Rise in police disciplinary action cases
CASES of disciplinary action and complaints against police officers in Essex have increased by more than a third in a year, the EADT can reveal. But the officer in charge of investigating Essex Police indiscipline said last night that codes of professional behaviour had been toughened up.
CASES of disciplinary action and complaints against police officers in Essex have increased by more than a third in a year, the EADT can reveal.
But the officer in charge of investigating Essex Police indiscipline said last night that codes of professional behaviour had been toughened up.
Data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act shows almost 50 Essex Police officers were required to resign, demoted, fined or issued with written warnings in the last financial year.
The 49 offences in 2004-5 included criminal conduct, drink-driving, lack of honesty and integrity, and abuse of authority – up from 35 offences the year before.
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Complaints from the public also rose sharply – 672 were made in 2004-5, compared to 500 the year before.
However, in both years, only nine of these complaints were upheld.
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The force prides itself on its strict standards of discipline and rigorously enforces material breaches.
According to its staff disciplinary procedure, formal sanctions can be triggered when complaints are referred to the Professional Standards Department for investigation.
If complaints are substantiated, a senior officer chairs a disciplinary hearing, which can ultimately lead to summary dismissal in cases of gross misconduct.
Of the nine substantiated complaints in 2004-5, three involved assault – one during questioning – and three concerned neglect of duty.
The nine upheld in the year before included one breach of the force's code on searching premises, six for failures in duty and one for incivility, impoliteness and intolerance.
During 2004-5 three officers were told to resign – two for drink-driving and one for a lack of honesty and integrity.
One officer was demoted for the use of force, another fined 10 days' pay for a failure in the performance of duties and one received reprimand for an unspecified criminal offence.
In the last financial year, 43 written warnings, which last a year, were issued, including one for criminal conduct, one for a breach of confidentiality, two for abuse of force and authority and four for a lack of politeness and tolerance.
In 2003-4, 31 written warnings were issued, including one for breaching rules on sobriety, two for unspecified criminal offences and 15 for breaches of lawful orders.
Superintendent Jed Stopher, head of Essex Police's professional standards department, said: "During the past 18 months we have employed more staff to the professional standards department, introduced new policies and new disciplinary codes.
"We are a police force and so we have a duty our officers and staff adhere to strict professional and ethical guidelines.
"Those who don't are dealt with swiftly and appropriately – it's as simple as that.
"The apparent rise in cases shows that we mean business when it comes to upholding our set standards."