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Over half of police complaints about ‘delivery of duties and service’

Figures published for 2021/22 by the IOPC also revealed the number of complaints made about each force and what actions were taken in response to complaints.

Issues with service delivery accounted for more than half of the police complaints made in 2021/22, according to the latest figures published by the IOPC.

The independent body found that, across this period, 75,020 complaints were logged – 11% more than the total in 2020/21. A total of 35,738 of these complaints were recorded formally, with the remainder handled informally.

IOPC Director General Michael Lockwood believes the overall increase is “likely linked to the simplifying of the system and the widening in definition of a complaint to ‘any expression of dissatisfaction’”.

However, because these statistics are only the second set to be published since changes were made to the complaints system in February 2020, Mr Lockwood urged caution when making comparisons.

The figures do however indicate some wider and force trends, namely that grievances about the delivery of duties and service accounted for 53% of the overall complaints made. 

The second biggest category, accounting for 20%, was complaints made about police powers, policies and procedures.

With complaint cases made up of one or more allegations, the IOPC also provided information on the 120,687 distinct allegations made - including those which fell under the delivery of duties and service umbrella which accounted for more than half of the overall number.

Within that category, police action following contact and general level of service were the biggest issues, accounting for a combined 41% of the 53% recorded.

The complaints data was also broken down per force, with Hampshire Constabulary and Cleveland Police ranking as the top two for both the number of complaints and number of allegations per 1,000 employees.

In 2021/22, there was an average of 309 complaints per 1,000 employees across the forces, and 497 allegations per the same number.

Hampshire exceeded this by recording 690 complaints and 922 allegations per 1,000 employees.

A spokesperson for the force said: "As a force we are committed to taking all complaints from the public seriously and where appropriate, take action to investigation thoroughly.

"Often a complaint will involve several allegations and as a force, we record each allegation individually, something which not all forces do. We do this so that each can be answered in turn with its own determination as to whether the service provided was acceptable."

Cleveland's numbers - 697 complaints and 904 allegations per 1,000 employees - also ranked well above the average. 

Chief Inspector John Bonner, of the force's Directorate of Standards and Ethics, said: “Cleveland Police welcomes feedback from the public and we are pleased that so many people have the confidence in the police complaints process to come forward and tell us when the service may have fallen short for them.

“Cleveland Police officers and staff respond to high numbers of calls and reports of crime every day, so whilst the number of complaints received may appear disproportionate per thousand employees, it is proportionate with the volume of incidents to which the force responds.”

In terms of outcomes, 71,967 complaints were finalised this year - 33,602 formally and 38,365 informally. This represents a 40% increase on last year, which the IOPC stated is linked to complaints carried over from last year.

The actions taken depended on whether the case was handled formally or informally. 

Of the 33,602 complaint cases handled formally in 2021/22, 48% had at least one allegation resulting in no further action being taken, while 68 complaint cases had at least one allegation resulting in either misconduct meeting or hearing.

The most common action resulting from complaints handled informally was an explanation, which was given to complainants in 48% of cases finalised in 2021/22.

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