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Greater Manchester no longer has a Police and Crime Commissioner. The Mayor of Greater Manchester has now taken responsibility for policing and crime.

Themed public forum: police integrity and professional standards

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Tony Lloyd and Jim Battle take part in public forum

Date: 15 October 2013
Time: 2-3.30pm 
Venue: Council Chambers, Rochdale Town Hall, The Esplanade, Rochdale, OL16 1AB

Tony and Jim Battle, Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner questioned Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy and the head of GMP’s Professional Standards Branch on how the police deal with complaints, as well wider issues on police integrity, professionalism and standards of service.

“Revelations surrounding the Hillsborough tragedy and the Stephen Lawrence inquiry Police have had a major impact on public confidence in the police, highlighting genuine concerns around integrity, professionalism and accountability.

“There are also issues of lack of confidence in the complaints system and I have received correspondence from members of the public who are not happy with the way GMP have dealt with their complaint and feel they have been fobbed off. This forum will allow senior officers to explain how GMP deals with complaints, reassure the public about what checks and balances are in place to maintain the independence and robustness of these investigations, and look at wider issues of professionalism and integrity. We will also explore how things can be improved.

“Making a complaint to the police about poor service or incivility, for example, should be a straightforward process with a swift resolution but instead it’s shrouded in bureaucracy and creates barriers for the public who are already unhappy. That’s why I’m working with the Chief Constable to increase the effectiveness of the complaints system to strengthen the openness, integrity and accountability of policing, and this forum will help to inform this work. Achieving this is a fundamental building block to improving public confidence.”Tony Lloyd

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1 comment

Mike Freeman

The challenge of dealing effectively with complaints about the police is immense. The prime role of the Independent Police Complaints Commission was to increase public confidence in the police. As an organisation they have failed to fulfil this objective that was set them, yet very few have ever taken them to task on this.
The issue many people have is that however you look at the complaints system, it remains a fact that invariably it is the Police investigating the Police. That said I do believe the police service have the tools to effectively investigate complaints and increase public confidence, without the need for further legislation. It really is all about the mindset.
For far too long the complaints process has been officer focused. The assumption has always been the officer may have done something wrong so needs to be dealt with. More emphasis needs to be put on why an officer dealt with an issue in the way they did and processes associated with the action taken properly examined. Very often it is the process that is actually at fault, so the issue is an organisational one and not an individual one.
Initial assessment of complaints is a key role and if the police service get this right then I know many complaints could be dealt with more effectively. GMP need to examine how they assess complaints initially and put resources into this. Part of the process needs to see complainants contacted the same day a complaint is received. The complainant needs to know their issue is being taken seriously, not by way of an electronically generated letter landing days after the complaint has been made.
All supervisors in GMP also need to take proper ownership and control of staff matters relating to complaints. Many conduct issues could and should be nipped in the bud by Supervisors who lack the confidence to do confrontation and discipline and in any case GMP have made it very easy for Supervisors to refer matters up the chain rather than deal with their staff directly. This needs to change. It is not the role of the Professional Standards Branch to deal with ‘staff discipline’ that could and should have been dealt with by a Supervisor.
In relation to apologising, whilst I think GMP have become better at this, the Force needs to be seen apologising when they get things wrong and putting things right. For too long there has been a fear that making an apology is an admission of doing something wrong. Supervisors need to know and be briefed that there is a huge difference between apologising and admitting doing something wrong. Better qualilty more prompt apologies will improve public confidence.
At a time of police cuts I am genuinely surprised that GMP has not examined collaborating with other local forces on complaints. Why does each force need a Professional Standards Branch? What is preventing Complaints from being dealt with regionally? So long as each force maintain robust systems for dealing with what I will term ‘service complaints’ and minor conduct complaints I can see no reason why more serious matters cannot be investigated by a regional unit. Cost savings on senior salaries could be quite significant.
For many years dealing with Police Complaints has been viewed by many Chief Constables as a necessary evil. Very few actually understand the world of Professional Standards. Whilst I think this is changing it is absolutely vital that Command Teams and the Chief Constable lead by example. Police Officers and staff are only like other professions. They need to know the standards expected of them and they need to see their leaders setting and working and living by those standards. Now if that really were to happen public confidence in the police would improve!

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