Complaints against police on the rise

COMPLAINTS against Northumbria Police have increased, according to new figures released by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

Its statistics for 2010/11 showed that Northumbria Police recorded 608 complaints against its officers – an increase of five per cent on the previous year. Those complaints contained 1,340 allegations – an increase of 21 per cent on the previous year.

But nationally, overall complaints fell by four per cent.

Northumbria Police’s top three areas for allegations were around incivility (222 allegations), other neglect of duty (349) and other assault (143).

IPCC Commissioner Nicholas Long said: “Northumbria Police’s complaints figures reflected an increase while the national statistics have shown a fall. There is no clear reason why this should be the case and I am sure the force will want to examine this further.

“It is evident that some improvements are still needed in how the force records complaints. The IPCC has upheld 74 per cent of the appeals it has received against Northumbria Police’s decisions not to record complaints. That level is disappointing and detracts from the excellent work the force has done elsewhere with complaints.

“I hope to see an improvement in this area next year.”

But Deputy Chief Constable Mark Gilmore said: “The relationship between Northumbria Police and the community remains strong, as public satisfaction figures consistently show.

“It is important to understand that of the complaints made, which went to full investigation, the vast majority were found not-proven. Our record remains positive in comparison to other force areas.

“Following the IPCC’s campaign last year to get the recording of complaints by the police right first time, Northumbria Police has changed how it records its complaints in order to improve its service and enhance accountability and accessibility for the public when making complaints.

“The public rightly expects the highest standard of service from their police officers as does the force. A programme of work led by myself is already under way to address the concerns highlighted within this report.”

The number of non-recording appeals upheld against the force reflected a trend in England and Wales which has prompted IPCC concerns.

The figures reveal that over 6,000 people made an appeal to the IPCC because they were unhappy with the way their complaint had been handled by their local police force. Close to 1,200 of them appealed because the force had not recorded their complaints.

The IPCC found in favour of the complainant in nearly 60 per cent of those cases, requiring local forces to reconsider the complaint in over 600 cases.

Deputy chairman Deborah Glass said: “We have, within the past year, launched a campaign to encourage the police to ‘get it right first time’. For many complaints this means recording them and dealing with them properly at a local level. So often it is about listening to people about where they feel the police service has failed them and providing an explanation or an apology where something has gone wrong.”