Police Chiefs Given Power to Fire Rogue Officers

Policing minister Chris Philp said officers unfit to serve ’must be rooted out at the earliest opportunity,' with the changes due to come into effect on May 7.
Police Chiefs Given Power to Fire Rogue Officers
A police officer making notes on Oct. 22, 2014. (Joe Giddens/PA)
Victoria Friedman

Police chiefs have been given powers to preside over hearings that decide whether to remove officers found guilty of misconduct, the government has announced.

Home Office reforms put before Parliament on Tuesday will give police leaders more accountability and make it easier for them to fire rogue officers. The changes will come into effect on May 7.

Policing minister Chris Philp said that officers unfit to serve “must be rooted out at the earliest opportunity and these changes will ensure chief constables are given greater control over this process.”

Mr. Philp continued: “The public need greater confidence that the officers who serve their communities are dedicated to keeping them safe.

“We have already made progress in improving the police dismissals process, which includes the police carrying out the largest-ever integrity screening exercise of their workforce and through strengthened vetting, which will go further in booting out corrupt officers.”

The changes will return the responsibilities chief constables had almost 10 years ago.

They aim to rebuild public trust in policing after it was eroded following a series of scandals exposed in forces in recent years, including the conviction of David Carrick, who committed multiple sexual offences while a serving police officer, and the murder of Sarah Everard by Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens.

Continuous Vetting Process

The Home Office said that under the new measures, police and crime commissioners (PCCs) will have greater responsibility for scrutinising dismissal panels and holding those who make decisions to account.

Previously, these panels were chaired by lawyers; legal advisers will remain part of the hearings and will provide independent legal advice in a “more supportive role,” the Home Office said. Hearings will continue to be held in public to maintain transparency and fairness. The outcomes will still be determined by a majority decision by the panel.

In February, the government made changes to the police disciplinary system meaning that officers charged with an indictable offence—a charge which may be tried by a jury in a Crown Court—will be automatically suspended from duty until an outcome is reached. It will also be easier to fire police officers found guilty of gross misconduct and those who fail to maintain basic vetting when reviewed.

The Home Office is also looking to implement an automatic screening system that will ensure police are continuously vetted throughout their career. The move forms part of the government’s response to the Angiolini inquiry, which found Couzens had a history of offences spanning two decades before he murdered Ms. Everard.

Couzens’s ‘Dangerous Belief in His Invincibility’

In January 2023, Carrick pleaded guilty to 24 counts of rape and 25 other offences which he carried out over the span of 18 years while serving in the Met Police. He was jailed for life for a minimum of 30 years the following month.
Following the guilty pleas by Carrick—who had served in the Met with Couzens—Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the police “must address the failings in this case” and “restore public confidence.”

“There will be no place to hide for those who use their position to intimidate women and girls, or for those who fail to act to reprimand and remove people who are unfit for office,” the prime minister said at the time.

In March last year, a judge who sentenced Couzens for committing three counts of indecent exposure in November 2020 and February 2021 said his ability to get away with the crimes served to confirm his “dangerous belief in his invincibility” and “in his power to sexually dominate and abuse women without being stopped.”

One of the women who Couzens exposed himself to had told the court: “I had no one contact me or ask for a statement. It was only after Sarah’s murder that I became involved. If he had been held accountable when we had reported the crime, we could have saved Sarah.”

Mrs. Justice Juliet May sentenced Couzens to another 19 months in prison. Couzens has already been given a whole life sentence for the March 2021 murder of Ms. Everard and will never be released.

PA Media contributed to this report.
Victoria Friedman is a UK-based reporter covering a wide range of national stories.