Home Office Firearms Review rubbished as "shambolic"
A ‘shambolic’ Home Office Firearms review has done nothing to reduce the impact IOPC investigations can have on officers and their families says the PFEW.
PFEW Firearms Lead Steve Hartshorn said the length of time it can take for investigations to be resolved and officers being ‘treated as suspects’ as soon as they have had to fire their weapon on duty, have not been properly addressed by the review.
“When the review was instigated, there were murmurings about officers considering their options,” he said.
“Before they were going out to effectively police the streets of London they were thinking, ‘if I pull the trigger will I be arrested for doing my job?’
“There was concerns from their other halves who were worried that their partner was going to be arrested for just doing their job, we’d never had that before.
“It’s always felt as if the starting point is that the officers have done something wrong and then they will try to prove their innocence. It affects you personally, affects your family, even renewing your home insurance or going to America, it doesn’t just affect you professionally.
“It’s in the press, and if they get charged they lose anonymity, and they have to disclose things. That’s just for doing their job and that isn’t right.”
The Home Office review, which so far has only been published as a 300-word webpage said investigations which took place after the 2017 terrorist attacks ‘worked well and were quickly concluded’, that the length of time to investigate cases following a fatality can be stressful, but that significant delay had only been recorded in a ‘small number of cases’.
“If this shambolic review is what the Government think about armed policing, then we are doomed,” Steve said.
“All I can say to the ladies and gents out there doing the job is to please, on behalf of the public, to keep doing what you do. You are the best at it, thank you for doing the job 24/7.
“The PFEW and all the Federations across the country will continue to press and fight and challenge the Government to get better pay, better conditions and quicker, more professional investigations.”
Some sort of guidance on reducing the amount of time IOPC investigations take should have been included, he said.
“It should have considered the amount of time the IOPC spends investigating officers involved in police shootings and bringing that down significantly with some kind of guidance, as we have in police regs, to give them a steer … but that’s all we got.”
“The investigations after the 2017 terrorist attacks were nothing to do with the IOPC, it was a terrorist incident that we dealt with. We got the officers, got them back, looked after them, gave them federation and legal advice and then it was pretty much taken over by SF15, the Metropolitan Police counter-terrorist command.
“The police were doing a good job, the IOPC are getting the credit,” he said.
Officers accept that there should be some form of investigation and checks in place when weapons are fired but they cannot afford to be thinking about what will happen to them when faced with life threatening situations.
“Officers are acting within split seconds, doing the job,” Steve said.
“They don’t mind being investigated but what they do mind is this disproportionate time taken to investigate and then waiting for something to come out.
“Well, investigate them but do it quickly,” Steve added. “We can’t have inquests waiting and it’s noticeable that the last two or three inquests, the coroners have come back saying, ‘you need to hurry up. We’re not waiting anymore’.
“It shouldn’t take two years to get statements together, compile it and deal with it.”
“Why do officers have to wait two years to clear their name? It’s not professional and it’s not helpful.
And it’s not just the officers involved who suffer, Steve added.
“The people who get shot have families. We are not dispassionate to that. Irrespective of who the person is we’ve shot and killed, there are families behind that. They want closure, they want answers. It’s only right and proper that these are done expeditiously for the police and the public.
“There’s lot of rhetoric about speeding up investigations coming out, but my message would be, professionalise your investigators, do as the police service do. We have experts in firearms, we have detectives experienced in sexual crime, in financial crime, in murder.
“Why can’t the IOPC have a unique and bespoke firearms investigation team with mandated investigation timescales?”