By Sadie Robinson
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2572

Figures reveal how cops’ pet watchdog treats complaints

This article is over 6 years, 5 months old
Issue 2572
Police arrest in Westminster
Police arrest in Westminster (Pic: Guy Smallman)

If you complain about the cops, the way you are treated will vary wildly depending on where you live.

New figures from the cops’ pet watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), look at complaints made across England and Wales.

Most complaints were categorised as “other neglect or failure in duty”. Eight percent were categorised as “other assault” and 6 percent as “oppressive conduct or harassment”.

Oppressive behaviour includes sexual assault and assault.

Some 34,103 complaints were recorded in 2016/17—nearly 100 complaints a day or 279 allegations per 1,000 cops. In some forces that figure is much higher.

Lincolnshire saw 512 complaints per 1,000 officers, while Humberside had the second highest rate of complaints with 428 per 1,000.

But some of the “inconsistencies” the IPCC identified could be making some forces look better.

For instance, some forces “try to address issues before they are recorded as a formal complaint”. That means that some complaints may never be recorded as such.

Fewer than half of all allegations, 44 percent, were formally investigated. Some 42 percent were “locally resolved”.

Again, the IPCC found “significant variations between forces”. So, 11 dealt with 60 percent or more of complaints through local resolution.


The figures also hint at police racism. Fewer than half of those who made complaints were known to be white – although the ethnicity of 40 percent of complainants was unknown.

And the stats mask the true scale of police harassment. In the five years to 2014, cops in England and Wales stopped and searched more than a million young people under the age of 18.

Yet the IPCC figures show that younger people are the least likely to make a complaint. Those aged 17 or under made up 1 percent of complainants. Age was known in 75 percent of cases.

The cops who were subject of a complaint were overwhelmingly male (72 percent) and white (85 percent).

Complainants can appeal the outcome of an investigation, and complaints are dealt with by either the relevant force or by the IPCC.

IPCC chair Dame Anne Owers admitted that the current system is “not sufficiently independent” as some complainants can only appeal to the force that rejected their complaint.

The IPCC upholds four out of ten appeals – the cops uphold fewer than two out of ten. And this figure various “considerably” depending on the force involved.

Either way, most appeals are rejected.

The IPCC wants to improve the way complaints are dealt with not because it wants to stop police harassment, assaults and crimes. Instead it wants to minimise criticism of the cops. As Owers said, “The public need to have a high level of confidence in the police complaints system.”


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