Incompetent or lazy police face new sanctions

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INCOMPETENT police officers could face pay cuts, demotion or dismissal under new 'incapability' procedures to go before Kenneth Clarke, the Home Secretary, later this year, it was disclosed yesterday.

The proposals, drawn up by a Home Office working party which has been examining ways of dealing with inefficient officers, could come into effect by late next year.

Last week, Mr Clarke said the police service had to 'grasp the nettle' of dealing with lazy and incompetent officers. Senior officers have supported the idea for years but they have been strongly resisted by the lower ranks.

Outlining the draft proposals at the autumn conference of the Association of Chief Police Officers, Peter Ryan, Chief Constable of Norfolk and a member of the working party, said: 'What we do not intend is that we finish up with wholesale dismissals. These proposals are designed to polish police personnel practices so that lazy and incompetent officers are given help to get better. Only those who fail to respond will face dismissal.'

Mr Ryan, secretary of the association's personnel and training committee, said he believed that only about 1 per cent of the service could be affected.

Under the draft proposals, the first stage is for officers whose performance is not judged to be adequate, to be interviewed by a higher ranking officer; the officer would be told to improve within a certain time, such as a month. If the officer fails to improve, he or she would face a formal second interview where 'hard words of advice' would be given and a warning that there was the danger of loss of pay increments, demotion or ultimately dismissal. If this failed to lead to improvement, an incapability hearing would be convened where the officer would face a panel of three senior officers at which the sanction would be decided. At incapability proceedings officers will be allowed to have a 'friend' but they would not be allowed to act as advocates.

Officers have the right of appeal to the chief constable and ultimately the right to take the case to an industrial tribunal, a process not previously available to the police.

Mr Ryan said as the first step, chief constables had been asked to draw up job descriptions for each police role and rank, to give a yardstick against which performance can be judged. Initially, the system would apply only to officers up to the rank of chief superintendent.

Complaints from the public would be investigated as normal, although minor complaints currently dealt with informally would be taken into account as part of the incapability process.

A quarter of London's frontline police officers will be women by the beginning of the next decade, the conference was told.

Commander John Grieve, head of training for the Metropolitan Police, said that ways of improving the role of women in the police and dealing with the 'pitstop of maternity leave' were important issues for the service to tackle.