New figures released by the Independent Police Complains Commission (IPCC) show a record number of complaints against the police in the last year. A total of 37,105 complaint cases were recorded in 2014-15, an increase of 6% on the year 2013-2014, when complaints reached their highest since the police watchdog was first established.
The most common allegation by members of the public about the conduct of the police was found to be ‘other neglect or failure in duty’, which accounted for over one third of all allegations recorded (34%) and showed a 4% increase on the figures from the previous year. The second largest single complaint (14%) concerned instances of ‘incivility, impoliteness and intolerance’.
Other key findings include significant dissatisfaction with the way in which complaints were handled (an increase of 7%); a 12-day increase in the time taken to resolve complaints (now at 147 days); and considerable inconsistencies in the way police complaints are handled between individual forces. It was found that those who appeal over how their complaints are handled are twice as likely to be successful if their case is heard by the IPCC than the individual force.
Dame Anne Owers, chairwoman of the IPCC, said that the figures showed a system which is ‘over-complex and inconsistent, and… clearly failing to satisfy a significant number of complainants’.
Owers placed the blame with the system itself, and called on chief officers and police and crime commissioners to examine the figures for their own forces in order to ensure that complainants are being treated correctly. She went on to criticise the system as one which ‘at present satisfies neither those who need it nor those who have to operate it’.
The IPCC said that members of the public are showing an increasing willingness to complain. Indeed, this year’s complaint figures represent a 62% increase on those of 2004/2005. According to a survey by the IPCC in 2014, public satisfaction following contact in the police is falling, and these statistics are seen to confirm this trend.
Lucie Boase is a paralegal specialising in actions against the police. She is Young Legal Aid Lawyers (YLAL) committee member and co-ordinates YLAL South West