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DN 11/2019 The future of police complaints in North Yorkshire

The Commissioner has decided to take on the fullest responsibility for police complaints under the Policing and Crime 2017 Act

DN 11/2019 The future of police complaints in North Yorkshire

This means that the Office of Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner will become responsible for receiving, recording and resolving expressions of dissatisfaction from the public.

Police complaints which potentially involve misconduct, as well as serious and sensitive complaints, will continue to be addressed by North Yorkshire Police’s Professional Standards Department or the Independent Office of Police Conduct respectively.

The change in legislation also requires PCCs to undertake the complaints appeal function previously discharged by the Chief Constable, to be known as ‘reviews’ in future, of which there are typically about 40 every year. In North Yorkshire, the PFCC is implementing this requirement by the appointment of a new Independent Complaints Adjudicator post, which will independently undertake the majority of police complaint reviews and can make other helpful recommendations to the Chief Constable.

These changes will not only provide a more customer service focussed approach to police complaints, but an independent assessment of public feedback, and greater capacity for learning and improving. The new team will start formally once the relevant regulations are ratified, currently due to be early 2020.


The police complaints process has been reviewed and assessed by Government a number of times in the last few years, which culminated in suite of changes set out in the Policing and Crime 2017 Act. In the Act, a number of changes were made to the discipline and complaints process.

Looking at national data, the number of recorded complaints against the police has risen, nonetheless many people dissatisfied with the police choose not to complain. Equally, only 58% of people are confident that if they were to complain it would be handled fairly. Those members of the public who do complain are often not satisfied with how their complaint is handled.

Generally, reform of the complaints system has not kept pace with reforms to the rest of the policing landscape. With the exception of complaints made against Chief Constables, for whom they are the appropriate authority, PCCs have had only a relatively limited role in regards to the complaints system.

Following the Policing and Crime Act 2017, changes relating to PCCs and the police complaints process are:

  • Explicit responsibility for PCCs to oversee the police complaints process
  • Mandating PCCs to be the review body for most police complaints
  • Allowing PCCs, where it is right for their force area , to undertake the resolution of police complaints which don’t involve potential misconduct of officers
  • Changing the definition of a police complaint to one which is much broader and not necessarily related to individual officers. A complaint is now defined as ‘an expression of dissatisfaction against a police force’
  • Further changes to the police complaints system which require all complaints to be dealt with ‘reasonably and proportionately’

The Commissioner has been campaigning for change to the police complaints system since coming to office in 2012 and will be taking this opportunity to take on as much responsibility for complaints as possible under the Act. This is not only to ensure there is a new customer-service ethos regarding complaints, but also to bring independence into the police complaints system.

The scope of this work is to deliver a reformed public complaints system, which achieves the following outcomes:

  • Improvement in policing both individually and collectively, by embedding learning from good and bad practice.
  • A local police complaints system that enables the PFCC and Chief Constable to identify patterns and trends of dissatisfaction being raised with the force and allows them to address any systemic issues.
  • A new cultural approach to complaints, supporting the organisation more widely in its move towards a less risk-averse culture to one that is empowered to be innovative and appropriately risk-tolerant.
  • Better public engagement, encouraging the public to share intelligence as a result of greater public trust and confidence in policing.
  • A more customer focused police complaints system that is easier to understand and puts the emphasis on resolving issues to the satisfaction of the customer and workforce where possible and in a timely fashion, rather than apportioning blame.
  • A more transparent and independent police complaints system that has effective local oversight and that provides the public with clear information with which to hold their PFCC and force to account, (this does not affect the independent oversight of the IOPC).

To undertake the above, this will mean an investment of circa £150k for a new, customer-service complaints and compliments team that will allow four staff to manage this new function, as well as ensuring feedback is used to improve policing in North Yorkshire.

Sitting separately to this team, but covered within the same investment, is the new Independent Complaints Adjudicator role. The PFCC will delegate all her review function to the Adjudicator, who will in turn be responsible for all reviews.

The fundamental change and broadening in the definition of a police complaint to cover all expressions of dissatisfaction means investment in police complaints would be necessary, regardless of delivery by the PFCC or Chief Constable.

Decision Record

The PFCC has decided to fund a new OPFCC-based customer service team in order to significantly improve the service to the public regarding police complaints. This team will be the principal route by which the public can complain about or compliment the police. The PFCC will also commission an adjudicator to undertake police complaints reviews on her behalf.

The PFCC approves the expenditure of up to £150,000 revenue costs and £1,000 capital costs in the first year, with very limited capital costs thereafter.
The new service will be reviewed six months after implementation.


Julia Mulligan
Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire
7 October 2019

Statutory Officer Advice

Legal, Management and Equality Implications

The PFCC’s CEO and Monitoring Officer has advised that:

Having read this report and having considered such information as has been provided at the time of being asked to express this view, the Interim Chief Executive and Monitoring Officer is satisfied that this report does not ask the PCC to make a decision which would (or would be likely to) give rise to a contravention of the law.

Simon Dennis
Interim Chief Executive and Monitoring Officer
27 September 2019

Financial and Commercial

The PFCC’s Chief Finance Officer and S151 Officer has advised that the funding to support this investment was included in the Medium Term Financial Plan that was approved by the PFCC in February 2019 and therefore is affordable within the current plans.

Business case

Publication of responses to representations – proposed police complaints system

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