wall' documentaries, the very real difficulties faced by police on the front line.

All critical reports, whether by the Home Office, the IPCC or the HMIC, claim to have consulted police officers, doubtless those hand-picked for task, yet all those who carry out such research perhaps need to 'get out more' namely with front line officers preferably on a Friday or Saturday night.

Even allowing for those sections of the report that are not contentious as far as police are concerned, this report succeeded only in antagonising front line police officers with one recommendation in particular being greeted with a combination of dismay and disbelief.

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Is it really being suggested that officers pay a 'customer service feedback call' to individuals against who the police have been compelled to use force to gauge his or her level of 'satisfaction?'

Let's take a situation where a lone officer comes across a brawl in the street where one male is savagely attacking another. The officer intervenes and himself is attacked and almost over-powered. Other officers responding to the 'urgent assistance' and with difficulty subdue the individual. The officer is treated in hospital for his injuries.

Presumably in the aftermath, in the world of Dame Anne Owers, this thug would be contacted by police and asked for his 'feedback' on the level of force used by officers when affecting his arrest. He would, judging from the recommendation, be positively encouraged to make a complaint.

And what about where officers use force and no arrests are made? Recently in Dover, during a right wing protest against migrants, police had to 'wade in' to rescue left wing activists being attacked. Just last week thugs supporting Spurs attacked Arsenal fans as they were attempting to enter the ground and again police 'waded in' using force to stop the attacks. Throughout that morning before the match police had to deal with serious disorder much of which was captured on You Tube yet, as is often the way with serious disorder, just a handful of arrests were made.

Is Dame Anne Owers seriously suggesting that those Spurs thugs, and there were hundreds of them, be identified and contacted to give their views on the level of force used by police?

The IPCC report spent much time pondering the subject of those coming into contact with police who have mental health issues using a small sample. Front line officers need no reminding of the increasing workload and indeed difficulties posed by those with mental health issues. Like a drowning man reaching for a rope, those same officers would welcome any meaningful training (as opposed to that of the computerised tick the box variety) which would benefit them and those they are called to deal with.

Needless to say police are often the safety net after other agencies and organisations have failed (perhaps through no fault of their own) those suffering from the various forms of mental illness.

The IPCC, from its tiny sample of cases, found fault with some yet no mention was made of the numerous occasions when police have successfully intervened in incidents involving those who feel they have come to the end of the line. Incidents of persons intending to take their own lives being' talked down' by police from motorway and river bridges or from tall buildings, abound.

Police force used against black and minority ethnic groups were also considered using again a small number of cases while force used against children revolved around an even smaller sample. I suspect Dame Anne and her acolytes have never had to deal with a muscular, violent 15 or 16 year old 'child.'

The IPCC must have felt an element of disappointment in its findings whereby 83% of those surveyed felt that police used reasonable force. They seemed buoyed however by the fact that this figure dropped to 61% amongst the black community. Even that figure however, given the fact that we are told how alienated the black community are from police, is surprisingly high.

Perhaps more relevant than the small samples used by the IPCC are the overall figures given in respect of complaints concerning the police use of force. I glanced at the overall figure for all forces; 33,791. Allowing for malicious and ludicrous complaints, the figure seemed quite reasonable considering the total number of arrests per year is around 1,000,000; each arrest is of course technically a use of force and of course not all complaints will be the result of an arrest.

However, when I looked again, this 33,791 was in fact over a FIVE year period during which time the arrest total was around 5,000,000.

Another section of the report referred to actual investigations undertaken by the IPCC. Was this a dip sample or the entire figures over a 5 year period?

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Assuming the IPCC are not referring to some sort of dip sample, which is why the extract has been reproduced here and accepting that these are the most serious incidents, are they really saying that out of 5,000,000 arrests plus non-arrest incidents, we are left with just 191 major investigations?

Other than the absurd recommendation above, whereby thugs who quite possibly have attacked and perhaps hospitalised officers, are asked by police for their 'feedback,' there may well be merit in some of the IPCC's twenty recommendations that are not linked to prohibitive bureaucracy.

However, to many weary serving officers this simply looks like another over-exaggerated example of police bashing published in the knowledge that the media would seize on the negative aspects. In fairness and, doubtless much to the frustration of the IPCC spin doctors, there was relatively little media interest.

The problem however is that officers are facing increasing intimidation, abuse, face to face confrontation, violence and assaults on the streets from increasingly confident lawless elements and political activists. These elements can surely be only be encouraged by the contempt so frequently shown to police by the media, politicians, activists and indeed by an unsympathetic IPCC soon to be renamed and 'reformed' into the 'Office for Police Conduct.'

The phrase that includes leopards and spots springs to mind and who can forget Dame Anne Owers' comments, referred to above, as published in the Telegraph back in 2014.

Perhaps front line officers would have greater confidence in the IPCC/OFPC if that organisation actually admitted that, despite inevitable transgressions, the British police service is unparalleled in its restraint, compassion, and acts of kindness which can be seen on a daily basis.

I suspect that no-one within the police service will be holding their breath.