My role in the complaints process
Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) have been given a lead role in monitoring how well complaints are dealt with. I know from the public meetings I have been holding around Essex and from the letters and emails I receive how important it is that complaints against the police are fairly and robustly investigated, and in particular that there is a mechanism for thorough and independent review.
Here in Essex I have asked my Deputy, Lindsay Whitehouse, to conduct this detailed oversight of complaints made against Essex Police, supported by our office team. If I have concerns about any individual complaint I will raise the matter directly with the Chief Constable.
It is essential that public confidence and trust in the police remains strong, and I hope that members of the public and Essex Police officers and staff welcome this enhanced monitoring process that is now in place.
I will explain the background and process in some detail. The PCC has a legal duty under the Policing Protocol Order 2011 to monitor complaints made against Essex Police officers and staff. As PCC, I have a direct responsibility for complaints made against the Chief Constable.
In order to fulfil these important legal requirements, I have created the following processes. I receive a comprehensive quarterly report from the Chief Constable containing information about the number of different sorts of complaints, and a summary of management actions taken in response to the small number of more serious cases. This report is considered in depth by my Deputy who then holds a meeting with the Head of Essex Police Professional Standards Department (PSD). Trends and outcomes are discussed and reviewed in depth to ensure consistency and fairness across the force. Each report I have received so far has led to a valuable discussion and the need for some follow up work to reassure me about the Essex Police processes. On each occasion I have been reassured.
As PCC, I am not empowered to overturn the outcome of any PSD investigation into a complaint but I or my Deputy can require the Head of Professional Standards to take note of our formal observations and recommend that alternative actions be taken by Essex Police. These recommendations and actions will usually be made by the Deputy PCC in the first instance, and Lindsay Whitehouse will report his findings to me. If I am satisfied with the actions taken, I will close down that quarterly report. If I am not satisfied then I will discuss matters on a case by case basis with the Chief Constable.
As an additional check, the Deputy PCC carries out a random sample of all complaints completed during the period covered by the report. This sample looks to review complaints across different areas of work and will cover around five per cent of the total number of complaints received. The Deputy PCC also reviews appeals that have been submitted and considered by the Head of the Professional Standards Department. Further actions taken following these reviews are decided on a case by case basis.
You can also contact the Independent Police Complaints Commission. The IPCC will refer the complaint to the relevant police force in the first instance, for their response. You can find full details of how to make a complaint to the IPCC and how it will be progressed here.
During the period from 1st April 2013 to 31st July 2013, I received thirty three emails and fourteen letters relating to complaints against officers and staff of Essex Police. My team always look at these carefully so we can ‘take the temperature’ of the complaints being made. We then ask Essex Police for an account of how these complaints have been dealt with, to ensure that the process and investigation has been rigorous and fair. We also select a few to review as part of the sample testing we undertake each quarter.
I would welcome any feedback about how complaints against Essex Police have been dealt with. You can contact my office at [email protected]