Police Violence and Police Complaints: Independence, Integrity and Individual Justice

Clare Torrible1
1University Of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom

This paper explores the impact of recent reforms to the police complaints process in England and Wales on the ability of victims of police violence to achieve justice. The paper focuses on three areas: the jurisdictional boundaries between force professional standards departments and the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC); the new role within the police complaints process for Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs); and the potential for victims of police violence to achieve a voice through the proposed super-complaints procedures. The analysis adopts Valverde’s suggested framework for research in securities thus focusing on the rationalities, the scope and the techniques of governance that the police complaints system broadly conceived (to include the IOPC, PCCs and the bodies designated to make super-complaints) now comprises. This examination scrutinises the different ways in which the notion of ‘independence’ is used in relation to these external bodies and probes the implications of the increased emphasis on the promotion of police integrity as an aim of the police complaints process. How each of the bodies responds to complaints and the scope of the procedures they adopt in terms of the temporal and spatial scale at which they operate is also addressed. The paper argues that complainants are now perceived primarily as sources of collective data upon which systemic improvements to policing services may be based (or claims to a commitment to such improvements may be founded) and that consequently, within the police complaints system, justice is conceived predominantly in these structural terms.

Clare qualified as a solicitor in 1998 and was in legal practice for many years acting as a Crown Prosecutor and as a senior solicitor within a Police Authority. She returned to academic study in 2012 where her interest lies in police regulation. Clare sits on the IOPC’s External Stakeholders Group and has published papers on both police legitimacy and police professionalism. She recently submitted her doctoral thesis which focuses on the interaction between the police complaints process and the use of civil actions against the police.


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