Socialist Worker

It's time the cops' pet watchdog was put to sleep

by Annette Mackin
Issue No. 2395

The  Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is lacking in empathy, sensitivity and compassion. That’s not just the view of the left, it’s what the IPCC thinks about itself.

The damning testimony comes from a review by the IPCC into its own practices following deaths after contact with police.

Families told the review that they felt that they and those who had died were “wrongly characterised or unfairly judged”.

Since the IPCC was formed ten years ago it has come under constant criticism for the way it deals with deaths following police contact. And the review confirms what many have known for a long time—that it is not independent of the police. 

The review revealed that 25 percent of investigators are ex-police officers or police staff. This rose to 40 percent in the investigations directorate, who are the management.

And the review also showed that the IPCC offers no assurances that an ex-officer investigating a death in custody is not investigating a force they previously belonged to.

The review came about after an independent report said the IPCC botched its investigation into the death of Sean Rigg in police custody in 2008.

The review was led by Dr Silvia Casale and its report was published last year. It found that there were a series of errors in the original IPCC investigation into Sean’s death.

It’s true that the investigation had a catalogue of failings. It was only after Sean’s family pored over CCTV footage that inconsistencies in police statements were exposed.

However Casale’s report also revealed a more sinister connection between the IPCC and the Metropolitan Police.

Among documents relating to the investigation into Sean’s death were police national computer files on two members of Sean’s family.

There was no reason for the IPCC to have such files, or for the Met to have passed them on. Neither family members were witnesses to Sean’s death. It was revealed that the IPCC’s senior investigating officer had viewed the files after the family members made a request to view CCTV footage.

Slammed

Casale’s report slammed the police for handing over such files, and the IPCC for keeping them. But this is not a one-off example of the lack of independence of the watchdog and the police it is supposed to monitor.

The inquest into the fatal police shooting of Mark Duggan which concluded in January this year revealed further the limits of the IPCC’s independence.

The senior investigating officer was an ex-cop of 30 years experience. Management of the scene of Mark’s death was handed over to the police in the crucial hours after he died. This led to important forensic evidence being destroyed.

And it was the IPCC that was responsible for putting out the complete falsehood that Mark had shot at police first.

Most importantly, the inquest exposed the IPCC’s procedure of post-incident management (PIM). 

After Mark Duggan was killed, officers were allowed to sit and draft their statements together—without the presence of anyone from the IPCC.

In the light of their review into their procedures they have pledged to overhaul PIM. Officers will now be expected to give statements alone and in person. Yet it is shocking that this was not already the norm.

The IPCC is just the latest in a line of investigative bodies that have been abolished after it became clear that they were complicit with the police.

The Police Complaints Authority shed its skin in 2004 to become the IPCC. But the bad practice did not change with the name.

For all the proposals for change, the fact remains that the fundamental problem is the IPCC itself.

It is not in the state’s interest for the police to be punished for wrongdoing. That is why since 1990 not one copper has been found guilty of murder for any of the 1,484 people who have died after coming into contact with police.

Rather than reform a rotten body, it’s time that the police’s pet watchdog was put down for good.


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Tue 18 Mar 2014, 18:28 GMT
Issue No. 2395
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