Police boss sets up Essex ethics watchdog

THE ESSEX Police and Crime Commissioner, Nick Alston has plans to set up his own police watchdog in Essex.

Mr Alston said:

“We have all seen the prominent national press coverage of several high profile cases where, rightly or wrongly, police conduct has been called into question and put under the microscope.

I have been Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex for almost a year, and throughout this period have seen examples of outstanding conduct by police officers and staff across the county. But I also recognise that it only takes very few cases where police conduct is poor to seriously damage public confidence in policing. That’s why I place great importance on this matter.

It’s clear to me and my team that we need to develop a fresh approach to supporting the highest police standards in Essex – one that has the needs of the public and victims at its heart, and that is open and transparent to all. One of the things I am doing is creating an Ethics and Integrity Committee, which will help set the very highest standards of policing professionalism in Essex. The committee will involve independent members, as well as members of my team, and will be a further means to open up policing to better serve the public.

I believe that there is a need for a national police watchdog such as the Independent Police Complaints Commission to deal with the most serious cases; but I also hold that that the oversight and scrutiny of police conduct matters should take place locally, with the involvement of the Police and Crime Commissioner. I have already introduced a system whereby I receive a comprehensive quarterly report from the Chief Constable containing information about all different sorts of complaints, and a summary of management actions taken in response to the small number of more serious cases. This report is considered in depth by my Deputy, Lindsay Whitehouse, who reviews the findings with the Head of Essex Police Professional Standards Department, and looks at what improvements can be made as a result.

I also review complaints across different areas of work, including a “dip sample” of around five per cent of all complaints received by Essex Police. Appeals are reviewed by the Deputy PCC, and further actions taken following these reviews are decided on a case by case basis.

We have received excellent cooperation from the Chief Constable and from Essex Police Professional Standards Department. Looking to the future, I am confident that the creation of the Ethics and Integrity Committee will strengthen oversight of the police misconduct and discipline process and help inform the judgement of those responsible for deciding the appropriate sanctions for those found guilty of misconduct. I will continue to be both challenging and supportive of Essex Police. I will become more directly involved in ensuring that lay members of the public, carefully selected for their experience and integrity, continue to have a role in police officer misconduct hearings.

By ensuring that I and my team are fully involved in the oversight of police conduct and integrity issues, and by driving forward standards in partnership with the public and Essex Police, I believe that we can avoid some of the problems that have been seen elsewhere in the country and continue to deliver excellent standards of policing across Essex.

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