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1/4 of police employees not properly background checked

Updated: Dec 3, 2021

A BBC investigation has found that more than 2,500 police officers and personnel are on the job without being properly vetted.

Why is this the case? In 2019, the police watchdog, Her Majesty's Inspectorate for Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), gave all police forces until July 2020 to retroactively vet all their officers and employees against the 2006 criteria, regardless of how long they had been on the job. But figures shows nearly 1in 4 of police forces in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland have not vetted all of their officers.

According to the Nation Police Chiefs Council it was the responsibility of each force to ensure all vetting checks were up to date. According to the Independent 41 of the 47 police forces in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland responded to the BBC's Freedom of Information requests, with 11 indicating they were still re-vetting.

The National Guidelines were created by the College of Policing to guarantee that all forces in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland checked new recruits in the same way. These guidelines have been developed to help achieve, implement, and maintain minimum national standards and ensure those standards are consistently applied across the police service. Everyone in the police service, and leaders in particular, must maintain high ethical and professional standards and act with the utmost integrity. This is crucial in ensuring public confidence in the service is maintained.

The fact that the vetting process was not implemented correctly resulted in wasted opportunities to prevent terrible acts. In a recent high-profile case, according to the Independent, a police officer had passed several rounds of vetting, including enhanced checks for armed roles, yet three reported episodes of indecent exposure in 2015 and in February 2021 were not fully investigated, before he committed a heinous crime.

What is involved in police Vetting?

Police officers are intended to be symbols of safety and trust, which is why every potential and existing police officer goes through a thorough vetting stage. This includes reporting the actions of relatives and friends in order to avoid being extorted or blackmailed. The vetting procedure also compares you to the Code of Ethics of the College of Policing, which takes into account a variety of other considerations.

Criminal background check

All convictions, cautions (including those obtained as a minor), participation in any criminal inquiry, and court-ordered bind-overs must be declared. These declarations may not directly result in an application failing; each case is assessed on its own merits. But an application will be denied if anything is not declared and is later discovered. The following are some of the considerations:

  • Age at the time of the offence

  • How long ago the offence was committed

  • The nature of the offence

DVLA check

Convictions for minor traffic offences are unlikely to prevent an applicant from entering the police force unless they’re a repeat offender. Each case is assessed on its own merits. Serious driving offences, on the other hand, result in automatic rejection. These include fatalities caused by unsafe driving, hit-and-runs, dangerous or drink-driving offences during the previous ten years, and convictions for multiple drink-driving offences.

HM Forces offences

Those obtained while serving in the HM Forces are not considered any differently from convictions obtained by civilians. All criminal offences convicted by a military tribunal are logged on the Police National Computer, so an applicant must declare them.

Outstanding charges

If an application has a pending charge or court summons that might lead to a conviction their application will be delayed until the matter is resolved. The application will be evaluated after this information is obtained.

Family and friends

All cautions, investigations, or convictions involving a family member or someone known to the applicant must be disclosed. This will not automatically exclude the applicant from becoming a police officer; each case is evaluated on its own merits. Several criteria are considered, including:

  • The nature of the relationship with the offender

  • The number and severity of offences

  • Could the applicant’s role in the police be negatively affected?

  • Could it cause damage to the authority or reputation of the police service?

  • Could the applicant’s credibility be impacted?

  • Is there a risk of an information breach?

How can VettingGateway help?

VettingGateway is a simple online platform that allows you to conduct pre-employment screening, criminal record and credit checks, and other industry-specific regulatory checks all in one location. The VettingGateway platform displays live application progress on each check, allowing you to view where the check is in the process at any time. With its automatic task management function, all your in progress tasks will be prioritised in order to finish the inspections in the quickest time.

For more information on how VettingGateway can help click here, or you can sign up for your free starter licence by clicking here.


The information Provided by VettingGateway in this blog was published on the 26/11/2021, all information was relevant at the time of publishing however as our landscape is forever changing this information may not remain valid.

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