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Commissioner’s Statement Following Release of IPCC figures Relating to Complaints

3rd February 2015

Vera Baird, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria commented, following the release of statistics by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) which showed an increase in complaints of 98% in 2013/14 compared to the previous year:

“The increase this year is not, on the face of it, a real one because the basis of counting changed for a year, though I don’t know why that happened. But comparing like with like, which is 2011/12 with now, there is an increase of complaints in Northumbria Police of 16%.

“When I came into post there were serious problems with complaints in Northumbria Police and I have taken steps together to improve the position.

“We have set up a triage team, in my office and since it was formed at the beginning of 2014, every complainant is spoken to within 24- hours of them making contact. The system takes a pro-active, customer-relations approach to complaints, including the possibility of a potential resolution within 48 hours.

“I’m pleased that in its first year, it has a 92% satisfaction rating with the people who have been through it. We have also made it easier than ever before to report complaints, amending formerly complex processes on the website and on forms.

“In addition, a panel of citizens take a sample of  complaints which can’t be resolved in that way and tell the police about lessons to be learnt from this.

“We have civilianised some senior roles in the Police Complaints Department and I intend to build on the progress we have made with the triage system and bring similar reform into the heart of investigations by police into complaints. The public does not like police investigating their own complaints and we will bring public involvement wherever we can.

“I am not displeased about an increase of 16% because I prefer people to feel they can complain with a hope of getting satisfaction, rather than being either too afraid to complain or regarding it as pointless. Northumbria Police has one of the highest satisfaction rates in the country and that is an important piece of context.

“We are working at continuing to improve the service, as I have been discussing today at the Home Office.”

Northumbria Police’s Deputy Chief Constable Steve Ashman said:

“The IPCC report covers a three-year period. Year two relates to 2012/13 and shows a significant drop in the number of complaints when compared to year one, 2011/12 and year three, 2013/14. This was down to the different way that the force chose to categorise complaints that year.

“After year two we went back to the previous way of recording complaints and, as expected, the number rose giving this misleading figure of a 98% rise. The level of complaints that we receive are actually similar to the levels in other forces and similar to the level that we have received in the two previous years.”

“But we are not complacent and are not hiding behind these figures. We acknowledge there are improvements to be made in the way that we deal with complaints.

“We carry out more investigations than other forces and, although sometimes this is appropriate, often it is too bureaucratic and takes too much time. The public often simply want a speedy explanation and a simple apology when we get it wrong.

“We set high standards and want people to let us know when we get it wrong so we can take steps to improve our service. We are working closely with the PCCs plans and both the public and us are benefiting from it.”