What is it?
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is a non-departmental public body in England and Wales responsible for overseeing the system for handling complaints made against police forces in England and Wales.
Is It Any Good?
A parliamentary inquiry setup in the wake of the death of Ian Tomlinson concluded in January 2013 that
“It has neither the powers nor the resources that it needs to get to the truth when the integrity of the police is in doubt.”
Well, Does The IPCC Have Any Real Power?
The statutory powers and responsibilities of the Commission are set out by the Police Reform Act 2002, and it came into existence on 1 April 2004, replacing the Police Complaints Authority.
Since 1 April 2004 the IPCC has used its powers to begin 353 independent and 759 managed investigations (as of 31 March 2009) into the most serious complaints against the police.
These included deaths in police custody, shootings and fatal traffic incidents.
The IPCC handles more than 4,500 appeals a year from members of the public about the way their complaint was dealt with by the local force, or its outcomes.
The IPCC’s independent investigators investigate the most serious complaints, for example where someone has died following contact with the police. And there are a number of types of incidents that the police, must mandatorily refer to the Commission.
These include deaths in police custody, shootings and fatal traffic incidents as well as allegations that an officer or member of police staff has committed a serious criminal offence.
Forces may also refer matters voluntarily to the IPCC and the Commission can ‘call in’ any matter where there might be serious public concern.
Once a matter has been referred, the IPCC will make a ‘mode of investigation’ decision to determine how it should be dealt with. This is done by caseworkers or investigators who submit an assessment to a Commissioner.
The assessment will involve judging the available information and may mean IPCC investigators are sent to the scene.
The IPCC also takes a lead role in developing new policy for the complaints system and for police practices.
The IPCC’s ten operational Commissioners and two non-executive Commissioners are appointed by the Home Secretary for a five or three-year period.
The Chair is appointed by the Crown on the recommendation of the Home Secretary.
Commissioners by law may not have served with the police at any time, been the Chair or a member of SOCA at any time or been a Commissioner or officer of Customs at any time.
The Commission is the governing board of the IPCC, holding collective responsibility for governance of the Commission including oversight of the Executive.
As public office holders, Commissioners oversee IPCC investigations and the promotion of public confidence in the complaints system (known as Guardianship).
Each Commissioner also has responsibility for a particular portfolio such as firearms, deaths in custody, road policing and youth engagement.
So…If the IPCC Investigates the Police That Must Mean They’re An Unbiased Body Right?
In February 2008, over a hundred lawyers who specialise in handling police complaints resigned from its advisory body; citing various criticisms of the IPCC including a pattern of favouritism towards the police, indifference and rudeness towards complainants, and complaints being rejected in spite of apparently powerful evidence in their support.
It has been noted that
“no policeman has ever been convicted of murder or manslaughter for a death following police contact, though there have been more than 400 such deaths in the past ten years alone.”
However Looking On The Bright Side…