The Independent Police Complaints Authorities’ Network (IPCAN) is an informal network of exchange and cooperation amongst independent structures in charge of external control of security forces. These bodies, mainly from European Union member states, receive and process complaints against public security forces, and sometimes, against private ones as well.
Today IPCAN brings together national counterparts from about 20 countries.
History of the Network
The « Independent Police Complaints Authorities’ Network » (IPCAN) was set up at the initiative of the Defender of Rights to allow bodies having similar or related missions to exchange on issues of common interest, promote best practices and adopt common high standards of functioning.
As of 2012, the Defender of Rights, an institution created in 2011 and in charge, amongst others, of security ethics, initiated bilateral exchanges with a few foreign counterparts and international institutions competent in the field of Fundamental Rights in order to feed its reflection and practice, on the issue of identity checks. Following these exchanges, on 8 October 2012 an international Conference in Paris was organised entitled “Identity checks and police-public relations” in which representatives of foreign police forces came to present their practice of Stop and Search.
On May 27-28 2013, the French institution brought together 8 of its counterparts in Paris, in the framework of a seminar on “The role of independent external security forces”. The funders of IPCAN, present during this first meeting were the following : the Comité P (Belgium), the Independent Police Complaints Authority (Denmark), the Independent Police Complaint Commission (England and Wales), the Chancellor of Justice (Estonia ) the Défenseur des droits (France), the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Ireland), the Commissaire à la déontologie (Québec), the Defensor del Pueblo (Spain) and the Commissariat à la déontologie (Switzerland) that was replaced in 2016 by the Médiation de la Police.
The purpose of this meeting was to discuss issues of common interest in the handling of complaints. Different specific issues were addressed: alternative dispute resolution between citizens and law enforcement, disciplinary sanctions, palpations, integral search and the use of intermediate force weapons. This first meeting marked the actual creation of the network (see the proceedings of this seminar in the events section).
A second IPCAN meeting was held on March 23, 2015, in Paris, on “Democratic maintenance of Law and order during public demonstrations in Europe”. Beyond members of the IPCAN network, this meeting was open to many practitioners, law enforcement officers, specialists in the maintenance and restoration of order, representatives of the Council of Europe and the OSCE , as well as researchers competent in this field.
It appeared that the referrals relating to possible breaches of the ethics of security during public demonstrations gave rise, in the different States represented at the seminar, to specific recommendations.
The conclusions of this meeting led to the emergence of a number of recommendations, notably the need for standards, on the one hand, for the necessary and proportionate use of weapons by law enforcement agencies, and on the other with regard to the independence of the external control institutions of security forces.
In September 2017, in the context of the terrorist attacks in Europe, the French Defender of Rights (Défenseur des Droits) and the Council of Europe decided to co-organize a third meeting of the IPCAN network in Strasbourg, on “Respecting fundamental rights in the context of the fight against terrorism”.