Police officers will soon be able to resign or retire while subject to an investigation, although disciplinary proceedings will still continue.
A new Policing and Crime Bill, which contains the provision, will effectively override the regulation introduced last year, which stopped officers from retiring or resigning while under investigation.
The Bill, which had its first reading in the House of Commons earlier this month, aims to legislate on complaints and discipline within the police service.
While officers will be able to leave the force, they will have to return to face hearings if necessary.
A fact sheet about the new Bill says: “It is important that serious allegations can be fully investigated and resolved even if the officer involved is no longer a serving officer with a police force. If any officer has committed an act so serious that it would have warranted dismissal, then they should be held to account for their actions.”
If gross misconduct is proven and an officer has already left the force, they will be named on a public “struck-off” list preventing them from serving again. Their name would remain public for five years, before being permanently retained on a private register.
Alex Duncan, lead on Professional Standards for the Police Federation of England and Wales, welcomed the move. He told PoliceOracle.com: “The proposed change in legislation will enable those officers who wish to exit the service to do so, whilst also maintaining public confidence by ensuring the disciplinary process can continue to its conclusion.
“The current legislation means a number of our members have been left in limbo, being unable to move on with their lives due to lengthy investigations.”
Mr Duncan said it was important to note that the majority of gross misconduct allegations are unsubstantiated. “This means we have a system whereby a long-standing public servant, often with an impeccable service record, is prevented from retiring because of an untrue allegation,” he said.
The Federation still has concerns about another proposal in the Bill, which would allow allegations to be made against a police officer for up to a year after they have resigned or retired.
However, Mr Duncan said they could see benefits to a recommendation that suggests officers could choose to go on the “struck-off” register as an alternative to a “costly and unnecessary” gross misconduct process.