Lessons Learned: How not to conduct a complaint investigation

Lessons

Page last updated Sunday 20th April 2014 at 1615hrs

The police complaints system has come under increasing criticism over the past two years with two policing bodies, in particular, derogated more than any others: The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has, quite rightly, been repeatedly ridiculed in both the press and Parliament the over its ineptitude/poor judgement and the institutionally corrupt West Yorkshire Police (WYP) was the subject of a “root and branch” inquiry into failings over complaint investigations following sustained criticism from this website and uPSD’s social media presence.

After the Crawford Report was published by the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner (WYOPCC) in March 2014, after a ten month investigation, the public might have, quite rightly, expected some return for a six figure investment by Mark Burns-Williamson. Regrettably, the probative evidence available to uPSD shows quite the opposite: The prospects of complaints being recorded correctly by WYP, followed by an impartial and proportionate investigation of the issues raised have diminished further still following Ms Crawford’s “whitewash” exercise.

To highlight this appalling state of affairs uPSD have selected a case study in which the evidence of misconduct is inarguable (captured on film) and where WYP have produced an outcome to the complainant that drives a coach and horses through their own Police Pledge, the Police Reform Act 2002 and the IPCC’s Statutory Guidance that governs the way complaints are recorded, investigated and reported upon. The details below are reproduced with the kind permission of Mr Stephen Bradbury (pictured above right), a Huddersfield businessman, whose interaction with the police and his local council (Kirklees) is the subject of a documentary to be screened on Channel 4 TV in June 2014.

The incident that gave rise to Mr Bradbury’s complaint against a Wakefield NPT inspector, Richard Clare (pictured above centre), occurred on 31st January 2013in Wakefield City Centre where Mr Bradbury was taking photographs and filming police officers. This was part of a project he was engaged upon to collate a YouTube video featuring several assaults that had been visited upon him by police officers in Wakefield in the preceding three months. The introduction to Channel 4, and the decision to make the documentary for network television, has now overtaken the YouTube enterprise.

Whilst filming and photographing, Mr Bradbury was approached by DC Richard Tyler, arrested, manhandled and marched towards Wood Street police station. Tyler gave no reason for the arrest, did not identify himself or give Mr Bradbury a police caution. All of which breached the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. As Tyler reached the door of the police station with his “prisoner” he was approached by Inspector Clare who promptly “de-arrested” Mr Bradbury and sent Tyler on his way. Mr Bradbury who had met with Clare several weeks earlier in an attempt to resolve issues concerning the earlier assaults, asked him to take a complaint against the way Tyler had unlawfully arrested him in the street. Clare refused point blankly, rudely turned on his heel and angrily stomped back into the police station. Not the text book actions of an officer of managerial rank but, perhaps, more in keeping with a darker episode in Richard Clare’s past when his then employers, Lancashire Police, prosecuted him on an allegation of elbowing a woman in the face and knocking her down a flight of stairs. The victim had been arguing with Mrs Clare at a wedding party and the Lancashire Telegraph report of the trial can be read here.

Mr Bradbury then lodged a complaint the following day against Tyler via the 101 police call centre gateway. In a police investigation that concluded three months later hiss complaints against Tyler were, unsurprisingly, upheld as the entire episode had been captured on film. Complaints against Clare had been contemplated from the time the incident had occurred but Mr Bradbury had decided to wait until the outcome of the Tyler complaints before proceeding down that route. If the Tyler complaints were upheld then it followed, logically, that the complaints against Clare for failing to take the complaint in the first place (together with his incivility) should also succeed.

However, in the same month as the Tyler outcome negotiations were underway with C/Supt Andy Battle, the Wakefield Divisional Commander, to try to come to an amicable settlement concerning the issues between Mr Bradbury and the police force. All complaint matters were stayed, including the ones against Inspector Clare, to facilitate these discussions. The negotiations eventually broke down in December 2013 when Battle, who learned his tradecraft with another wholly discredited Force (South Yorkshire), unilaterally dissented from the process. This then triggered the complaints against a number of officers under his command that Battle had been trying to buy off. The first of those was against Inspector Richard Clare (complaint document can be read by clicking here), described by Battle as “one of the nicest guys on my team”.

This is a short chronology of what followed:

30.12.13   Complaint against Clare submitted by Mr Bradbury

13.1.14      Non Recording Appeal to IPCC

16.1.14      Complaint allegedly recorded by PSD

23.1.14      Letter from Insp Martin Moizer confirming appointment as investigator

31.1.14       Email from Mr Bradbury to Moizer requesting contact with Neil Wilby/meeting

7.2.14        Email from Mr Bradbury to Standards Unit re Moizer

13.2.14      Further complaint made to Standards Unit re ignoring emails. Copied to Chief Constable

14.2.14      Further email from Mr Bradbury requesting CI Turton contact Neil Wilby

25.2.14      Further email asking why no contact from CI Turton

3.3.14        Complaints lodged against CI Turton and PI Moizer with PSD by Mr Bradbury

5.3.14        Email from PC Noon to Mr Wilby noting CI Turton will be IO

5.3.14        Email from Wilby to Noon pointing out CI Turton as IO “inappropriate”

Email also included weblink to IPCC Statutory Guidance

http://www.ipcc.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Documents/statutoryguidance/2013_statutory_guidance_english.PDF

12.3.14       Complaints recorded against CI Turton and PI Moizer by PSD

26.3.14       Investigation Outcome provided to Mr Bradbury with CI Turton as IO

8.4.14         Appeal submitted by Mr Bradbury to Head of Professional Standards Department

It can be seen from the above timetable that West Yorkshire Police did not want to record the complaint in the first place. This, in uPSD’s informed opinion is strongly connected with Clare’s discipline history and the need to keep him “clean”.

The police then backdated the recording of Mr Bradbury’s complaint after being “tipped off” about his non-recording Appeal to the IPCC (a frequent occurrence in uPSD’s wider experience).

Anonymous emails were sent to Mr Bradbury from a DA Standards Unit email account. Responses to emails were ignored until the Chief Constable was made aware of the situation. PC Russ Noon (pictured above left) then appeared over the parapet as the culprit. Another discourteous officer with whom Mr Bradbury had previous dealings.

There followed a determined campaign by the Wakefield Division’s Standards Unit not to engage with Mr Bradbury or his appointed complaint friend, Neil Wilby, in any way shape or form. No telephone call, or meeting, took place. No victim statement was taken. No statement was taken from DC Tyler, present at the interchange with Clare and Mr Bradbury. The film of the incident belonging to Mr Bradbury was not viewed, neither was the CCTV from the rear of the police station. The two previous accounts of the Bradbury/Tyler incident provided by Clare, to his superiors, were not examined for contradictions in the account provided to the current investigation.

The investigation outcome eventually provided by Chief Inspector Jackie Turton was a minimalist, highly partial affair that, essentially, comprised of the reporting of an email interchange between her and the officer complained of, Richard Clare. The Decision letter authored by another Wakefield Standards Unit Chief Inspector, Phillip Wright, astonishingly, approved the Turton “investigation”.

It can be summarised thus:

“Did you do anything wrong, Clare?”

“No, Ma’am”

“Oh, ok then. Leave it with me and I’ll get rid of it”.

The recording process and subsequent “investigation” was, on any independent view, a shambles from start to finish: A master-class, in fact, on how not to conduct a police complaint matter. The breaches of the IPCC’s Statutory Guidance were set out in considerable detail as part of the Appeal against Turton’s investigation outcome and can be read here. It is a formidable tally.

The grounds of that Appeal are summarised here:

  1. The complainant did not receive adequate information following the “investigation” (the term is used      loosely as no investigation worthy of the name actually took place)
  2. The complainant disagrees with the findings of the “investigation”
  3. The complainant does not believe the conclusions reached are reasonable in light of the evidence
  4. The complainant does not believe that the investigation has been carried out in a proportionate manner and that sufficient evidence been gathered
  5. The complainant does not agree that the right decisions have been made about whether or not the complaints that have been investigated should be upheld?
  6. The complainant does not consider that the lack of proposed action is appropriate.

The Appeal was summarised in the form of the Conclusion set out below. The full text of the Appeal can be read by clicking here.

This is an Appeal against an investigation outcome where the issues are straightforward: (i) Complainant (and his representative) completely ignored by the police, (ii) Statutory Guidance not followed, (iii) an investigator appointed who has no hierarchal or institutional independence and who, furthermore, (iv) is the subject of a separate complaint by the complainant, (v) information improperly withheld, (vi) a partial investigation where (vii) evidence that would harm the police case not collected or assessed and (viii) an outcome that is perverse and irrational (viii) prejudice and discrimination present in the dealings with the complainant (and his representative)

The portents of the Appeal being considered appropriately and impartially are not particularly promising. Since the change in legislation in 2012 most complainants against the police do not have the right of Appeal to the IPCC. The process is such that you appeal to the police against an investigation by the very same police. The precise legal position is that the Chief Constable is the “Appropriate Authority” for considering Appeals unless he chooses to delegate the responsibility. In the case of West Yorkshire Police the Head of Professional Standards, DCS Andy Brennan, is the man appointed by Chief Constable, Mark Gilmore, to deal with Appeals. An email sent to Brennan attaching the Appeal and the Appendix of Statutory Guidance breaches received this anonymous response:

Dear Mr Bradbury and Mr Wilby. Your appeal will be forwarded on to the appropriate person who will aim to deal with your appeal within 28 working days and respond with their decision in the near future. Yours sincerely, Professional Standards Help Desk”.

Mr Bradbury awaits the latest twists and turns in this saga but is fully prepared to test his case in the High Court if there is any further chicanery on the part of Brennan and “the appropriate person” dealing with the Appeal whoever he, or she, might be.

Neither of the two chief inspectors, Turton and Wright, nor PC Russ Noon had any comment to make when informed that their case was to be held up nationally as a “How not to” study. They also declined to provide photographs of themselves for the slide show presentation that will flow from this webpage and be then circulated to every policing body in the country.

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