Public police disciplinary hearings: reader responses

I find the idea of public disciplinary hearings for police officers totally wrong (Personnel Today, 9 January).

Public discipline exists for the whole of society through the courts, and if anyone commits a crime, that is the appropriate place for it to be heard. If a police officer’s disciplinary offence were a criminal issue, then that is where it should be dealt with.

Internal discipline for any organisation is just that – internal. How many organisations allow anyone not employed by that organisation (other than union officers) to attend a disciplinary hearing?

The police are already subject to external investigation. To make that public as well would subject them to a level of scrutiny that is so far greater than the rest of society as to be grossly unfair.

Mike Chidgey
Outsourcing sales support, Capgemini

Police fear of public tribunals unfounded

The concerns of police HR chiefs over public disciplinary tribunals are unfounded. (Personnel Today, 9 January).

As you noted, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has had the power in exceptional circumstances to require police forces to hold disciplinary hearings in public since it became operational in 2004.

Over the past year, we have consulted with police and non-police stakeholders over what those exceptional circumstances might be. We agreed we would only require public hearings for matters that are particularly grave or of fundamental public interest.

Before making a decision, the IPCC is required to consult the appropriate authority, the officer concerned, the complainant, and any witnesses involved.

The police have a regulated discipline system and, although this is being modernised, important differences with the civilian system will remain.

These differences reflect the special powers and responsibilities that police officers have. The majority of employees, but not police officers, have access to employment tribunals, which are held in public. Apart from this special procedure, the police disciplinary procedures all take place in private.

The exceptional power the IPCC has to require police disciplinary hearings to be held in public should be seen in this context. It will be rarely used, but there are occasions when the gravity of the issue and the special nature of a police officer’s powers and responsibilities will make it appropriate to do so.

Nick Hardwick
Chair, Independent Police Complaints Commission


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