A public disagreement between Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Commissioner for the Metropolitan Police and Dame Anne Owers, the Chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Commission is not the ideal way for these two people and their organisations to deal with differences of opinion. Clearly when investigations take place by the IPCC there will always need to be a separation from the Police service being investigated. However the two agencies need to be able to work together in a constructive way outside of such investigations as well as during them and using the pages of the Times Newspaper is hardly a good place to achieve this. This particular spat seems to revolve around the way in which the Met believes their firearms officers are treated by the IPCC. It is clear from the contact I have had with Sussex Police and their firearms teams, that every officer is acutely aware of the impact that they have on the community around them and the individuals who they are called to respond to. I have had the opportunity to hear at second hand about specific incidents, and the level of concern felt by the firearms teams when a firearm has been discharged is significant, let alone the impact that such an event must have had on the individual officers. I am sure that Bernard Hogan-Howe is right to suggest that the police officers in such a situation, feel pressure from inside and outside the police service which is similar to that of being a suspect. However that does not mean that the IPCC or indeed any of the internal support mechanisms see things in that way. It is good that Anne Owers has made it clear that the IPCC does not intend for that to be the case. One hopes that the Metropolitan Police is also as supportive as it can be for such officers faced with the knowledge of their actions. This article in which Mrs Owers challenges some elements of Hogan-Howe’s concerns shows that a public airing of such issues has limited benefit for the public and for the police officers concerned. It is not unreasonable to hope that these two well paid public officials could resolve some of their disagreements in a more effective manner and work together to address the real issues for which the IPCC was established. It was set up after the tragic death and failed investigation into the death of Stephen Lawrence to ensure that the Police work in the most effective manner and it plays a vital role in our society as does the Metropolitan Police whose work impacts all of the UK due to certain elements of its remit.
Bernard Hogan-Howe is right to question the time it takes for the IPCC to carry out their investigations. Every day that goes by for victims and witnesses with a matter unresolved is a wasted day. However as Hogan-Howe knows from the work of the Metropolitan Police, investigations take time to complete and depend on resources available. There are many within our communities who wish that the Police would get a move on with their investigations. The IPCC has been given additional work to do over recent years and is expanding and changing to meet the need, but it cannot do so overnight. Its work is far from easy and I know from a meeting that I had with members of the IPCC last month, that they are committed to achieving positive outcomes for all people. What cannot help either organisation is using the newspapers as a communication tool. Hogan-Howe should know better. He may be thinking ahead to his retirement as evidenced by his recent interview on Marr, but for the moment he is working for all of us.