Complaints about police are on rise - and people are unhappy with how they’re being dealt with

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There has been a big increase in complaints about police in the last year - and more people than ever are unhappy with how they’re being dealt with, it was revealed today.

There are wide inconsistencies in the way different forces handle complaints, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said as it published national statistics, which have reached record levels.

In 2014/15, there were more than 37,000 complaints made nationally - a six per cent overall increase on the year before.

At the same time, the total number of appeals made by dissatisfied complainants increased by seven per cent.

Northumbria Police received 1,018 complaints in total, a 28 per cent overall increase on the year before.

The total number of appeals made by dissatisfied complainants was 217 – a 53 per cent increase.

In Durham, there were 314 complaints in total, a four per cent increase on the year before.

The total number of appeals made by dissatisfied complainants was 55 – a 28 per cent increase.

The statistics also reveal marked inconsistencies in whether forces investigated most complaints formally, or used more informal ‘local resolution’ processes.

Some forces investigated more than 70 per cent of complaints, while others used local resolution in more than 70 per cent of cases

In Northumbria, 56 per cent of cases were investigated and 23 per cent were dealt with through the local resolution process.

In Durham, 52 per cent of cases were investigated and 38 per cent were dealt with through the local resolution process.

The proportion of complaints that were initially upheld in each force, ranging from seven per cent to 27 per cent; and the proportion of investigation appeals each force upheld, ranged from none to two-thirds.

Northumbria Police upheld 13 per cent of complaints and eight per cent of its investigation appeals.

Durham Constabulary upheld 22 per cent of complaints and 18 per cent of its investigation appeals.

The success rate for complaints investigation appeals considered by the IPCC (39 per cent) remained twice as high as when those appeals were heard by forces themselves (19 per cent).

The IPCC upheld 35 per cent of appeals made about Northumbria Police complaint investigations.

The length of time taken to resolve complaints – averages ranged from 52 to 205 days.

On average, it took 124 days for Northumbria Police to resolve a complaint. In Durham, it was 84 days.

Dame Anne Owers, chairman of the IPCC, said: “The figures for England and Wales show a complaints system that is both over-complex and inconsistent, and is clearly failing to satisfy a significant number of complainants.

“Chief Officers and Police and Crime Commissioners should look closely at the figures for their own forces to satisfy themselves that complainants are being treated fairly and well.

“However, the underlying problem is the system itself.

“We welcome the fact that the government proposes to bring in legislation to simplify and streamline a system that at present satisfies neither those who need it, nor those who have to operate it.”

Northumbria Police response:

Deputy Chief Constable Winton Keenen said: The figures that have been published by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) are testament to the significant work the force and the Office of the Police and Crime Commisioner (OPCC) have undertaken when it comes to dealing with complaints.

“We have been working hard to make the complaint process more accessible including improvements on the force website which provides an easy and direct method for the public to make complaints and these figures show that our new system is working.

“Complainants are referred to a specialist team working at the OPCC who can resolve some issues in a matter of hours rather than them being delayed within a lengthy process.

“Their early involvement means urgent complaints can be identified and fast-tracked, resulting in improved public confidence that action will be taken.

“This is evident in the fact that 87 per cent of all complaints are recorded within 10 days which is well above the target of 80 per cent set by the IPCC.

“It is vital that our force is accountable for its actions and we are proud to have been able to introduce a system that delivers a better service to the public.

“We continue to encourage anyone who feel they are dissatisfied with the service we have provided to contact us so we can continue to improve.”