The IPCC report on police complaints during 2011/12 confirms that Cheshire Police is working hard to maintain the high standards of professional behaviour of its officers and staff and to ensure it provides a service that meets public expectations.
The IPCC found that the total number of complaints cases fell during the year by 12% in Cheshire, ahead of the national average of a 9% decrease. Cheshire recorded 421 formal complaint cases compared during 2011/12 compared with 476 cases the previous year). The rate of decrease in complaints is testament to an increased focus on standards in professional behaviour and also as a direct result of concerns raised last year that complaints had increased by some 10%.
The main causes of complaint against Cheshire officers and staff mirror national categories, with instances of incivility, neglects of duty, and the excessive use of force being the main categories of allegations made. The force is particularly keen to address these matters, and is currently raising awareness through its Quality Matters internal campaign to drive home the importance of officers and staff treating offenders, victims and witnesses with respect and courtesy; in undertaking effective and thorough investigations; and where policing powers have to be used, they are only done so reasonably and to the minimum extent necessary.
Detective Superintendent John Armstrong, Head of Professional Standards welcomed the IPCC′s report, stating, "Cheshire makes good use of the IPCC′s concept of the meritorious complaint − any complaint which has been found to have merit irrespective of whether an officer has breached any standard of professional behaviour will be upheld in Cheshire. The ability and willingness of the public to express dissatisfaction where they believe the standards of service have fallen below expectations is vitally important to us to assist us to focus on putting matters right when they do occasionally go wrong. The overwhelming majority of officers and staff do a highly professional job each and every day, and understanding why and how often complaints are made helps to improve our collective performance. We welcome this report as well continually work closely with the IPCC to provide reassurance we are capable of meeting the needs of complainants whilst being fair to officers, and to ensure those whose conduct sometimes falls below expectations are properly held to account."
At 174 allegations per 1,000 employees, Cheshire compares very favourably when compared with the national force average of 213 complaints per 1,000 employees.
The IPCC report also commented on the timeliness of finalisation of complaint cases and found Cheshire to be in line with national averages for the time taken to deal with locally resolved cases, and takes only slightly longer to deal with those complaints requiring a more detailed investigation.
The 2011/12 report shows Cheshire had 8% fewer appeals upheld by the IPCC than the national average and has one of the lowest rates of upheld appeals in the country.