One in three people in Yorkshire and Humberside are not confident their complaint would be handled fairly by police, according to a survey for the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) published today.
The finding is consistent with the IPCC’s own recently published reviews of police handling of complaints, part of on-going work and the IPCC’s three-year plan for improving public confidence in the complaints system, also published today.
While 58% of respondents in the Yorkshire and Humberside region were either very or fairly confident, 33% were either not very or not at all confident that the police would deal with their complaints against them fairly.
The survey of more than 4,000 people in England and Wales found that 62% of people in Yorkshire and Humberside were happy with their recent contact with police, and a high proportion (76%) of people were willing to complain if really unhappy about how a police officer had behaved towards them or handled a matter they were involved in.
IPCC Chair, Dame Anne Owers, said: “The majority of the 30,000 complaints made annually about the police are handled by the police service itself. This survey shows that too many people are still either unsure of how to make a complaint about the police or don’t believe their complaint will be dealt with fairly. It is particularly worrying that young people and those from ethnic minorities have lower confidence in the complaints system.
“The survey underlines the importance of the plan we are launching today, and there is clearly more work to be done by both the police and IPCC to improve access, awareness and trust in the complaints system and those who work in it.”
The 2014 Public Confidence Survey is the sixth in a series over the last ten years. It looks at public perceptions of police, the complaints system and the IPCC.
Other key findings for Yorkshire and Humberside include:
• an increasing proportion of people had heard of the IPCC (73% compared with 67% in 2011 and higher than the overall average for England and Wales, 64%), and felt the IPCC would deal with their complaint impartially (74% compared with 70% in 2011);
• the proportion of people (62%) happy with their contact with police is slightly lower than the overall average for England & Wales (66%);
• 33% of people asked had had contact with police in the last 12 months (higher than the overall average for England & Wales 23%).
Some overall findings for England & Wales include:
• nearly two out of five (38%) of those questioned would not be confident they know how to make a complaint against the police;
• people from ethnic minority communities were less likely to say they would complain, and more likely to fear harassment if they did so;
• people aged 15-24 are less likely to be happy with the way police treated them but less willing to complain or to have confidence in the police dealing fairly with complaints.
Dame Anne Owers said: “Later this year the IPCC will begin to take on more independent investigations into serious and sensitive allegations made against the police. That is an important part of our statutory responsibility to ensure public confidence in the police complaints system. But it is not enough, by itself, to achieve that aim.
“The survey findings underline the need for more work to address public confidence concerns, and how important it is we take forward our plans for improving complaints handling, in partnership with forces, PCCs, and other policing bodies.”
Steps set out under the IPCC’s plans for oversight & confidence and engagement, which are published today, are:
• Developing additional guidance for police forces to handle complaints better, and formalising our work with Police and Crime Commissioners;
• Providing better information for the public on how their local force handles complaints, and continuing to make the case for a simplified complaints system that is easier for the public to use;
• Introducing a more robust system for holding forces to account and following up learning recommendations – new powers will compel forces to respond formally and publicly to IPCC recommendations;
• Undertaking a programme of activity on engagement with BME communities and young people to increase awareness of the complaints system.
For the purposes of the survey, the Yorkshire and Humberside region includes the following police force areas: Humberside, North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire.
Data is not available on a force by force basis.
In January this year, the IPCC issued a draft oversight and confidence plan for public consultation, and received more than 100 responses from a range of stakeholders, including members of the public, police forces, Police and Crime Commissioners and voluntary sector organisations. Respondents provided useful feedback and raised a variety of views including that the IPC