|Hundreds of police officers have been escaping punishment for misconduct|
by resigning, according to BBC's Panorama. Photograph: Larry Lilac/Alamy
Hundreds of police officers accused of misconduct are escaping punishment by quietly resigning, according to a BBC Panorama investigation.
At least 489 officers from 47 forces facing misconduct action were allowed to discreetly leave through the 'back door' between 2008 and 2010, the programme found.
There were 1,915 guilty findings against officers for misconduct over the same period.
One fifth of officers who were given punishments - 382 all told - were dismissed or required to resign, Panorama found through Freedom of Information (FoI) requests made to the UK's 53 forces over the two years.
Campaigners called for more accountability among forces.
Lawyer Jocelyn Cockburn, who handles cases involving complaints against police, said there were risks in letting officers avoid sanctions by leaving.
"If they are allowed to leave the police without any stain on their character then there is the chance they will go and work in another force, and that does happen," she said.
Greater Manchester Chief Constable Peter Fahy, speaking on behalf of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), said corrupt officers were damaging community confidence and undermining their counterparts who were doing their job ethically.
"There have always been a small number of individuals who fail to uphold the professional standards required of them and their actions harm the reputation of the huge majority of the 140,000 officers who serve their communities with commitment and integrity," Fahy said.
"No-one in the service wants officers who are clearly incompetent or corrupt to remain within the organisation.
"If such an officer remains suspended on full pay for a protracted period, it may have a damaging impact on public confidence."
He said there was a "judgement to be made" about whether officers should be taken off the payroll and out of the force through a "long, drawn out and potentially costly procedure".
"As a service, we need to ensure that complaints and misconduct are dealt with to the satisfaction of the victim involved as well as making sure that officers who we know to be guilty are removed as quickly as possible," he said.
"Cases of misconduct are closely scrutinised by police authorities and they receive regular updates on the progress of investigations."
The IPCC handles public complaints and only plays a role in very few, serious misconduct cases.
It can make a misconduct finding, but does not have the power to punish, with that being left up to the officer's own force.
"There is no overall body that has responsibility for the police misconduct system other than the Home Office, I dare say, " IPCC deputy chair Deborah Glass said.