Police handling of complaints ‘inconsistent’
POLICE remain ‘inconsistent’ in their approach to handling complaints from the public partly due to a bureaucratic and complex system, an independent body has ruled.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has published its statistics for England and Wales for 2016/17.
Surrey Police received 1,393 allegations in 2016/17, down from 1,581 the previous year. The force investigated 546 of these allegations, while 618 were resolved through local resolution.
The number of recorded complaints the force logged also decreased in 2016/17, with 482 a 6% drop on the previous 12 months’ 515.
Of the complaints finalised by Surrey Police, 44% were investigated by the force and 49% were dealt with through local resolution, where a supervisor works with the complainant to resolve a generally less serious issue.
Across England and Wales, the IPCC said it found a ‘great deal of variation’ in both the number of complaints and the way they were handled.
Dame Anne Owers, chairman of the IPCC, said: “The public needs to have a high level of confidence in the police complaints system. If they complain about their local police force they should be assured that it will be dealt with robustly and fairly.
“The current system is extremely complex and bureaucratic and this has led to some of the inconsistencies we have recorded year on year.
“It is also not sufficiently independent, since some dissatisfied complainants can only appeal to the force that rejected their complaint in the first place.”
The IPCC recorded three main areas of inconsistency.
Some forces try to address issues before they are recorded as a formal complaint; some forces choose to formally investigate most complaints while others use the less formal local resolution process; and with regards to upholding complaints, the IPCC upholds four out of 10 appeals, but local forces uphold fewer than two out of 10.
Dame Owers said: “While some local variation is unavoidable, it is clear that some forces need to look closely at their own performance and approach, where it is clearly at odds with the norm.
“It is welcome that some forces have done this during last year, sometimes with the assistance of our own oversight team.”
The IPCC said there will be significant changes to the police complaints system in 2018, including a greater role for police and crime commissioners, who will decide on appeals that do not go to the IPCC.
“The new system will be simpler and more flexible and will also provide an independent appeal right for everyone, either to the IPCC or to a police and crime commissioner.
“This is welcome, but we will still need to ensure that complainants throughout the country can be assured that their complaints will be handled appropriately and thoroughly.”
To make a complaint to Surrey Police, email psd@ surrey.pnn.police.uk, call 101 or write to the Professional Standards Department, Surrey Police, PO Box 101, Guildford, Surrey GU1 9PE.