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ISOPP Statement Following the Channel 4 Catch a Copper Documentary Series

The Independent Scrutiny of Police Powers Panel (ISOPP) participated in the Channel 4 documentary and, despite working with Avon and Somerset Police since 2017, we were shocked and disappointed to see the coverage in this series.

The decision to open up the force to this level of scrutiny was a courageous move from the leadership of Avon and Somerset Police and shows an absolute determination to root out all forms of police misconduct.  But the documentary laid bare how the Professional Standards Department and even the IOPC (Independent Office for Police Conduct) operate within systems and processes that result in decisions that protect the police rather than the public.

This has serious implications for policing by consent which is the basic foundation of British policing.  There is a need for a radical overhaul of the system to enable the police to proactively identify and exit those people that undermine trust and confidence in the police.  This is not only essential for the public, but also for the vast majority of the police who do excellent work.

The ISOPP is a group of volunteers from the local communities across the force region. We have scrutinised more than 1,000 cases and review the use of all police powers (use of force, stop and search, use of taser, PAVA and spit guards etc) to identify good practice and areas for improvement. We see examples of exceptional policing, but we also see aspects of poor and damaging policing.

However, it is distressing to still see cases like the Bedminster bus incident in 2020, after all the work having been done since 2017 in the wake of the Judah Adunbi case, where a 62 year old grandfather was tasered in the face in a case of mistaken identity. A case that prompted the Police and Crime Commissioner to create the ISoPP panel.  The hope was that with the use of scrutiny and learnings from this, combined with use of body worn video (BWV) incidents like these would be a thing of the past. Sadly, they are not.

As an independent panel, we escalate our questions and challenge Avon and Somerset Police and the Police and Crime Commissioner as to what they plan to do in the light of the continued police misconduct that has brought policing into disrepute, damaged trust and confidence, particularly in black communities and deters good people from joining the police. 

It is disappointing that over the last 18 months the ISOPP found only 64% of the cases scrutinised had adequate BWV.  Furthermore, the Bedminster bus case demonstrated a failure in acceptance by patrol officers of the importance of de-escalation. We also wish to highlight concerns about how reflective practice, on which the complaints regime appears to rely, is delivered and monitored. This is compounded by continued overarching doubts about the effectiveness of supervision, which seems to weaken as it filters down from senior management to the front line.

As representatives of the wider public in Avon and Somerset, we will continue to use the ISOPP platform to probe, question and challenge the police.  However, these collective concerns emphasise that more is needed to make the tangible changes to transform negative cultures and to ensure our communities trust and confidence is central to policing.