3 Police complaints procedures
17. In 2011-12, 31,771 police officers were subject
to a complaint, out of a total of 134,101 officers in England
and Wales. The table below shows the ranks of these officers:
|Police Officer Ranks
|Senior Officer Ranks (all ranks above Chief Superintendent)
|Other police officer ranks
Source: IPCC, Police complaints: statistics for
England and Wales 2011/12
18. The Commission only investigates a small
proportion of ordinary police complaints (usually when a decision
made by a police force is appealed) and deals with automatic referrals
of the most serious cases. The vast majority of complaints are
investigated by the police force involved or by a neighbouring
force: in 2011-12 the Commission completed 130 independent investigations.
19. Of course, the IPCC could not be called upon
to investigate all police complaints. However, many of our witnesses
believed that the Commission ought to take on a greater proportion
of the more serious cases. One witness said that her complaint
had been "recycled by the IPCC back to the original people
who abused the system in the first place".
Frustration that the police were left to investigate themselves
even in relatively serious cases was widespread.
|Modes of investigation
When the Commission receives a complaint or a referral, it decides how it should be dealt with. This is referred to as a "mode of investigation" decision.
a) Local Resolution, carried out entirely by the police with the complainant's consent. There is a right of appeal to the Commission.
b) Supervised investigations, where the IPCC sets out terms of reference for the police. There is a right of appeal to the Commission.
c) Managed investigations, carried out by police forces under the direction and control of the Commission.
d) Independent investigations, carried out by the Commission's own investigators and overseen by a Commissioner.
The IPCC's ability to get to the truth
20. It is crucial that the IPCC is able to get to the truth
in serious cases involving police corruption or deaths in custody.
Many witnesses were concerned that the IPCC's involvement in death
and serious injury cases involving police officers was far too
remote. Serious questions were raised about the capacity of the
Commission to conduct a proper investigation into the circumstances
surrounding the cases referred to it. Without a proper investigation,
those involved cannot be confident that the truth has been told.
21. A major obstacle was the IPCC's access to
specialists who could analyse a possible crime scene. Inquest
suggested that the Commission should have a panel of independent
experts, rather than rely on police investigators and that investigators
should be cautious about including untested police versions of
events in their instructions and take note of new developments.
The Police Action Lawyers Group and Inquest believed that
there should be an IPCC team to attend scenes of death very quickly
following police contact in order to take control of the scene
and begin the process of gathering evidence.
Securing evidence quickly and independently is vital in these
cases to provide the public with assurance that justice is done.
22. The impact of the IPCC's lack of investigative
resources is illustrated in some of the stories we heard from
families like the Riggs. Marcia Rigg told us that her family had
"basically been conducting the investigation ourselves because
we have absolutely had no faith in the IPCC's investigation at
all from the very outset" and suggested that "the evidence
quite clearly showed quite the opposite of what the IPCC's conclusion
was in their report".
Deborah Coles, Director of Inquest, believed that this demonstrated
the Commission's lack of capacity, skills and expertise to run
an effective investigation.
The IPCC's announcement of a review of its own investigation
in this case is a welcome sign that the Commission is aware of
the magnitude of the effects of this kind of investigation for
the families of those involved and for improving police practices
where fault is found.
23. More cases should be investigated
independently by the Commission, instead of referred back to the
original force on a complaints roundabout. "Supervised investigations"
do not offer rigorous oversight of a police investigation, nor
do they necessarily give the public a convincing assurance that
the investigation will be conducted objectively. This kind of
"oversight-lite" is no better than a placebo.
24. The IPCC owes it to the
families of those who die in cases involving the police to get
to the truth of the mattera botched job is an offence to
all concerned. When the IPCC does investigate it often comes too
late and takes too long. The trail is left to go cold. IPCC investigators
should be able to take immediate control of a potential crime
scene during the crucial "golden hours" and early days
of an investigation into deaths and serious injury involving police
Police complaints statistics
25. The following table shows the number of complaints
received by each force, along with the percentage change from
2010-11 to 2011-12. A positive value in the fourth column shows
that the number of complaints has risen, while a negative value
indicates a fall in the number of complaints. Hampshire experienced
the highest percentage increase in the number of complaints26%while
the number of complaints fell in Warwickshire by 37%.
||Complaints in 2010-11
||Complaints in 2011-12
|Devon and Cornwall
|British Transport Police
|Avon and Somerset
|South Wales ||675
|North Yorkshire ||525
|Thames Valley ||1,147
|City of London ||120
|West Yorkshire ||940
|West Midlands ||1,871
|South Yorkshire ||528
|North Wales ||382
|West Mercia ||987
Source: IPCC, Police complaints: statistics for
England and Wales 2011/12
The IPCC can't afford to do more
26. In order to take on investigation of the
most serious cases, it is necessary for the Commission to have
the manpower and finance, but we found that the Commission is
currently under-resourced. This was both because of a lack of
funding and the severe drain on resources caused by the volume
of appeals into decisions made by police forces themselves.
27. Like all public bodies, it is expected that
the IPCC should play its part in efforts to reduce public spending,
but under current plans the Commission would not have sufficient
resources to deal with an increased number of independent investigations.
The Commission's activities are primarily funded through
Grant-in-Aid from the Home Office. This funding falls from £35.365
million in 2010-11 to £30.741 million in 2014-15, a cut in
cash terms of 13%. The Commission calculated that this equated
to a real-terms budget reduction in excess of 21% over the Comprehensive
Spending Review period.
28. Dame Anne Owers, Chair of the IPCC, and Jane
Furniss, its Chief Executive, both denied that resource constraints
were currently preventing the Commission from undertaking an independent
investigation in cases where it was really necessary. However,
they believed that the possibility was not far away, which Dame
Anne thought could become a particular concern in cases of alleged
corruption or racism.
Others believed that funding limitations were already affecting
mode of investigation decisions, pointing to inconsistencies in
the decision making of the Commission about which cases were suitable
to be independently investigated. It appeared to the
Police Superintendents' Association that these decisions were
often made on the basis of available resources rather than the
details of the case.
29. The IPCC provided us with an estimated cost
for an independent investigation based on an average investigation.
Some independent investigations may cost as little as £45,000
while more complex investigations can reach up to £300,000.
The figures provided for managed and supervised investigations
relate only to the IPCC cost and do not take account of the majority
of costs which fall to the appropriate authority, usually the
relevant police force.
|Mode of investigation
||Illustrative cost (incurred by the IPCC)
30. The Commission told us that a backlog of
appeals had begun to build since the need to make financial savings
had obliged it to reduce its complement of temporary staff.
It concluded that "the Commission does not currently
have sufficient resources to enable it to meet its statutory responsibility
or the public's growing expectations of its role".
As the Association of Chief Police Officers noted, "any
real or perceived delay in holding individuals or the Service
to account can undermine confidence in the IPCC, and by association,
the Service", so any delay in responding to cases is damaging
to the Commission's main objective.
We note the statement on the IPCC website that it currently takes
up to 26 weeks for an appeal to be completed and that the commission
is currently processing appeals received before 30 July 2012.
31. Individual forces have significant resources
invested in their Professional Standards Departmentsthe
IPCC has a smaller budget than the Professional Standards Department
of the Metropolitan Police alone.
Rather than rely on forces to conduct their own investigations,
or borrow teams of crime scene investigators, in the most serious
cases some of those funds could be redirected to fund independent
work by the IPCC.
32. It is deeply worrying that
the Commission now feels that its level of resourcing has dropped
below a level at which it can properly discharge its statutory
functions and meet public expectations, to the extent that a backlog
of appeals is now building up. We recognise that it will not be
easy to find significant additional resources. We recommend that
the Home Office work with the Commission to identify innovative
ways in which the backlog might be cleared, for example by using
temporary secondments of staff from other public authorities with
relevant expertise, such as the Parliamentary Commissioner for
Administration or HM Inspectorate of Constabulary. More robust
procedures should be put in place at the permission stage of appeals
in order to filter out more minor cases in order to allow the
IPCC to focus on the most serious.
33. Important cases are under-investigated
because of a lack of access to independent specialists. The Home
Office should provide the IPCC with a specific budget for a serious
cases response team. The resources within individual forces for
investigating complaints dwarf the resources of the Commission.
It is notable that the IPCC is smaller than the complaints department
of the Metropolitan Police alone. In the most serious cases, therefore,
there should be a system for transfer of funds from individual
forces to the IPCC to cover an investigation. This model is already
in place for the IPCC's investigations into HMRC and UKBA.
34. These issues particularly affect minorities.
There is ongoing concern about racism in the police and the IPCC.
Black people account for 2.9% of the population, but 20% of those
who die in custody. Over 33% of cases in which a black detainee
had died occurred in circumstances in which police actions may
have been a factor, compared with only 4% of cases where the detainee
was white. In
2008 black and minority ethnic communities deaths accounted for
32% of all deaths in police custody, a figure which is broadly
consistent with other recent years.
Tackling the issue of proper oversight of a potential crime
scene involving officers could therefore be an important step
in increasing confidence among minority communities.
35. Applying non-discriminatory
practices is crucial as a disproportionate number of the cases
that cause the most serious public concern involve the black and
minority ethnic (BME) communities. All Commissioners, investigators
and caseworkers should be trained in discrimination awareness
and relevant law, including all the protected characteristics
under the Equality Act 2010. Again, leadership in this respect
should come from Commissioners themselves, of whom three of thirteen
will be from BME communities when the new Commissioners take up
18 Ev 99 [IPCC] Back
Ev 73 [Home Office], para19; IPCC, Police complaints: statistics
for England and Wales 2011/12 Back
Ev w38 [Donna M Gardner], para 3; Ev w13 [Netpol], para 4 Back
Ev 113 [Inquest], paras 38-39 Back
Ev 109 [Police Action Lawyers Group], para 3 Back
Q 95 Back
Q 101 Back
Ev 76 [PSAEW], para 3.1; Ev 82 [IPCC], para 21 Back
IPCC, Annual report and statement of accounts 2011/12,
HC 292, July 2012 Back
Ev 78 [PSAEW], para 9.2 Back
Ev 82 [IPCC], para 20 Back
Ev 82 [IPCC], para 21 Back
Ev 120 [ACPO], para 21 Back
Q 87 [Dame Owers] Back
Ev w68 [Natasha Sivanandan] Back
Ev 94 [BMH UK], para 14 Back
Ev 110 [Inquest], para 7 Back