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But IOPC concerned about 'considerable variations' in processes not being implemented in the same way.

Down: Investigations into officers have fallen

Down: Investigations into officers have fallen

Date - 15th October 2019
By - Chris Smith


Recorded complaints against officers have fallen by two per cent on last year, new figures released by the Independent Office for Police Conduct have revealed.

Police force leaders responded by calling on the IOPC to accept more of the decisions made at local level, saying the number of appeals upheld was too high.

For the first time in a decade, forces used local resolution in nearly half of complaints against officers (48 per cent) and the time taken to resolve an investigation took 72 days – down from 158.

The proportion of local resolution appeals handled by police forces that were upheld by the IOPC has stayed stable at 16 per cent.

The figures were released in the annual complaints statistics for England and Wales covering 2018-19.

But concerns were raised by the IOPC that processes are not being implemented in the same way.

There were considerable variations between forces in the time taken to close investigations: from an average of 87 working days for Cheshire Constabulary to an average of 289 days for West Midlands Police.

The IOPC highlighted three examples of best practice for complaint handling that had made a significant impact:

  • Cheshire Constabulary, has dedicated complaints managers that record decisions within 10 working days in 97 per cent of complaint cases. In 2018-19, the IOPC upheld only two appeals against complaints not being recorded by the force;
  • The Met Police has introduced a new database, resulting in 90 per cent of complaints being recorded within 10 days. The force has also seen a decrease year on year in the number of non-recording appeals received – from 424 in 2013-14 to 208 in 2018-19, while the proportion of these appeals upheld reduced from 40 per cent (168) in 2013-14 to 28 per cent (58) in 2018-19; and
  • Greater Manchester Police set up a new assessment team in 2018 to record complaints and decide on initial actions. Its timeliness for recording complaints within 10 days increased from 55 per cent in 2017-18 to 98 per cent in the final quarter of 2018-19.

IOPC director General Michael Lockwood said: “A fair, transparent and timely complaints process is important for ensuring the public can have faith in how police officers exercise these powers.

“Forces are using a more timely, reasonable and proportionate way to address complaints that do not require a full investigative process.”

He added: “The system is not perfect though, and there are differences in how well forces handle complaints.”

Mr Lockwood also confirmed the IOPC is overhauling how its data is recorded to help forces identify areas of policing that are causing the most concern for the public.

Forces backed the improvements but the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners said the IOPC should also look at finding ways to ensure lessons were learned from complaints.

APCC transparency and integrity lead, Julia Mulligan said: “In future the IOPC needs to do more to understand quality, both in terms of its own work but also oversight of police complaints across the board. 

"The number of appeals upheld by the IOPC continues to be too high, implying too many decisions being made at a local level are inappropriate.

“This is one of a number of reasons why I welcome commissioners being able to take a much stronger role in the local complaints process if they so wish, refocusing the system on learning and improvement, and ensuring complainants get a fair hearing.”

The Police Federation of England and Wales described the changes as a positive step towards addressing criticism that complaints against officers often went on too long.

But it renewed a call for a time-limit on more serious investigations where the IOPC took over from local reviews.

Conduct and performance lead Phill Matthews said: “Through local resolutions the matter can be cleared up quickly and directly with the complainant.

“Many complaints do not justify formal disciplinary or criminal proceedings, so this is an efficient way on ensuring officers aren’t dragged through lengthy and incredibly stressful investigations.

“But if an investigation is proportionate and necessary, it is reassuring to see forces are improving their investigation times.”

Mr Matthews added: “In extreme cases officers have been prevented from retiring or left unable to move on with their lives or career.

“The impact on officers cannot be underestimated; it has a profound effect: mentally, physically and often financially, not just for themselves but also for the families they need to lean on.”

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Personally I've found body worn to be invaluable in regulating folk who are acting up or who would ordinarily put in unfounded malicious complaints. 

I tap the body worn and tell them everything they're doing and saying is being recorded, this has defused a number of situations that could have escalated or led onto malicious complaints. 

My D&D rate is down aswell these days as even drunks seem to understand the need to behave themselves when the flashing red light is on. 

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