EXCLUSIVE: Police complaints body will tackle homophobia

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The chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has vowed to extend guidelines to tackle allegations of homophobic behaviour within the police force.

The IPCC is holding a public consultation on its draft guidelines on investigating allegations of discriminatory behaviour.

The guidelines will replace the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) procedures, Investigating Allegations of Racially Discriminatory Behaviour.

Nick Hardwick, Chair of the IPCC, told PinkNews.co.uk:

“Few complaints about police misconduct are as controversial, or as complex to investigate, as those alleging discriminatory behaviour.

“The impact of alleged discriminatory behaviour, where it is either real or perceived, and how it is investigated, can have a profound negative effect on public confidence in the complaints system and the police.

“The development of these guidelines to cover allegations of all forms of discriminatory behaviour is something I feel very strongly about and arises from a personal commitment I made to the Gay Police Association.

“When members of the public feel they have been the subject of homophobic discrimination by the police they need to have the confidence to come forward and know that it will be dealt with in a sensitive and professional way. These guidelines will assist that.”

The IPCC endorsed the PCA guidelines when it published its statutory guidelines in July 2003, but has agreed to review these and aim to extend them to cover all forms of discrimination, including discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

The guidelines will assist investigators employed by the IPCC and police Professional Standards Departments when considering complaints and allegations against police staff and officers.

In particular the IPCC is currently seeking views on the use of Local Resolution for dealing with some allegations of discriminatory behaviour and disciplinary outcomes on proven cases reflecting the circumstances of the complaint and evidence of the investigation.

The commission is also considering incorporating the guidelines into IPCC statutory guidance.

Mr Hardwick added: “The guidelines are not simply about seeking a discipline outcome; they are equally about officers and the police service as a whole learning and changing their behaviour and attitudes.

“For police officers who are the subject of an allegation of this kind it is an extremely serious matter.

“Officers, no less than complainants, need to be assured that any investigation is professional, proportionate and fair.

“I hope anyone involved in investigating these sorts of allegations or those with an interest in dealing with or tackling discrimination will comment on the draft guidelines.”

The IPCC has overall responsibility for the police complaints system.

Since April 2006 it has taken on responsibility for similar, serious complaints against HM Revenue and Customs and the Serious Organised Crime Agency in England and Wales.

The IPCC has the task of increasing public confidence in the complaint systems and aims to make investigations more open, timely, proportionate and fair.

Since April 2004 the IPCC has used its powers to begin 171 independent and 533 managed investigations into the most serious complaints against the police.

Several new diversity officers were appointed in Cornwall last year are as a direct result of an IPCC enquiry in 2006 into Devon Cornwall Constabulary’s conduct following complaints against police from gay rights campaigner Malcolm Lidbury.

Lidbury’s complaints in 2004 2006 to the IPCC about the Devon Cornwall Constabulary resulted in twenty-two recommendations of needed improvement in police service, but many gay people in Cornwall have said feel the IPCC recommendations have been treated with contempt by the Cornwall police force, according to ukgayguides.co.uk.

The public consultation on the draft guidelines will end on 10 November.

The draft guidelines are available on the IPCC website.