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Complaints are about forces not people, data reveals

Most complaints are about service delivery not conduct, a force and the Fed have revealed. And most result in no further action.

Perceptions about complaints by the public have been challenged after a force and the Fed reviewed official data.

Most issues about policing are linked to outcomes not conduct and are usually resolved quickly, a force has revealed.

An analysis by Dyfed Powys of Home Office data on formal complaints revealed it dealt with 776 complaints in the year to April 2021 with 13% of those complaint allegations resulting in no further action.

The misconduct data matches a review by the Police Federation which found nationally that no action was taken in 92 per cent of these cases.

In a major change last year, Police and Crime Commissioners were given greater powers to resolve issues locally – and earlier.

Dyfed Powys revealed the reality is that most cases are linked to how a crime was dealt with rather than the conduct of the officers involved. And that is at odds with the media and public perceptions of the standards system.

The force said: “The majority of complaints relate to service delivery issues and do not involve issues of misconduct which could result in formal disciplinary action being taken against officers. However this does not mean that no action is taken in respect of the complaints themselves.

“Many of the complaints we receive are resolved by means of an apology or an explanation and frequently result in learning for us as individuals and as an organisation. This helps us improve the service we provide to the public.”

But it also made clear significant breaches of conduct are being taken up by the force.

“Dyfed-Powys Police expects the highest standards of honesty and integrity from all officers and staff and any alleged breaches of the Standards of Professional Behaviour will be dealt with appropriately,” it said.

The Fed went further, highlighting that the main people reporting breaches of standards were officers themselves.

The majority of dismissals followed internal reporting, with 84 per cent of the 432 dismissals last year being reported by witnesses within the service.

But it also raised concern that greater use wasn’t being made of the new reflective practice processes which was among the reforms handed to PCCs.

The Fed said: “These figures demonstrate that only a very tiny number of public complaints end with an officer having to be dismissed, despite what the public and press would have you believe.

“The number of officers who have been dismissed represents an incredibly small percentage of police officers and most officers come into the police service to protect the public and act with integrity and respect.”

“A large percentage of those dismissed are often brought about by other officers bringing the information to light rather than as a result of any public complaints. The police service is very good at uncovering those that don’t deserve to be in the job.”

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