The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) today published its annual report on police complaints for England and Wales in 2021/22.
From February 2020, significant changes were made to the complaints system including widening the definition of a complaint to “any dissatisfaction with the police service”. As a result, more complaints will be logged than in previous years.
The system also allows for more complaints to be handled informally, where appropriate, such as by an apology or explanation. A person can request a review if they are unhappy with the way their complaint was handled.
As the new system is still being embedded across police forces, the data should be treated as experimental to acknowledge it is still in the testing phase and comparisons with last year or the years before the system changed should be treated with caution.
A police complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction by a member of the public about the service they have received from a police force. All expressions of dissatisfaction must be logged. Police forces and local policing bodies deal with the majority of complaints. The IOPC sets the standards for complaints handling through its statutory guidance.
The report shows:
Complaints logged and finalised:
- In 2021/22 75,020 complaints were logged – an 11% increase on the total number logged in 2020/21.
- 35,738 of these complaints were recorded formally (a 2% drop from last year).
- Just under a third of complaints (11,459) were recorded formally because the complainant wanted them to be recorded and 11% (4,021) because the complainant was dissatisfied with the initial informal handling.
- Forces took an average of nine working days to contact a complainant after a complaint was made. The averages ranged from one day to 44 working days.
- 71,967 complaints were finalised this year (33,602 formally and 38,365 informally) – a 40% increase on last year. This increase is linked to complaints that were carried over from last year.
Types of complaint:
- Complaints are categorised according to the issues complained about. The largest proportion of complaints relate to “delivery of duties and service” (53%). There has been a 21% rise in these service level complaints. This indicates that the overall increase in complaints is linked to complaints about service delivery, like lack of updates and speed of responses, rather than concerns about police misconduct.
- The next highest proportions were for “police powers, policies and procedures” (20%) and individual behaviours (14%). “Discriminatory behaviours” and “damage to property” both amounted to 3% of the total.
Complainants and those complained about:
- 69,804 people complained about the police of whom 51% of the complainants were men. The most common age group to complain were those aged 30-39 (21%). 51 % of all complainants were White, however the ethnicity of 36% of complainants was unknown.
- 50,559 people serving with the police were subject to a complaint. 63% of those complained about were men and 79% were White. The ethnicity was not known for 14% of those subject to a complaint.
Complaint outcomes (allegations and cases):
- Of the 33,602 complaints handled formally in 2021/22, just under half (48%) had at least one allegation resulting in no further action being taken.
- 68 of those cases had at least one allegation resulting in either a misconduct meeting or hearing, compared to 18 the previous year.
- In over 40% of complaints handled formally, the police provided an explanation (37%) or an apology (5%) to the complainant. 12% of complaints resulted in learning for the police force or individual.
- The most common action resulting from complaints handled informally was an explanation being given to the complainant (48% of complaints). 29% of complaints handled informally resulted in at least one allegation having no further action.
- Learning from reflection or organisational learning accounted for 3% of the outcomes of such complaints while actions such as an apology or a debrief accounted for a further 10%.
- 94% of allegations handled informally were resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant.Reviews:
- Reviews are handled by the appropriate review body which is either the IOPC or the Local Policing Body. Local policing bodies (LPB) upheld 15% of the 3,894 complaints they reviewed that had not been investigated and 27% (184 out of 689) of those that were investigated.
- The IOPC dealt with 1,096 reviews and upheld 37% of those that had not been investigated and 31% of those that had.