They’ll be no prizes for guessing whether the number of complaints have risen or lowered. A total of 34,863 complaints were recorded in the year 2013/14. This represents a rise of 15% from the period 2012/13 and a 52% rise since 2004/05.
However, the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 (PRSRA 2011) did widen the definition of complaints that should be recorded. Since then the definition has included complaints about general policing policies, known as ‘direction and control’ matters. The Act came into force in November 2012 and the year 2013/14 is the first year that these types of complaint records have been collected as data. This partly explains the rise since 2012/13, but it does not explain it all.
There is a vast spectrum of factors that have caused a rise in complaints. A common theme amongst many government organisations is austerity (a.k.a. budget cuts) –reducing the overall numbers of police officers will never be helpful as it leaves resources stretched. However, this is no catch-all excuse given some of the heavy-handed cases that have been reported. Another factor is that people living in the UK are becoming ever more aware of their right to complain given the publicity from the Ferguson protests in America most recently. People are more prepared to submit a complaint in the first place, as it becomes less daunting and more common. Another possible factor is a potential rise in incompetent and, in some cases, brutal policing.
Linked to the growing number of complaints is a concern about the growing use of Tasers. In late January 2015 the Police Federation publicly stated they feel all front-line police officers should be issued with a Taser. It is hard to fathom the justification for such an approach and it will inevitably become a cause for even more complaints.
Below are a few interesting statistics:
- The average time to finalise a complaint case was 93 working days.
- In early 2014 66% of people surveyed said they were happy with the police contact they’d received, down compared with 76% in 2011.
- Northumbria had a 98% increase in complaints from the year 13/14 compared to 12/13 (794 complaints compared with 401 complaints).
- The Metropolitan Police had a 5% increase in complaints from the year 12/13 to 13/14 (7,115 complaints compared with 6,788 complaints).
- Warwickshire Police took on average 149 working days to complete a complaint report, with the Metropolitan Police taking just 80 working days. The City of London Police came out best taken just 41 days.
- A total average of 14% of all complaints recorded in 2013/14 were upheld. Greater Manchester Police were the worst at just 4%, the Metropolitan Police upheld 10% and the best force was Northamptonshire Police who upheld 26%.
Luke Cowles, Solicitor
Posted on Monday, 16th February 2015