1 Managing resources effectively |
1. The Independent Police Complaints Commission
(IPCC) was established under the Police Reform Act 2002 and became
operational from April 2004. It is responsible for the performance
of the whole police complaints system in England and Wales. Its
- to investigate complaints and
conduct matters involving police officers;
- to recommend appropriate action by the police
force concerned, and
- where appropriate, to forward information to
the Crown Prosecution Service for a decision on possible prosecution.
2. When the IPCC receives a complaint it can
decide to refer the case back to the relevant police force to
investigate locally or it may choose one of three methods of investigation
outlined in Figure 1. The IPCC also processes appeals made
by complainants about the non-recording, local resolution or local
investigation of their case by the police.Figure
1: Summary of the IPCC's main activities
|Complaints: When the IPCC receives a complaint or referral, it has four options under the Police Reform Act 2002. If the IPCC believes that the case does not require IPCC involvement, it may refer the case back to the police force to investigate locally. Alternatively, the IPCC may choose one of the following three methods of investigation:
- Independent investigation: For the most serious complaints, such as those involving a death after contact with the police, an independent investigation is undertaken by IPCC investigators.
- Managed investigation: These investigations are undertaken by the local police force against whom the complaint has been made, under the direction and control of an IPCC investigator. The IPCC is responsible for setting out the avenues of enquiry to be followed, monitoring progress, issuing further instructions if necessary and signing-off the completed investigation report when satisfied.
- Supervised investigation: The investigation is performed by the local police force and is under its direction and control. The IPCC's role is limited to approving the investigation's terms of reference and confirming that these have been met at the conclusion of the investigation.
Appeals: The IPCC also processes appeals made by complainants. Appeals may be against a police force's non-recording of a complaint, against a complaint being dealt with by local resolution by the police, or against the outcome of the local investigation of a complaint by the police.
Source: C&AG's Report, Box 3
3. Since the IPCC was established the number
of complaints against the police has increased from 15,885 in
2003-04 to 28,963 in 2007-08. The IPCC attributed this 83% increase
in complaints mainly to improved public access and confidence
in the police complaints system. People now believe that if they
complain there is a system in place to address their complaint
and the complaint will be taken seriously and investigated properly.
The IPCC's surveys of the general public in 2004 and 2007 suggested
that two thirds of respondents were 'fairly' or 'very' confident
that complaints against the police would be handled impartially.
4. The IPCC was unable to say, however, whether
or not the increase in complaints against the police was also
due to rising dissatisfaction with the police.
The IPCC noted that one possible measure of assessing police performance
is the number of appeals that the IPCC upholds. There is some
evidence that the police are dealing with cases better, which
is resulting in the IPCC upholding fewer appeals.
5. We asked how the IPCC monitors the handling
of complaints that do not reach the IPCC. The IPCC told us in
written evidence that it has set standards on how police forces
should handle complaints and has regular liaison with Police Standards
Departments on their performance. From July 2009, the IPCC intends
to launch a new performance framework that will provide the IPCC
with a picture of how individual police forces are performing
in handling complaints locally.
6. The IPCC's workload has increased significantly
since it began work in 2004-05.
Figure 2 shows that the number of independent investigations
opened by the IPCC increased from 31 in 2004-05 to 100 in 2007-08.
There has also been a four-fold increase in the number of appeals
received, from 1,033 in 2004-05 to 4,141 in 2007-08. This increase
in workload has placed growing demands on the IPCC's staff to
a point where the IPCC considers that it is now operating above
its full capacity. The
rise in the number of complaints against the police is only part
of the explanation for the rising workload. The police now refer
more cases to the IPCC than in earlier years and the IPCC now
better understands its obligations under Articles 2 and 3 of the
Human Rights Act 1998 to investigate all incidents where a death
or near death has occurred proximate to contact with the police.Figure
2: The increasing workload of the Independent Police Complaints
|Independent investigations started
||Managed investigations started
Source: National Audit Office analysis of IPCC
7. To deal with its increasing workload within
the resources available, the IPCC has redeployed suitably qualified
staff to undertake investigations from other activities such as
quality reviews. IPCC's staff are also working more hours to get
work completed and a senior investigator has returned from retirement.
8. The level of performance in handling cases
has varied across the IPCC's four regions. For example, in 2007-08
only one of the IPCC's four regions met its target to process
80% of appeals within 25 working days. The worst problem was in
the London and South East Region where, in 2007-08, only 27% of
investigation appeals were dealt with in line with the target.
During the early years of its operations, the IPCC had got its
resourcing model wrong for London and the South East which partly
explained the poorer performance of this region.
Demand was typically higher in London and the South East than
for the other three regions, with more appeals being received
and more independent and managed investigations started. Staff
recruitment and retention difficulties exacerbated the problems
and contributed to the backlog of appeals.
9. The IPCC has taken steps to address the regional
variations in appeals performance by:
- allocating appeals on a national
rather than a regional basis, so that the same service will be
provided to all those making an appeal,
- recruiting staff to help to process the backlog
The IPCC assured us that by the end of the 2008-09
financial year the appeals backlog would have been cleared and
all appeals would be dealt with within the set timescale.
10. The IPCC decides the approach that should
be adopted for each complaint that it receives (Figure 1).
This decision known as determining the Mode of Investigation,
is based on an assessment of the apparent seriousness of the complaint,
which determines whether it needs to be investigated by the IPCC
or whether it could be handled by the police.
The IPCC admitted that there are no strict criteria for making
such decisions and accepted that the availability of resources
plays a part. The IPCC rejected the suggestion, however, that
decisions on the type of investigation were unduly influenced
by resource pressures.
11. In addition to investigators and casework
managers, the IPCC has 12 Commissioners. They act as the representatives
of the public and guardians of the IPCC's independence, and are
the key decision makers in the IPCC's activities.
In May 2008, the IPCC took the decision that Commissioners will
no longer approve the Mode of Investigation decision. This responsibility
now rests with Regional Directors who are members of the IPCC's
management team. This change in responsibilities was in response
to the decision to reduce the number of Commissioners from 15
to 12 from July 2008. As a result, however, the oversight and
accountability role of Commissioners has been reduced.
2 C&AG's Report, Summary, para 1 Back
Q 1; C&AG's Report, para 3.2 Back
Q 33; C&AG's Report, para 3.16 Back
Qq 2-4 Back
Q 45 Back
Ev 9 Back
C&AG's Report, paras 1.15-1.16 Back
C&AG's Report, para 1.18 Back
Qq 5-7, 17, 21 Back
C&AG's Report, para 1.34; Appendix 2 Back
Q 28 Back
C&AG's Report, para 1.9 Back
Q 9 Back
Q 30 Back
Q 9 Back
Q 18; C&AG's Report, para 1.14 Back
Qq 19, 27, 43-44 Back
Q 10; C&AG's Report, para 1.4 Back
Q 27; C&AG's Report, paras 1.5-1.6 Back