The Police Federation of England and Wales has “vehemently” disagreed with a proposal to ban officers from conferring after witnessing a death or serious injury.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission has produced draft guidance that claims the act of officers conferring before making their individual statements has the potential to “damage public confidence”.
The IPCC is carrying out a public consultation on the new guidance, which runs until 27 May.
In the case of death or serious injury, police witnesses should be instructed not to speak, or otherwise communicate, about the incident in question and should be kept separate until their accounts have been taken, says the document.
“Non-police witnesses are routinely warned not to discuss the incident in question either before or after they have given their accounts,” says the IPCC. “The same should apply to policing witnesses.”
However, Steve Evans, national lead on professional standards for the PFEW, said the Federation is unaware of any evidence-based or compelling reason to change the existing practice.
The current rules were agreed by the IPCC, he said, and are aimed at capturing the best evidence and detail possible in “extremely stressful, fast moving and life-threatening situations”.
Mr Evans added that conferring should not be confused with “the more sinister connotation of colluding”.
He also noted that when officers confer after an incident, they have to record that conferring has taken place, with whom they have conferred and which areas of the statement they have conferred on.
“This is to ensure the process remains transparent and auditable. No conferring takes place around the decisions made at the time of an incident,” he said.
“The PFEW will be participating in the consultation process to ensure the voice of 124,000 police officers is represented but we vehemently disagree with the position taken by the IPCC over the need to remove this valued and well-recognised practice,” said Mr Evans.
Date posted: March 13, 2014