Complaints lead to staff leaving police
FIFTY-TWO police officers and staff have either been dismissed or resigned following complaints made against them by colleagues in the past three years.
In figures released by Wiltshire Police, who number around 1,000, the conduct cases – internal complaints raised by officers – has decreased, falling from 117 in 2009/10 to 78 in 2011/12.
This follows a review by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), published on Wednesday, which found Wiltshire Police must introduce a dedicated whistle-blowing policy after the death of former deputy chief constable David Ainsworth.
Mr Ainsworth, 49, was found hanged in his garage in March 2011 while under investigation for alleged sexual harassment, following 24 complaints from women who worked for the force.
The latest figures, released yesterday, show that constables have faced the most allegations over conduct, with 137 cases in the past three years, while in the same period 18 cases have involved inspectors and 12 disciplinary proceedings have been brought against volunteer special constables.
Of those who faced disciplinary action, 15 officers and 25 staff resigned before the process could be completed and 12 were dismissed, including four within the past year. But police said they could not reveal the nature of the allegations for fear of identifying those involved.
Chief Inspector Adrian Griffiths, of Wiltshire Police Professional Standards Department, said: “Wiltshire Police have a clear set of values and behaviours, which were developed by our own staff and endorsed by chief officers.
“There has been a change in culture over the past few years whereby the majority of internal misconduct enquiries are initiated by colleagues who feel confident to report wrongdoing.
“Senior management throughout the force reinforce our values and behaviours at every opportunity, and they form a golden thread through all training and decision making.”
A police spokesman said there were three ways for internal complaints to be raised confidentially: either a phone call to an external company 'Expolink', which is completely anonymous; direct report to the Professional Standards Department or any manager; or an anonymous reporting email system to the Anti-Corruption unit.
The HMIC review also stated Wiltshire Police had not vetted Mr Ainsworth properly before he was appointed as a senior officer.
The UK’s largest union Unison used the review to call for a root and branch review of sexual harassment in the police, the steps that are taken to tackle it, and the procedures by which it can be reported.
Ben Priestley, UNISON national officer for police and justice, said: “We need to tackle the culture in which it develops and make sure people feel like they are safe to report it if it happens.
“Investigations at Wilt-shire and in other forces have revealed sexual harassment in the police to be on a worrying scale.
“It has devastating consequences for the women who have been affected. We need to make sure that no other women have to suffer.”