To help build trust and public confidence in policing, Greater Manchester's independent Ethics Committee advises the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Beverley Hughes, and Greater Manchester Police on the complex dilemmas that policing faces in the modern world.
The committee has been given a wide remit, with GMP pledging to give access to the service's systems and people. When established, it was the first of its type in the country.
The committee decides which issues it wants to consider, as well has having issues referred in by both GMP and the Deputy Mayor. Members of the public can raise issues with the committee - but it does not consider individual complaints about police.
The committee considers both broad thematic issues - such as discrimination, safe drug use, and surveillance - and practical day-to-day issues, such as the use of body-worn cameras by police officers.
Professional ethics is far broader than integrity alone. It incorporates the requirement to give an account of one's judgments, acts and omissions. In simple terms, it is not only about doing the right deed but also about doing it for the right reason.
By having an ethics committee, the Deputy Mayor Beverley Hughes is making an explicit and public commitment to transparent, ethical policing in Greater Manchester that is subjected to rigorous independent scrutiny.
Chair of the Committee - Bishop David Walker
Chaired by the Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd David Walker, the committee's membership has been drawn from across Greater Manchester's diverse communities and members have extensive experience and expertise in a range of fields.
"As a diverse group, we seek to bring together our varied skills, experience and connections in the community. We believe we can strengthen and add value to the work of GMP for the benefit of all Greater Manchester people."
The Committee's work
Since it has been established, the committee has delivered a significant programme of work, on both a planned and responsive basis. Work the committee has conducted includes:
One of the first major pieces of work carried out was into the ethical considerations of police officers using body-worn videos. Technological advances mean that police can now use affordable cameras which provide high-quality images and audio which can be used for evidential purposes.
The committee considered the ethical dimensions of if, when and how these cameras should be used by police officers and police community support officers. As part of its research, the committee held focus groups with a range of community representatives and police. The committee published a report which summarised its findings and made 14 recommendations for GMP and the PCC's office to consider before deploying the technology widely.
The research helped formulate GMP's policy on the use of the technology, which has now been issued to all frontline police officers.
Use of force and weaponry such as Tasers
The committee reviewed a random sample of incidents involving Tasers to ensure GMP's use of the weapon was appropriate and ethically-sound. This was generated from a wider look at how GMP deploys weaponry, and how force is used within policing.
Human tissue retention
Following an audit of human tissue being stored by GMP, the service discovered that there were a number of cases, dating back to 1987, where tissue belonging to deceased victims of crime had been retained by GMP without family members being informed.
GMP requested advice from the committee to ensure the proposed policy the service was taking to informing family members was ethically-sound.
Committee members reviewed GMP's policy and practices around whistle-blowing, as well as meeting with a range of police officers of varying ranks, and the Professional Standards Branch.
The committee commissioned Manchester Metropolitan University to develop an ethical framework for Greater Manchester Police.
The proposed ethical framework sets out 10 guiding principles, which will help the service demonstrate its commitment to transparency and ethical behaviour at an organisational level. These principles will help GMP officers and staff make robust, transparent decisions, which can be clearly articulated by being reflected in GMP's policy framework. As an organisational document which addresses ethical behaviour at a corporate level, the framework complements GMP's relevant codes of individual behaviour, such as the Code of Ethics and the College of Policing's Competency Values Framework.
This need for a corporate ethical framework for GMP was established after the then Police and Crime Commissioner referred GMP's commercial engagement with the government of Qatar to the committee. Concerns had been expressed by the public and elected representatives about GMP providing training to Qatari police, when that country has such a questionable human rights record. The committee rigorously examined the process of engaging with the government of Qatar and, while it found that proper due diligence had been conducted for this particular contract, the lack of a corporate ethical framework was a gap which the committee felt should be addressed.
It is believed that GMP will be the first police service in the country to have a corporate ethical framework.
Advice on events
GMP asked the Ethics Committee for guidance regarding Parklife and a request the service had received from The Loop (a charity GMP have previously worked with in testing drugs which are seized or found) about whether attendees at the festival could hand over any drugs they are carrying to be voluntarily tested without the risk of being arrested. This would be a preventative measure to avoid injury or death from tainted drugs, not just for the individuals who hand the drugs in, but more widely as if tainted drugs were found messages would have been sent on social media as warnings. But there was a clear ethical dilemma for the police around people volunteering illegal substances to the police and not getting arrested.
Committee members met with GMP to discuss the issue who advised that the approach taken should be one of public health and harm reduction, rather than legalistic, and GMP should engage the services of public health. At the festival, the decision taken was to take a policy of alerting festival goers to potentially dangerous drugs, rather than confirming that tested drugs were safe. The committee's input was valued by police, the charity, and festival organisers.
Children and policing
The committee has considered the ethical issues around how the police interact with young people in general, and specifically the treatment of young people in custody. This work has involved focus groups with young people and engagement with custody staff, appropriate adult volunteers, and independent custody visitor volunteers.
Use of data
The committee considered the way in which the police used personal information in both the public and private domain when carrying out activities such as vetting, gathering intelligence and issuing public appeals, and provided advice to GMP on the ethical handling of personal information.
Police employment of people with criminal records
The committee looked at how people are vetted for careers within policing, and what considerations are given to grant employment to those with criminal records. The committee considered whether decisions or processes made by GMP's vetting section were grounded in ethical principles and standards, and how that compliance is measured.
The committee reviewed GMP's processes, other national guidelines, and the approach taken in other professions. They met with GMP's vetting unit and produced a report with several recommendations around transparency, sustainability and equality.
Engagement with police officers and staff
The committee always aims to ensure it does not have to rely on the word of senior officers from GMP or the Police and Crime Commissioner's office and, where possible, hears from the front-line when considering ethical dilemmas.
The committee has also directly engaged with front-line officers with specific learning sessions around ethics and integrity where officers were able to speak openly and frankly about how they can embed ethics into the day-to-day business of policing.
Ethics Committee Members
Bishop of Manchester, Rt Revd David Walker
Bishop David Walker was enthroned as Bishop of Manchester in November 2013, which marked his return to his home city of Manchester. Bishop David has campaigned on social justice issues for many years, taking a particular interest in social housing. He has served on the Equality, Diversity and Human Rights Panel for the College of Policing. Bishop David chairs the committee.
Cym is the Chief Executive of Arawak Walton Housing Association, which specialises in meeting the complex housing needs of black and ethnic minority communities. Cym also chairs BMENational, a collective of more than 60 BME housing associations in England and is a member of the advisory group for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation's research into housing and poverty.
David Arnold MBE is an independent consultant specialising in Holocaust education and commemoration, cultural awareness and diversity training. He has delivered this work in a range of organisations from schools to the police service. Until recently he served as Chair of an Independent Advisory Group for Greater Manchester Police.
Dr Dane Anderton
Dr Dane Anderton is a Senior Lecturer and Director of Programmes at the University of Manchester. He lectures in Strategic Management and Place Leadership and has experience of managing and analysing research data.
Dr Iestyn Shapey
Dr Iestyn Shapey works as a doctor in the NHS and is an Honorary Clinical Lecturer at the University of Manchester. His main research interest is in complex decision-making and has published widely in this field. He has a wealth of experience using mathematical modelling and artificial intelligence to analyse information from large data-sets and DNA to facilitate better decisions leading to improved clinical outcomes. Iestyn is experienced in applying ethical principles to challenging real-world situations and understanding how to address high-risk ethico-legal dilemmas. He previously sat on the Greater Manchester West Research Ethics Committee for the Health Research Authority and is a member of the UNESCO Chair in Bioetheics at Edge Hill University.
Maneer Afsar is an independent member of the Parole Board, considering cases for release and transfer. She has previously worked as an Operational Manager for the Parliamentary Health Services Ombudsman leading a team of investigators reviewing complaints about the NHS or parliamentary bodies. Prior to that Maneer worked for the HM Inspectorate of Prisons.
Sally Lester worked in Probation Services for many years, latterly as Assistant Chief Inspector of Probation. She is now working as an independent consultant in international criminal justice development projects and is an external member of the Parole Board review committee.
Victoria Yates is a solicitor and former Senior Crown Prosecutor in Manchester. She also provides independent advice in the Social Entitlement Chamber of the HM Tribunal Service. In addition, Victoria is an active member of the GM NHS Brest Clinical Pathway Board and created a network to support younger women following breast cancer diagnosis.
Members receive an allowance of £1,000, and an attendance allowance of £211.50 per day or £104.50 per half day. This allowance is in line with Home Office guidance.
Contact the Independent Ethics Committee
The Independent Ethics Committee can be contacted via email at Ethics.Committee@greatermanchester-ca.gov.uk