New police complaints system coming into force

Commissioner Stephen Mold has welcomed the new complaints system.
Commissioner Stephen Mold has welcomed the new complaints system.

The police complaints system is being overhauled from the start of next month.

Northamptonshire’s crime commissioner says he expects to see a five-fold increase in the number of complaints when the new system is introduced.

Previously anyone who had a complaint against the police would have had to make a complaint against an individual officer who would then in turn be investigated.

But new rules introduced by the Police and Crime Act 2017 mean that a complaint can now be made against the police force rather than a named officer. From February 1 the Office of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner will be more involved with complaints and has set up a new team to deal with the issue. Complaints will still go through the same initial channels and the existing police standards department will still investigate matters involving police officer conduct.

However any appeals and reviews will now go through the OPCC. The office will also record all complaints, be responsible for low level resolution and if an appeal is upheld the crime commissioner can make recommendations to the force including apologies and compensation payments.

Speaking at the police and crime panel meeting last week (January 6) Mr Mold said he welcomed the new method as a way to strengthen his role of holding the chief constable to account.

He said: “We probably expect a five-fold increase in complaints. This is not a five-fold increase in dissatisfaction with Northamptonshire Police. The previous definition was the complaint had to be against a particular officer, around a piece of conduct. The definition has changed such to the point it is any form of dissatisfaction with Northants Police. That can be from the time it took to answer your phone, or the words you used in the communication.”

He added: “I think this is really positive step and I very much welcome it as I think the openness and confidence and the opportunity for Northants Police to learn and the public to feel more confident is a real positive step forward.”

In a report to the crime panel explaining his reasoning for adopting it Mr Mold said: ”This model will also strengthen my role in holding the chief constable to account as it will give me a greater insight how the force is operating and where any weaknesses may exist. This in turn will help me have a better understanding of the public’s concerns and by being more transparent, it should help increase public confidence in the force.”

Director of delivery at the OFPCC, Paul Fell, said there were currently about 120 complaints that came into the force each month where people say they were not happy with the service they had received. He said he was not sure at the moment the lessons from these complaints were learned and said the new system should help ensure they are.