On 7 October 2015 the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) published its annual statistics in relation to Police complaints for England & Wales 2014/2015. The IPCC is an independent public body. It oversees the Police complaints system in England & Wales.
In 2014/2015 nationally there was a 6% overall increase in the number of complaints made about the Police. In our region complaints about Durham Constabulary were up 4%, Cleveland Police up 10% and Northumbria Police up 28%. Northumbria Police is a large Force. Looking at the number of complaint allegations per 1000 employees Northumbria Police received 417 per 1000 employees which was the 6th highest out of 44 Police Forces across England and Wales and compares with an average of 293 complaints per 1000 employees across all Forces.
Of the complaints received by Northumbria Police which were subject to investigation 87% were not upheld.
Information was also provided about the outcomes of appeals in respect of complaints which had been subject to investigations. Police Forces themselves now decide on whether any appeal by the complainant should be decided by them or the IPCC. In 2014/2015 only 8% of appeals in relation to complaint investigations decided by Northumbria Police were upheld. This compares to such appeals considered by Durham Constabulary being upheld in 18% of cases and Cleveland Police in 24% of cases. Of those appeals however which were decided by the IPCC rather than Northumbria Police it is interesting to note that 35% were upheld by the IPCC- a far higher figure than the 8% referred to above. The IPCC therefore upheld more than x4 more appeals than Northumbria Police themselves.
The IPCC report shows that complaints made against Police Forces do not usually succeed. The vast majority of complaints are never upheld yet in 2014/2015 members of the public found it necessary to make 603 complaint allegations to Durham Constabulary, 714 to Cleveland Police and 2399 to Northumbria Police. These were the number of allegations formally recorded by these Forces and does not include those considered out of time, spurious etc.
In recent years a number of high profile cases such as the death of Stephen Lawrence and the subsequent inquiries into the Police’s response have led to improved accountability of the Police. The generally respected position of the Police depends on the exercise of their powers being subject to rigorous scrutiny. Is that provided by a system where the police themselves decide how an appeal is dealt with and which results in such a very small proportion of upheld complaints?