Chief constables must have ‘final word’ on sackings, says top officer

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Chief constables must have “the final word” on decisions to sack officers and staff according to the head of England’s second biggest police force.

Craig Guildford, who recently took the helm at West Midlands Police and is the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for professional standards, said a change away from the current system “needs to be done expeditiously”.

It followed publication of Baroness Casey’s interim report into the culture and standards at the Metropolitan Police, published last year, which raised concerns about the low number of police officers being dismissed and how those with multiple misconduct allegations were still serving.

The Casey review triggered a Home Office review into the current arrangements for disciplining officers and staff.

Echoing the comments of Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley, Ch Con Guildford said he had given feedback as the NPCC lead “on behalf of chief constables” to the Government, with the results of the review set to be published in the coming weeks.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley criticised a lack of power in sacking staff (Aaron Chown/PA)

He was commenting after fall-out from the Casey report and the high-profile criminal investigations into police officers Wayne Couzens and David Carrick, all of which have shaken wider public confidence in policing.

The murder of Sarah Everard by Couzens, a serving officer and ex-Pc Carrick being unmasked as a serial abuser and rapist are among the scandals to have hit the Met – branded institutionally racist, homophobic and misogynist in the Casey review.

At the moment, officers and staff accused of the highest-level gross misconduct go before tribunals headed by independent legally qualified chairs, which can issue sanctions short of dismissal – even if the force wants the individual sacked.

Chief constables do still retain the power to sack but only in limited circumstances, known as the fast-track procedure, such as when officers have already separately been convicted of a serious criminal offence.

Mr Guildford, speaking on Wednesday, said the NPCC’s feedback on the topic was now with the Home Office and any final decision on changes to the existing system was ultimately “for the Home Secretary to consider”.

Suella Braverman
Home Secretary Suella Braverman (Aaron Chown/PA)

“I do that with cases that come before me on a fast-track basis.

“But clearly the system at the moment with legally qualified chairs has somebody else making that decision.

“We feel that the Chief Constable as the employer, as the standard-setter, needs to have that final word and that needs to be done expeditiously.”

He added: “But this isn’t just about making sure that it’s easy to dismiss officers at all because each officer and staff member needs a fair hearing and it’s important that that is remembered.”

In mid-January, the Home Office announced a review of current disciplinary arrangements for forces, to assess if they were both “effective” and “efficient at removing officers who fall far short of the high standards expected of them”.

“We’re working through that to make sure that there is nothing that has slipped the net.

“Thus far … we have found nothing, locally, which has slipped through that net – in other words, things that we weren’t already aware of.”

Home Secretary Suella Braverman, speaking at the time of the review’s announcement, said: “Officers who fall short and are not fit to serve the public have no place in our police, and we must ensure they can be dismissed as swiftly as possible.”

She added: “This review will ensure that bureaucracy and unnecessary process will not prevail over ethics and common sense.

“It will urgently identify reforms to the dismissals process so that we can enact change.”

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