As the Police and Crime Commissioner for Warwickshire, I know that our police officers and staff work incredibly hard to serve our communities. Whilst they endeavour to deliver an outstanding service to all the county’s residents and communities, I know that on occasions this unfortunately does not always happen and sometimes mistakes are made and public expectations are not met.
In such instances, I am determined to ensure that any errors are quickly rectified and lessons are swiftly learnt. This will serve to increase public confidence in the conduct of the force’s officers and staff and improve the service that Warwickshire Police provides to meet the needs of the county’s diverse communities.
I hope that the following information and narrative will illuminate the important subject of police complaints, and in doing so provide reassurance as to the guidance processes, scrutiny and assurance that is applied to both the force and my own performance in this critical area of police legitimacy and accountability.
Philip Seccombe TD
Police and Crime Commissioner for Warwickshire
Specified Information Order
The Elected Local Policing Bodies (Specified Information) (Amendment) Order 2021 requires the Police and Crime Commissioner to publish a link on their websites to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) annual statistics report and publish the most recent quarterly complaints data for their force. The data and reports are to be published within one month of publication by the IOPC and reviewed quarterly.
This report therefore encompasses both the IOPC annual statistics for 2021/22, and the IOPC statistics for Q2 2022/23 (1 April 2022 to 30 September 2022).
At the time of publishing by the Commissioner, a narrative must also be provided setting out how the Commissioner is ‘holding to account’ the Chief Constable for the complaint handling performance of the police force, together with an assessment of the Commissioner’s own performance in carrying out certain statutory complaint handling functions.
Part One – 2021/22
1. Complaint Statistics
The IOPC annual ‘Police Complaints: Statistics for England and Wales 2021/2012’ was published on 17 November 2022. It can be viewed at: –
The IOPC Director General provided the following comments on the report:
“These are the second set of annual complaint statistics to be published since significant changes were made to the police complaints system in February 2020. It is important to remain cautious when comparing the figures from this year to previous years, as the statistics are experimental. They provide a view of police complaints in England and Wales – identifying the volume and type of complaints being made and how police forces are dealing with them.”
“The total volume of complaints rose by 11%. An increase that is likely linked to the simplifying of the system and the widening in definition of a complaint to “any expression of dissatisfaction. The most recorded complaint type related to delivery of duties and service. These often relate to service delivery complaints such as a lack of updates or delays in responses, rather than concerns around police misconduct. Meanwhile, the rise in the number of complaints resolved informally indicates more complaints are being sorted quickly, as the new system intended, with fewer complaints resulting in lengthy investigations.
“More work is needed to fully embed new ways of working in all forces to ensure these reforms deliver a complaints system that is easy to access, less complex and more focused on resolution and learning.”
Complaints made against Warwickshire Police are primarily handled by the force’s Professional Standards Department (PSD), under the delegated responsibility of the Chief Constable. The IOPC has a statutory responsibility for investigating a small number of these complaints, where they are deemed to be more serious and / or sensitive.
The Police and Crime Commissioner for Warwickshire has a responsibility to ‘hold to account’ the Chief Constable for the strategic performance of Warwickshire Police – including complaint handling. Also, for conducting ‘complaint reviews’ for certain categories of complaints in circumstances where the complainant remains dissatisfied with PSD’s handling and / or outcome to their complaint.
3. Holding to account
The principal mechanism for the Commissioner to ‘hold to account’ the Chief Constable for Warwickshire Police’s performance is through the monthly Governance Performance Board, which is also attended by senior officers from Warwickshire Police and members of staff from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC).
At the GPB, the corporate Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for PSD are provided for discussion under the ‘Effective and Efficient’ strand of the force’s ‘Fit for the Future’ strategy. These KPIs include metrics on the number of complaints recorded, any reoccurring themes identified from complaints, the timeliness of response to the complainant; together with the proportion of complaints that are subject to ‘service recovery’ outside of Schedule 3 of the Police Reform Act 2002 and those requiring a proportionate investigation under Schedule 3 of the same legislation.
In addition to this strategic performance meeting, the OPCC Head of Business Service and Assurance holds regular meetings with the Head of PSD to discuss performance and tactical issues, to ensure that the OPCC and PSD teams work together to ensure that continuous improvement is made to the way in which complaints and complaint reviews are handled.
To complement these meetings and provide additional scrutiny and assurance, a system of dip-sampling of complaints is undertaken by the OPCC in conjunction with an independent member of the Joint Audit and Standards Committee (JASC).
To provide further independent scrutiny and assurance, a ‘Standards’ report is submitted by the OPCC as an agenda item to meetings of the JASC. This report provides an overview of the force’s complaints handling performance and that of the OPCC complaint reviews; together with information on the action taken following the outcome of the complaint reviews in terms of recommendations made and / or learning identified.
4. Complaint handling
Some of the key performance metrics from the IOPC ‘Police Complaints Statistics for England and Wales 2021/22’ are: –
4.1 Complaints made
A complaint is defined in IOPC statutory guidance as any expression of dissatisfaction with a police force that is expressed by or on behalf of a member of the public.
The time taken to finalise a complaint varies according to whether it is dealt with outside of Schedule 3 of the Police Reform Act 2002 as a ‘service recovery’ matter or is subject to a proportionate investigation under Schedule 3 of the Act.
In 2021/22, the average time to contact the complainant was 1 day and as such was one of the best performing forces in England and Wales.
The force also finalised ‘service recovery’ complaints in 46 days on average, longer than most forces. Those investigated under Schedule 3 were finalised in 96 days on average, shorter than most forces.
4.3 Regulation 13 Notices
Where Warwickshire Police has not completed an investigation within 12 months, the force must issue a written notice to the Commissioner and the IOPC under Regulation 13 of the Police (Complaints and Misconduct) Regulations 2020 and Regulation 19 of the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2020.
5. Complainant satisfaction
Complainant satisfaction is assessed based on the outcome of complaint. For less serious ‘expressions of dissatisfaction’, it is measured by PSD’s service recovery rate that operates outside of Schedule 3 Police Reform Act 2002.
Where the complaint cannot be resolved to the complainant’s satisfaction then it is dealt with under Schedule 3 and consequently subject to a proportionate investigation by PSD. The complainant is then afforded a right to review, in that they can make application to the OPCC, and in some cases the IOPC, to review PSD’s handling and outcome of the complaint.
6. Complaint reviews
In February 2020, the ‘Police (Complaints and Misconduct) Regulations 2020’ came into effect. These reforms are aimed at making the police complaints system more responsive, independent and customer focused. The intention is to remove the focus of attributing blame when things occasionally go wrong, to one of learning and service improvement. The legislation permits Commissioners to select from one of three models available to implement locally: –
- Basic Statutory. This model provides Commissioners with improved powers of oversight to ‘hold to account’ the Chief Constable for the handling of complaints. It also requires the Commissioner to deal with complaint reviews in cases that do not meet the threshold to be dealt with by the IOPC.
- Triage. This model requires the Commissioner to operate the Basic Statutory model and additionally take on the on the initial handling, assessment, and resolution of complaints. More serious complaints are still required to be dealt with by the force.
- Customer Contact. This model requires the Commissioner to be operating both the Basic statutory and Triage models, and in addition the Commissioner can take on continued contact with the complainant throughout the complaints process to improve customer focus
6.1 Complaint review manager
The OPCC for Warwickshire operates the Basic Statutory model, in line with the majority of other OPCC, whilst the other models mature and good practice is identified for further consideration. Consequently, the Commissioner is now the Relevant Review Body for all complaint reviews that would previously have been managed by Warwickshire Police.
In 2021/22, the Commissioner made the decision to collaborate with the West Midlands Commissioner to utilise a joint member of staff as the designated Complaint Review Manager for both OPCCs.
The role of the Complaint Review manager is to consider whether PSD’s handling of the complaint and / or its outcome was reasonable and proportionate. If the complaint is ‘upheld’ then recommendations may be made to the police force for consideration. . Such recommendations might include actions to remedy the dissatisfaction, organisational learning, review of policy or procedure, or to reinvestigate the complaint. The only right of appeal following a complaint review is to seek a judicial review.
6.2 Quality assurance
In January 2022, the OPCC complaint review policies and processes were subject to an internal audit by Warwickshire County Council’s Audit team. A total of nine recommendations were made following the review, all of which have now been completed. These include the production of a ‘Complaint Review Frequently Asked Questions’ report, which is provided to those complaints seeking a complaint review.
6.3 Organisational learning
A complaint review will consider whether the complaint process was reasonable and proportionate, with recommendations made to the Warwickshire Police if the review is upheld. Any recommendations made to the force are monitored by the OPCC, but under the legislation the force does not have to act on the recommendations made. Where recommendations arising can be identified as specific themes or similar issues arising the Police and Crime Commissioner will raise them through the holding to account process described in the above section on holding to account.
7. Continuous improvement
Regular meetings are held between representatives of the OPCC and the IOPC Oversight Liaison Officer to discuss Warwickshire Police’s performance in respect of complaint handling. The meeting also provides a useful ‘sounding board’ to discuss and resolve any procedurally complexities in conducting reviews.
In addition, a Regional Practitioner’s Forum has been instigated by the IOPC. The focus of the forum is on complaint reviews, with the opportunity to identify themes and share best practice in the West Midlands region.
The Association of Police and Crime Commissioner Chief Executives (APACE) has restarted the National Complaints Network. The network discusses complaint reviews, the holding to account responsibility, persistent complainants, and police misconduct tribunals.
Through these meetings, forums, and networks there is a real desire to work together by sharing ideas and helping each other to understand the legislation and how best to implement it.
Part Two – Q2 2022/23
8. Complaints Statistics
On 9 December 2022, the ‘Warwickshire – Q2 2022/23 Police Complaint Information Bulletin’ was published on the IOPC website. It can be viewed at: –
Warwickshire Police Complaints Information Bulletin – Q2 202223.pdf (policeconduct.gov.uk)
In compliance with the Specified Information Order the information contained within the IOPC bulletin has been reviewed. On 11 January 2023, these statistics were discussed at meeting held between the OPCC with IOPC Oversight Liaison Officers. The key points identified were that: –
- Excellent timeliness for contacting complainants.
- The number of allegations deriving from complaints is lower than the national average.
- The main category for complaints was ‘Delivery of duties and services’ at 55%, with the sub-category of ‘Police action following contact’ accounting for 46% of this total where ‘Investigation’ was the majority factor.
- The timelines at 50 days of complaints dealt with as ‘service recovery’ outside of Schedule 3 was considerably longer than the national average of 15 days.
- The timeliness at 118 days of complaints dealt with by investigation in accordance with Schedule 3 was shorter than the national average of 152 days.
9. Quality assurance
9.1. Joint Audit and Standards Committee
The Terms of Reference for the JASC requires the committee to be enabled to have oversight and to provide an independent review of the effectiveness of the adherence to appropriate standards and ethics by Warwickshire Police, the Police and Crime Commissioner, and the Chief Constable.
On 29 November 2022, a meeting of the JASC was held at which a paper was submitted by the OPCC on the subject of ‘Standards and Ethics’, providing an opportunity to the committee to scrutinise, and support and challenge the Commissioner on this subject.
9.2 Complaint Review Dip-Sampling
On 9 November 2022, a member of the Joint Audit and Standards Committee conducted dip-sampling of recently completed complaint reviews that had been conducted by the OPCC. The purpose was to provide assurance regarding the quality of the decision making and the content of the correspondence provided to the complainant.
A cross section of complaint reviews were considered. The observations arising from the dip-sampling were positive, in terms of the investment made by the OPCC in arriving at carefully considered and evidence-based decisions and adopting an appropriate customer focused tone in the associated correspondence.
10. Continuous improvement
10.1 Professional Standards Department Update
On 19 July 2022, a meeting between the Police and Crime Commissioner and the Head of PSD was held where the latest performance and issues of interest were discussed.
On 7 December 202, a further meeting was held at which the latest IOPC performance data was considered, along themes identified from the complaint reviews.
On 6 October 2022, a meeting was held between representatives from the OPCC and the IOPC Oversight Liaison Officer. Several topics were discussed, including the latest available IOPC performance data for Warwickshire Police for the period Q1 2022/23.
The IOPC determined that this data would not be publicly available due to issues with data integrity, thereby negating the requirements of the Specified Information Order 2021 (Amended) for Police and Crime Commissioner to publish such information on their websites. A summary of the performance at that time was that:-
- Excellent timeliness for contacting complainants
- More complaints than average for service delivery, suggesting that the standard of investigations into crime are the main drivers for complaints.
- An increase in timeliness for outside Schedule 3 complaints. This could be a data issue from system outage or a skew from a small number of cases.
- More investigations and fewer ‘otherwise than by investigations’ than the national average.
- A lower proportion of complaint reviews than last year.
- The same percentage of upheld of reviews across both the IOPC and OPCC, representing an improvement on last year.
- Using Reflective Practice Review Process as an outcome for officers was more than the national average.
11. Complaint reviews
11.1. Complaint review manager
The OPCC for Warwickshire continues to operate the Basic Statutory model. Warwickshire Police. However, the arrangements that were used in 2021/22 with a dedicated Complaints Manager was ceased at the beginning of the new fiscal year. Instead, as an interim measure during Q1 2022/23 the OPCC contracted the services of an independent company to conduct the reviews. During Q2 2022.23 this responsibility has now been brought ‘in-house’ and is conducted by two trained members of the OPCC staff, thereby providing sufficient capacity, capability, and resilience to deliver this function.
11.2. Complaint reviews
During the period from 1 April 2022 to 30 September 2022, the OPCC received a total of 19 application for a complaint review, of which 2 were referred to the IOPC as the correct Relevant Review Body in the case.
During this same period, the IOPC completed 17 complaint reviews, of which 9 (52%) were ‘upheld’. in that PSD’s handling of the complaint and / or the outcome was not reasonable and proportionate.
All recommendations or learning derived from a complaint review are forwarded to Warwickshire Police for consideration and tracked by the OPCC to their conclusion.