Government to make it easier to sack rogue police officers

Government announces changes to rules governing police officers' disciplinary, vetting and performance processes

Police chiefs will chair independent public hearings responsible for removing corrupt officers from their force under new plans to strengthen the police dismissals process announced today (Thursday 31 August).

In a move to ensure the public are getting the high level of professionalism and service they deserve from our police, speed up the process of removing rogue officers, and to restore confidence in forces, the government has unveiled a raft of changes to the rules governing officers’ disciplinary, vetting and performance processes.

The law will be changed to ensure all officers must be appropriately vetted during their service and to enable officers who fail a re-vetting test whilst in post to be sacked.

Under the new system, a finding of gross misconduct will automatically result in a police officer’s dismissal, unless exceptional circumstances apply, speeding up the removal of officers not fit to serve.

Chief constables (or other senior officers) will also be given greater responsibilities to decide whether officers should be sacked, increasing their accountability for their forces, and will now chair independent misconduct panels. An independent lawyer will continue to sit on the panel, providing independent advice and helping to maintain rigour, but in a supporting legally qualified person (LQP) position. The outcome will be determined by a majority panel decision, as it is now, and hearings will continue to be held in public to maintain transparency.

Police chiefs will also be given a right to challenge decisions and there will be a presumption for former officers and special constables’ cases to be heard under fast-track procedures chaired by senior officers, cutting bureaucracy and saving taxpayers’ money, while making sure those failing to uphold standards are removed more swiftly.

The reforms follow a comprehensive review of the police disciplinary system launched following the conviction of David Carrick, who is spending 30 years behind bars for numerous serious sexual offences committed whilst he was a serving police officer.

We will also explore with police and crime commissioners (PCCs) and other stakeholders extending rights of challenge to PCCs, to allow democratically elected commissioners to hold those making dismissals decisions to account.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman said:

"Corrupt police officers and those who behave poorly or fail vetting must be kicked out of our forces. For too long our police chiefs have not had the powers they need to root out those who have no place wearing the uniform.

"Now they can take swift and robust action to sack officers who should not be serving our communities.

"The public must have confidence that their officers are the best of the best, like the vast majority of brave men and women wearing the badge, and that’s why those who disgrace the uniform must have no place to hide."

Policing Minister Chris Philp said:

"Public trust must be restored – this is an important step to ensure we are ridding forces of rogue officers, for the sake of communities and for those officers who are dedicated, hardworking and brave.

"Confidence in our police forces has been rocked recently.

"These changes will ensure that police chiefs will have the ability to act fast to remove officers guilty of serious misconduct or who are poorly performing."

Other measures announced today include:

  • working with the sector to create a list of criminal offences which would automatically amount to gross misconduct upon conviction
  • streamlining of the performance system to ensure it’s effective at removing officers who demonstrate a serious inability or failure to perform their duties
  • issuing new guidance to all forces to support the effective discharge of under-performing probationary officers using Regulation 13 powers
  • improving data collection on performance and dismissals across all forces, including data on protected characteristics; and
  • speeding up the system by allowing chief constables to delegate their responsibilities to other senior officers

These reforms build on wider work underway to transform the culture within policing and raise standards across the board. Last month, the College of Policing strengthened vetting standards, introducing a requirement for officers to be re-vetted following the conclusion of misconduct proceedings that do not end in a dismissal and making clear that checks must be carried out to identify any officers who have been barred from serving to ensure they cannot re-join the police.

The government also established the Angiolini Inquiry following the murder of Sarah Everard to understand how a serving police officer was able to carry out such a horrendous crime and to uncover any systemic issues in policing, such as vetting, recruitment and culture, as well as the safety of women in public spaces. It is also looking at David Carrick’s criminal behaviour and the decision making around his police vetting.

Furthermore, police forces have now completed the data washing exercise to check all officers and staff against national police databases, and are now manually analysing the information to identify leads for follow up.

National Police Chiefs’ Council Chair, Chief Constable Gavin Stephens said:

"We welcome the change that will ensure any officer guilty of gross misconduct is automatically dismissed, and that any officer who fails vetting can be sacked.

"It is also right that chief constables take the lead on the misconduct process. We are resolute in our commitment to rid policing of those not fit to serve the public and the changes in the dismissals process announced today significantly strengthens our ability to do so.

"Chief constables are the employers and so it is right they should lead the process with support from independent legally qualified panel member/s. Not only will this streamline the process, but it will ensure the swift and effective removal of anyone who does not meet the high standards our communities deserve.

"Misconduct proceedings are rightly open, fair and balanced, operating under detailed guidance which protects both our officers and the public we serve. Today’s announcement further supports this and our determination to root out the abusers and corrupt individuals who blight our service."

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said:

"I’m grateful to the government for recognising the need for substantial change that will empower chief officers in our fight to uphold the highest standards and restore confidence in policing.

"The flaws in the existing regulations have contributed to our inability to fully address the systemic issues of poor standards and misconduct.

"Chief officers are held to account for the service we deliver and for the standards we uphold which is why I have been persistent in calling for us to have the powers to act decisively and without bureaucratic delays when we identify those who have no place in policing."

In addition to these measures to tackle corrupt police officers, the Home Office is also launching a consultation on a new national framework for how police powers – including stop and search and use of force – are scrutinised at a local level. This delivers on a commitment made by government in its response to the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report.

The Community Scrutiny Framework aims to assist PCCs and police forces to establish and maintain effective community scrutiny panels in their local area and ensure a consistent approach nationally.

Community scrutiny panels allow members of the community to review individual police interactions with the public and provide observations and feedback via local police and crime commissioners and the police. This can support police officers to use their powers more confidently with the backing of their communities and aid public understanding of how and why police powers are used.

Today’s announcement is also supported by publication of a review examining public perceptions of policing. The review establishes police visibility, availability, and attendance at incidents as critical to public perceptions of policing, and efforts to improve trust and confidence.

Chair of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, Donna Jones, said:

"Police and crime commissioners are committed to ensuring police officers who commit criminal acts or are proved to have acted in a corrupt way, are not only removed from operational duties as a matter of urgency, but that they are dismissed from police forces as quickly as possible. For this to happen the process to remove police officers must be one that is expedited with minimal barriers that cause delay.

"Therefore I welcome the minsters announcement today to speed up the process enabling Chief Constables to sack corrupt police officers quicker."

The Home Secretary has also made clear that strong leadership at all ranks is essential to drive a positive culture and improve standards in policing.

The College of Policing has launched its new professional framework, which sets new consistent national standards for leadership, which will be delivered to all ranks through training by the College’s National Centre for Police Leadership. A new two-year development programme will also enable the most talented serving police inspectors to advance to superintendent more quickly.

Police entry routes will also be streamlined, including a new non-degree entry route which will be rolled out in the Autumn, with successful candidates beginning their training in Spring 2024.

Chief Constable Andy Marsh, CEO at the College of Policing, said:

"There is no place in policing for anyone who behaves in a way that damages the public’s trust in us to keep them safe. I welcome today’s announcement which means chiefs officers can swiftly root out those who are damaging policing and falling far short of our commitment to public service.

"I was a chief constable in two police forces and I know first-hand the frustration of having to keep officers that I would have otherwise sacked. Last year I began asking for this to change to take place and it means chief officers will be in control of who walks the streets in their uniform.

"I know from more than 30 years in policing that the vast majority of officers are dedicated public servants who work hard every day to keep people safe. They do not wish to work alongside officers who commit crimes or impact the trust people have in us. The process will be fair but those who commit serious misconduct can expect to be sacked."

Home Office
The Rt Hon Chris Philp MP
The Rt Hon Suella Braverman KC MP