Officers deserve ‘fair hearing’ in conduct proceedings says Federation following TV documentary

Avon and Somerset Police Federation says there should be “be fairness and balance” when putting policing under a microscope.

Jan 30, 2024
By Paul Jacques

It has stressed that “colleagues deserve due process in all legal and conduct proceedings” following the first episode of a three-part series ‘To Catch a Copper’, which was broadcast on Channel 4 on Monday (January 29).

In 2019, Avon and Somerset Police invited documentary-maker Story Films to start filming with its Professional Standards Department, including its Counter-Corruption Unit.

The force said the aim was to “shine a light on an area of policing which acts as a guardian of the high standards expected of those who take the oath to serve and protect”.

The documentary follows the “challenging and complex” work of the officers and staff who investigate their colleagues

The opening episode was about officers accused of mistreating or sexually exploiting vulnerable people in their hour of need.

Chief Constable Sarah Crew said it was “really important that we are open and transparent”.

However, she admitted that parts of the documentary had been “uncomfortable”.

Avon and Somerset Police Federation said all officers understand and accept they will be subject to scrutiny for their actions.

In a statement following the programme it said: “Avon and Somerset Police Officers are out on our streets day and night putting their lives on the line to fight crime and keep people safe.

“This comes with our work – and our professional standards must always be high.

“This is right and proper.

“Officers undertake a very testing, demanding and stressful role, some of which was broadcast on a Channel 4 documentary on Monday.

“Police officers have no issue with being held accountable for their actions – we are the most accountable of public services. But whilst putting policing under a microscope there should always be ample fairness and balance.

“And colleagues deserve due process in all legal and conduct proceedings. There should not be a presumption of guilt.”

The Federation added: “In terms of the documentary, colleagues will wonder why we did not see a focus on the dangers colleagues face every day and the complexity of what we are faced with.

“Where is the documentary on the thousands of hard working, brave and courageous police officers – who are out there as you read this – working tirelessly to keep people safe?

“This wouldn’t take five years to make, it would take five days.

“The Federation will make no apology for speaking up for our good officers. We do it today and will continue to do so.

“Our colleagues come to work every day to make a difference. And actions that can take place in seconds can be poured over for years by those with hindsight. Including by their chief officers.

“Again, we say everyone deserves a fair hearing and due process.

“Our view is that everyone now has to work together to move Avon and Somerset Police forward and make it a proud organisation that the public respect and trust.

“And equally that people want to be part of and serve in.”

Ms Crew said: “We knew that taking part in this documentary would be a controversial decision. Public institutions can be reluctant to open themselves up to this level of scrutiny, but people will see that we’re facing into the issues, however uncomfortable, which I hope will help to improve trust and confidence in our ability to police by consent.

“I want people to see that we understand their concerns, and we’re taking robust action to tackle all forms of misconduct, rooting out those who have no place in this profession and making sure they can never serve again.

“When we first invited Story Films to follow the dedicated officers and staff who work in our Professional Standards Department, we could never have foreseen the intense publicity and scrutiny this area of policing would experience over the following years.

“It’s abundantly clear the public’s confidence in policing has been critically dented by the horrific actions of officers like Wayne Couzens and David Carrick, and urgent recovery work must be undertaken to restore this precious bond we have with our communities.”

The chief constable added: “This programme will inevitably show the challenges and complexities of the misconduct regime we work within; a regime which is undergoing further significant change in the months ahead in response to public concern.

“I want to be clear from the outset, we’re sorry for the harm and distress the cases featuring in this programme have caused. Some of these cases are upsetting and appalling and we wish they had never happened.

“These cases are the exception and not the rule. They do not reflect on the professionalism and caring approach of the vast majority of officers and staff who are passionate about their role in keeping people safe, as well as fighting for fairness and justice.”

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