Any complaint against the head of the police in Scotland should be fast-tracked to avoid “paralysing” the force, MSPs have heard.
Gill Imery, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland, said concerns have been raised over how the priority of investigations are established.
She added the current situation where a complaint investigation into an officer ends if he or she leaves the force, as happened with former Police Scotland Chief Constable Phil Gormley, is “unsatisfactory”.
Mr Gormley quit his post in February - five months after he had been placed on special leave amid investigations into claims of gross misconduct, which he denies.
Questioned on investigations being dropped if the accused leaves the force, at Holyrood’s Justice Committee, Ms Imery said: “I agree that it is unsatisfactory, both for the person making the complaint and for the individual who has been publicly been accused of the behaviours.”
Committee convener Margaret Mitchell asked: “If the complaint involves the very top of the police force, the chief constable, should that be fast-tracked and is there justification for doing that because as long as there is that paralysis then it is deeply damaging to the whole force?”
Ms Imery replied: “Absolutely. The more quickly such an issue could be addressed and concluded, one way or another, the better.
“Indeed I think that is one of the concerns that exist in some of the submissions [to the committee] about to whom is the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner accountable and to what extent can any relevant party intervene and establish the priority of investigations.”
The Scottish Chief Police Officers Staff Association, which represents Scotland’s most senior police officers, has previously hit out at watchdogs over the “lengthy and damaging” investigations into allegations of misconduct.
Auditor General for Scotland Caroline Gardner also gave evidence to the committee and said the way complaints regarding the former chief constable were handled “did not help generate confidence in policing in Scotland”.
She welcomed an independent review into how complaints against the police are handled currently being carried out by former Lord Advocate, Dame Elish Angiolini.
Speaking generally about the relationship between Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) Ms Gardner praised the progress being made, saying improvements have been made from having “turf wars” between financial officers in each organisation.
She warned performance information about policing given to the SPA is falling short of enabling it to hold the force to account as envisaged by legislation.