Responding to police complaints statistics published today by the Independent Office for Police Conduct, APCC Lead for Transparency and Integrity, Julia Mulligan PCC said:
“On the one hand PCCs will welcome the drop in police complaints, which may indicate an improvement in the quality of policing and levels of customer service. I am however concerned that this may well also be an indication of a lack of trust in the police complaints system, whereby the public are often not put at the centre of the process, in favour of complexity, bureaucracy and legal jargon. No wonder then if the public don’t feel inclined to make a complaint, and it is something that collectively we need to seek to change.
“The IOPC are right though, and PCCs have been saying it for some time, there is a huge amount that could be learned from these complaints. But those improvements are often not made because the complaints process itself gets in the way. The IOPC also need to reflect on their own practices which sometimes lead to officers not feeling able to engage in the complaints process, losing further opportunities to improve policing. I am however encouraged by Mike Lockwood’s approach and expect to see a changed culture at the IOPC in the not too distant future.
“Importantly, plans are afoot to change how police complaints are handled, thanks to the Home Office, which PCCs welcome. Greater independence at a local level is the most important development, but a step-change in customer service and openness is also required. Whilst the IOPC may want more consistency, PCCs welcome localism and flexibility where complaints are dealt with in the context of the force area itself instead of a one-size fits all approach.”
APCC Deputy Lead for Transparency and Integrity, Dame Vera Baird QC PCC said:
“There is a simple concept when dealing with complaints, make sure they are dealt with efficiently, thoroughly and fairly – if the police have got it wrong, don’t be afraid to say so. Here in Northumbria, our complaints triage team have been delivering this ethos since 2014 – and it’s now part of the Governments new national model, so it’s proved to work. It’s about restoring the complainant’s faith in the service that they are complaining about.
“The IOPC make a number of valid points, but they need to recognise that change is happening and PCCs are leading this. Going forward, I want to see PCCs challenge their forces when bureaucracy and legal jargon gets in the way of putting the public first, in Northumbria we keep the public we serve at the heart of everything we do.
“The IOPC are right when they say lessons need to be learnt from complaints – that’s the only way forces can get better. Every complaint should offer a challenge of how to improve further. Under the leadership of Mike Lockwood, I am confident that we will see a changed culture at the IOPC which will also be reflected in forces across England and Wales.”