The Black Lives Movement and scandals such as the death of George Floyd has finally led to the conduct of the police being placed under real scrutiny. As such the Independent Office for Police Conduct finds itself pushed into the limelight. So, what is it and how does it work?
What is the IOPC?
Established in 2018 as part of the Policing and Crime Act, the IOPC took over from the independent police complaints commission. Aside from the name change, the new organisation reflected the fact that the body had doubled in size since 2013 taking on more than six times as many investigations. As such they asked the government to approve a new structure to help it cater to the modern challenges of regulating police conduct.
What does it do?
The IOPC’s main role is to oversee the system for handling complaints against police forces in England and Wales. Most will be investigated by the Police Force’s own professional standards departments with oversight from the IOPC. However, it does conduct investigations in some of the most serious cases such as allegations of serious misconduct or criminal activity by the police.
In addition, the IOPC exists to provide the independent oversight for deaths in police custody. If a person dies or sustains serious injuries mandatory referrals are usually made to the organisation. At the same time, a department may make a voluntary referral to the IOPC if they feel it is necessary.
For example, at the time of writing they are currently investigating the actions of the police in a collision in Stalybridge in which a 16-year-old driver was killed and another seriously injured. A police car had followed a car which was later found to have crashed at a junction. Investigations such as this are common in order to assess the conduct of the police during the incident.
High profile cases
Inevitably, given the sensitive nature of police complaints and the growing focus on police conduct, IOPC news coverage has become increasingly intense over the past year. For example, in October it waded into the controversy surrounding stop and search after it criticised the Metropolitan Police for multiple errors which undermined the legitimacy of the tactic.
Stop and search has often been criticised as reinforcing racist stereotypes and the report appeared to confirm this, highlighting one instance in which two innocent black men were arrested after being seen to ‘fist bump’. The officers believed at the time that they were dealing drugs.
Where can I see the latest IOPC News?