A record number of complaints were lodged against the police in Wales and England last year a watchdog organisation is reporting.
A total of 34,863 complaints were recorded between January 2013 and January 2014, that figure marks an increase of 15% on the previous year. The most disturbing fact about these figures however is that 1 in 10 of the allegations was concerning an assault by a police officer.
Complaints against the South Yorkshire branch of the police force, the branch criticised last year for its handling of the Cliff Richard raid as well as the Rotherham child abuse scandal, have risen by 19% from last years mark, to 459 official complaints.
This is not just a localised trend either with 38 forces out of 43 recording a rise in complaints on the previous year. This could either be indicative of increasing police brutality or potentially an increase in people coming forward to complain about wrongful treatment at the hands of those who should protect us from crime.
The total number of complaints, close to 35,000 in 2013/14, has fluctuated since for over a decade starting in 2001, but the new figures represent a 52% increase since 2004-05. The vast majority of complaints concern allegations that officers were neglectful or failed in their duty or were “incivil, impolite and intolerant.”
Some of the complaints also lodged more than one allegation per report. For example, if a police officer was both rude and physically restrained someone then that would be one report with two allegations. The reason that this is important is because the total number of allegations has also increased this year. The total number of allegations recorded against police forces in 2013-14 was 61,694 which marks a 10% increase on the previous year. Just shy of 10% of these allegations were related to an assault committed by the police against a member of the public.
The Metropolitan police, the UK’s largest police force, had the most complaint cases made against it last year, with 7,115 complaints against them. They were followed by the Greater Manchester police with 1,536 complaints, West Midlands police with 1,473, Devon and Cornwall police both with 1,364 complaints and finally the Kent police with 1,200 official complaints against them.
The chairperson of the International Police Complaints Commission, Dame Anne Owers, said that the 15% rise in complaints “would not be a cause for concern if it reflected a greater public confidence in the complaints system or improved access to it. This is unlikely to be the case. The rising number of complaints makes it all the more important that the system is, and is seen to be, fair, accessible and transparent.”
I sincerely hope we are not heading towards an American style police force where complaints of violence and ill treatment seem to emerge every day and that this shocking rise will lead to some changes in the handling of the public by the police.