Complaints against Northumbria Police almost double in a year

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COMPLAINTS against Northumbria Police almost doubled last year.

Statistics issued by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) show the total number of complaints rose 98 per cent to 794 in 2013/14, compared to an increase of 15 per cent nationally for England and Wales.

The IPCC said some of the increase was down to changes in the definition of a complaint.

A complaint case may have more than one allegation attached to it. A total of 1,501 allegations were made against Northumbria, an average of 253 per 1,000 employees, compared to a national rate of 251.

Fifty-eight per cent of appeals were upheld by the IPCC, compared with 14 per cent for those considered by the force itself.

The IPCC upheld 19 of 23 appeals from people unhappy the force had not recorded their complaint, and half of 66 appeals from people concerned at the way it was investigated.

Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird said: “The increase this year is not, on the face of it, a real one because the basis of counting changed for a year.

“But comparing like with like, which is 2011/12 with now, there is an increase of complaints of 16 per cent.

“When I came into post there were serious problems with complaints in Northumbria Police and I have taken steps together to improve the position.

“We have set up a triage team in my office and I’m pleased that in its first year, it has a 92 per cent satisfaction rating. We have also made it easier than ever before to report complaints, amending formerly complex processes on the website and on forms.

“The public does not like police investigating their own complaints and we will bring public involvement wherever we can.

“I am not displeased about an increase of 16 per cent because I prefer people to feel they can complain with a hope of getting satisfaction, rather than being either too afraid to complain or regarding it as pointless.”

Durham Constabulary saw the number of complaints rise by 26 per cent to 303 in 2013/14.

A total of 463 allegations were made against Durham Constabulary, an average of 174 per 1,000 staff.

Forty-six of appeals against the force were upheld by the IPCC, compared with just five per cent for those considered by the force itself.

Superintendent Darren Ellis, of the force’s Professional Standards and Legal Services department, said: “Although the percentage of complaints had risen for Durham, this is based on relatively low figures in the first instance, which makes the increase seem higher than it might have otherwise.

“We remain the third lowest force for officers and staff receiving complaints across all 43 forces in the UK; testament to the culture and the professional approach of our staff.

“The increase can be put down to some key factors; the force now considers organisational complaints within the complaints statistics; there is improved accessibility for people to be able to make a complaint and have confidence in doing so; and, as an organisation we have become more robust and complaint focused in order to identify where service delivery needs to improve.

“Unlike some other forces, the professional standards department in Durham records, manages and finalises all complaints which professionalises the complaints management procedure.

“Yes, we are getting more complaints, however we are dealing with them faster and understanding them better.

“The result of which is that we have significantly reduced follow-up appeals following the conclusion of a complaint and we focus on service improvement not just culpability.”