The College of Policing has issued guidance on officer separation after death or serious injury (DSI) involving firearms saying it should only happen when it is “safe, practical and necessary” to do so.
The body says its post-deployment Authorised Professional Practice seeks to “balance the need for an open, full and independent investigation” while “attending to the welfare of those involved.”
The guidance says conferring between those involved in an incident should not take place before a statement is made “other than to share operational or safety critical information” and “automatic separation of those most involved from their colleagues is not required unless it is safe, practical and necessary to do so and that should be decided by the senior officer in command of the incident.”
The APP is very closely aligned to what the Police Federation has repeatedly implored the Independent Police Complaints Commission to amend its guidance to. The watchdog states that officers must be separated following a death or serious injury.
Our guidance outlines an effective and practical approach for officers and staff which balances the need to keep the public safe with ensuring that all available evidence is gathered to support an independent investigation. There should be no conferring before a statement is made but if police are responding to an ongoing situation then we expect officers to make practical decisions about providing operational information to protect the public.
“We are aware that automatic separation is perceived very negatively by officers and we are satisfied that the approach set out in the guidance provides the necessary protection and support both to the independent investigation and those most closely involved.
“We also recognise it is essential for the family and loved ones of those who have been killed or seriously injured that a full review of the circumstances of the incident takes place so that they can understand what has happened and why.”
According to the College the guidance has been “developed on the basis that police officers who have had to use firearms as part of their role should be treated as professional witnesses unless there are grounds to suspect that they have done something unprofessional or unlawful.”
The APP issued by the college relates solely to incidents involving firearms whereas the IPCC guidance cover any death or serious injury after police contact.
The IPCC said it would not be amending its guidance on post-incident procedures.
Phill Matthews, Conduct and Performance lead for the Police Federation of England and Wales said: “We welcome the recognition from the College that firearms officers are highly trained individuals who should be treated as professional witnesses, unless there is good reason to suspect they have not acted professionally.
"They should not be made to feel like suspects following what will already have been a highly traumatic incident. "We are also pleased that the College agrees with us that separation is not necessary in all cases.”