Police HR chiefs voice concerns over public disciplinary tribunals

Public disciplinary tribunals in the police service would be a “nightmare to manage” and should only be used in exceptional circumstances, force HR chiefs have warned.

Senior figures have voiced concerns after reports last week that the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) was considering opening disciplinary hearings to the public.

Doctors and members of the armed forces are often subjected to public hearings if they are accused of a serious offence, but no police officer has ever been disciplined in that manner.

Andrew Marston, assistant chief officer (HR) at Greater Manchester Police, told Personnel Today: “It would be a nightmare to manage and I would have major concerns about how fair a public hearing could be.” Disciplinaries would become highly charged emotional situations and could ruin an officer’s career, Marston said.

Martin Tiplady, HR director at the Metropolitan Police, said it would make the disciplinary system more bureaucratic. “If there is ever justification for a publicly attended discipline hearing, it should only ever be in the most exceptional circumstances,” he said.

David Williams, director of personnel at West Midlands Police, said: “We have a duty of care to the officers, and public disciplinaries could compromise that.”

The Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said the proposals risked turning disciplinary hearings into a “media circus”. The Association of Chief Police Officers said it was working with the IPCC to ensure that only cases that merited being held in public would be considered.

The IPCC was given the power to conduct public hearings in the 2002 Police Reform Act, but has yet to use it. Chairman Nick Hardwick has already been moved to address concerns, saying: “It is an exceptional power. We are not saying as a matter of course the police are going to find themselves in public.”

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