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  1. ITV Report

'Inconsistencies' in handling of public complaints by police forces

1,783 complaints were recorded in Wales in 2016/17 Credit: PA

There are inconsistencies in how police forces across Wales handle public complaints, new data has revealed.

Figures released by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) show 1,783 complaints were recorded in Wales in 2016/17 - South Wales police recording the highest proportion with 770.

Dyfed Powys Police recorded 274 complaints, Gwent Police recorded 287, and North Wales Police recorded 452.

However, the data shows variation between forces in how complaints were handled and the time taken to finalise them.

Gwent Police had the highest percentage of recording complaints in the recommended time of 10 days, followed by South Wales Police with 88%.

96%
Gwent Police recorded complaints in recommended time

Gwent Police investigated 56% of their complaints and Dyfed Powys Police had the lowest record.

46%
Percentage of complaints Dyfed Powys Police investigated in recommended time
IPCC have repeatedly called for a more consistent system. Credit: Gwent Police

The biggest variation is in the number of days, on average, it took for each police force to finalise complaints.

Dyfed Powys Police took the longest to both finalise complaints. It took the force 103 days on average to finalise local resolutions, and 193 days to finalise local investigations. In comparison, Gwent Police took the least time, with 27 days on average to finalise local resolutions, and 122 days to finalise local investigations.

The IPCC say there are three main areas of inconsistency in the approach to handling complaints:

  • The number of recorded complaints may not reflect the whole picture, as some forces address issues before they're recorded formally, whereas others record them as soon as it's raised.
  • Some choose to formally investigate most complaints, while others use the less formal ‘local resolution’ process.
  • A dissatisfied complainant's appeal is dealt with by either the force, or the IPCC. The IPCC upholds four out of ten appeals but the police uphold fewer than two out of ten.

They have repeatedly called for a more simplified system with a more consistent approach across all forces in the UK.

“The public need to have a high level of confidence in the police complaints system. If they complain about their local police force they should be assured that it will be dealt with robustly and fairly.

“The current system is extremely complex and bureaucratic and this has led to some of the inconsistencies we have recorded year on year. It is also not sufficiently independent, since some dissatisfied complainants can only appeal to the force that rejected their complaint in the first place.

“While some local variation is unavoidable, it is clear that some forces need to look closely at their own performance and approach, where it is clearly at odds with the norm.

– Dame Anne Owers, IPCC Chair.

In 2018, Police and crime commissioners will take on greater responsibility by making decisions on appeals that do not go to the IPCC, as part of significant changes to the police complaints system.

The changes will look to make the system more more flexible, consistent, and independent.