Archive: Theresa May will be delighted on police complaints

Chris Hobbs /   February 4, 2015 at 8:40 PM 4,875 views


The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) gave the impression of being almost jubilant as they released figures showing a 15% increase in complaints against a police service already severely damaged due to cutbacks and low morale. The figures were eagerly seized on by hostile sections of the media with the BBC scrolling the details across the bottom of its screen for virtually the whole day.

It is clear from social media that frontline officers are both frustrated and exhausted as they attempt to deliver a standard of service that is clearly being eroded by cutbacks. Frontline officers can now be found frequently venting  their frustration on social media as they bitterly complain that 999 calls to police are going unanswered as there is ‘no unit to deal’, while they are unable to treat victims compassionately as they have to move on to the next call.

With the very real threat from British jihadists now having to be factored into everyday policing, officers in many parts of country remain single crewed with back up frequently further away than ever before again due to cutbacks. Assaults on police are rising and denials that this increase is due to the cuts serve only to infuriate the rank and file.

Many officers have also had to endure changes in shift patterns which have resulted in more anti-social hours being worked thus inflicting incalculable damage on both health, relationships and family life. Little wonder that sickness levels are soaring and, when all the above factors are considered, it is perhaps unsurprising that officers can occasionally become a little fractious in their dealings with the public.

Officers involved in crime investigation are also frustrated as they are laden with ridiculously high case loads which simply cannot possibly be managed. Detectives are being abstracted from their normal duties to deal with the terrorist threat together with thousands of cases of both current and historic child abuse. Routine matters that should be dealt with by investigators are haemorrhaging though the cracks which will inevitably lead to more complaints.

Yet perspective, sadly lacking by both the IPCC and police critics, is surely needed here. Nearly 35,000 complaints in conditions that have never been so demanding for police officers should be seen against the one million arrests made in England and Wales during this period. In addition to arrests, the Metropolitan Police alone respond to over five million calls for assistance every year. Even the smaller forces will deal with upwards of five hundred thousand calls.

The force with the biggest increase in complaints, Northumbria, effects more than 50,000 arrests a year and also handles a half a million calls. The number of complaints was 794!

Each year there are literally millions of interactions between police and public, often in stressful circumstances, yet regrettable as any complaint may be, the IPCC figures are but a tiny drop in the ocean in relation to police/public interaction. It should also be remembered that a significant proportion of these 35,000 complaints are litigious, malicious or both. How many ‘complainers’ have significant criminal records may be a statistic that the IPCC would wish to include in its report next year.

There is one section of the IPCC report that does find favour with police officers of all ranks and that concerns the elimination of the current bureaucratic procedures that frequently results in an officer enduring months or perhaps years of uncertainty before even the most trivial complaint is resolved.

This has led to the Police Federation proposing that all complaints against police are investigated by an independent body which would result in police involvement being kept to the minimum. This would largely eliminate unpopular force PSDs (professional standards departments) who themselves have indulged in what could most kindly be described as dubious practices against their own officers.

Having said that, the preference would be for a new, truly independent body rather than one that is desperate to ingratiate itself with its political masters at the Home Office. In its relatively short eleven-year history the IPCC has managed the dubious distinction of losing the confidence of both police and public.

Sadly it came as no surprise that the report contained no reference to the above mentioned current pressures on police or to the quoted statistics that provide just the briefest but far from complete overview of the increasing demands being made on frontline officers. This only serves to fuel the impression that the IPCC, like her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, is merely pursuing the government agenda of denigrating police. Theresa May will be delighted.

Chris Hobbs (Metropolitan Police 1978 to 2011)

Courtesy of Chris Hobbs

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