Big fall in number of police complaints

Complaints about the police have dropped dramatically
Complaints about the police have dropped dramatically

There has been a big fall in the number of complaints about local police.

Latest figures from the Police Complaints Commission show that in Greater Manchester there were 1,616 complaints in total in the 12 months up to March 31 this year: a 14 per cent decrease on the year before.

The total number of appeals made by dissatisfied complainants was 344 – an 18 per cent decrease.

But the commission has a gripe of its own: that there is little consistency in the way different forces handle such issues.

The statistics showed:

* The overall number of complaints has fallen by eight per cent, but this disguises significant falls in some forces, and considerable increases in others

* Some forces choose to handle over 70 per cent of complaints through the informal local resolution process; whereas others choose to use formal investigation in over 70 per cent of cases. In Greater Manchester, 10 per cent of cases were investigated and 68 per cent were dealt with through the local resolution process.

* Overall, forces uphold only 19 per cent of appeals against their own investigations, whereas when appeals come to the IPCC, 41 per cent are upheld. Again, there are significant variations within those figures, with some forces never upholding an appeal and some upholding over a third.

* The IPCC upheld 45 per cent of appeals made about Greater Manchester complaint investigations (22 out of 49).

IPCC Chair Dame Anne Owers said: “We know that the police complaints system is over-complex and over-bureaucratic, and that is part of the reason for the inconsistencies between forces.

“Forces can deal with complaints informally through local resolution, but if complaints are so serious that they could result in disciplinary action, they have to formally investigate them. Some forces choose local resolution in over 70 per cent of cases; others investigate over 70 per cent. It is very unlikely that the profile of cases among forces varies so widely; so this appears to be a postcode lottery.

“When complainants are dissatisfied with a local police investigation, they can appeal. Some of these appeals are dealt with by the force itself; others come to the IPCC. We have previously expressed concerns about forces marking their own homework. Overall, the IPCC is twice as likely to uphold an appeal as local forces.”

Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd said: “This report gives local people a snapshot of how their police service is handling complaints. While a decrease in overall complaints is welcome, it’s vital that the public have confidence to speak out when the service they receive falls below standard.

“I’ve been working with the Chief Constable to improve the complaints system in Greater Manchester so that they can be dealt with swiftly, robustly and at a local level - but we are still not there yet.

“Nationally, an overhaul of the police complaints process is long overdue – it is overly-complex and shrouded in bureaucracy. Plans to give Police and Crime Commissioners a greater and more effective role are a step in the right direction.”