Inquiry into police conduct and complaints launched

28 October 2019

The Home Affairs Committee launches an inquiry into police conduct and complaints.

The inquiry

The inquiry will examine the role and remit of the Independent Office for Police Conduct within the police conduct and discipline system. It will look at how it works with police forces around the country to resolve complaints and progress in reforming the system following criticisms of the time taken to resolve complaints. It will also investigate what reforms are required to secure public confidence in the police conduct and disciplinary system.

Chair's comments

Launching the inquiry, Chair of the Committee, Yvette Cooper MP said:

"When the Government established the Independent Office of Police Conduct in January 2018 it was with the promise of new powers, greater independence and faster decision-making.  These reforms were meant to increase transparency and build trust in the police complaints and disciplinary process.

Nearly two years on we continue to hear concerns that the system is not working as it should. In this inquiry we expect to look at the IOPC’s powers and effectiveness but, given that most complaints are dealt with by local forces under the scrutiny of Police and Crime Commissioners, we shall also look at whether wider reforms are needed to build a system in which the public can have real confidence."

Terms of Reference

Written evidence is invited on the issues set out below – but please note that submissions do not need to address all of these issues.

  • The role and remit of the IOPC within the police conduct and discipline system;
  • Progress in reforming the complaints system, including speeding up decision making;
  • How the IOPC is working with individual forces and policing bodies in order to respond to complaints;
  • The need for the IOPC's new powers, and their expected impact; and
  • Whether further reforms are required to secure public confidence in the police conduct and discipline system.


In 2017-18, there were 31,671 recorded complaints against the police– a decrease on the number in the previous year (34,103) but part of a longer-term increase since 2004-05 (when 22,898 complaints were recorded).
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is responsible for overseeing the police complaints system in England and Wales. However, only the most serious and sensitive cases are dealt with by the IOPC—most complaints are dealt with by local forces themselves. Each police force has a separate department that oversees complaints. These are called 'professional standards departments' (PSDs). Responsibility for ensuring that issues are handled in a fair and just manner by a local force PSD rests with the Chief Constable, who is accountable to the relevant Police and Crime Commissioner or other relevant office holder.

The IOPC was created in January 2018, to replace the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which was heavily criticised by many stakeholders. The Government promised "speedier decision-making" under new leadership, with a new board "to ensure greater accountability to the public". Under the terms of the Policing and Crime Act 2017, the IOPC is to be given several new powers, including the power to launch investigations without a police referral. There will also be changes to the process for deciding whether an officer should face a misconduct hearing – giving the IOPC the final decision, without the need to direct forces to undertake misconduct hearings. The changes are designed to improve transparency and accountability.

Police officers have expressed concern about the time taken to process complaints, since work restrictions on them while complaints are processed put burdens on colleagues. There has also been criticism of the lack of time limits for complaints to be brought after an incident has occurred.

In October 2019, the IOPC published its review of elements of Operation Midland, an investigation into several high-profile public figures accused of a range of offences, which later proved to be unfounded. The IOPC reported that the police officers referred to it had not breached standards of professional behaviour.

Submitting written evidence

Written submissions for this inquiry should be submitted by midnight at the end of Sunday 8 December 2019.

    Please note that the Committee is not able to consider individual cases.

    The Committee is not able to reopen any complaints against police.

    The Committee is not able to consider any matters that are currently subject to legal proceeding.

    If you think your written evidence might come under any of the above categories, please contact the Committee's staff at email: at  who can advise on whether your evidence could be accepted.

    If you have a complaint against the police, advice on how to complain is available here – including contact details for your local police force, who are the first people you should complain to.

    Further information

    Image: PA

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