How Commissioners are making the police complaints system more user-friendly
Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC) in England and Wales have the freedom to choose to adopt one of three models of complaints handling.
Julia Mulligan – the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire – has gone further than any other PCC. She has opted for ‘model three’ and so created her own independent team to manage complaints from the public about the police and she has taken responsibility for keeping those people updated on the progress of their complaints.
Julia Mulligan told the Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry into police conduct and complaints on 3 March 2021:
“What the public need is pretty straightforward. They want candour, openness, and honesty about what has happened – a willingness to put things right – and to be able to understand the process and what is happening to them in ordinary language.
“My office’s Customer Service Team doesn’t follow process. It is there to resolve things for our customers. They are brand new people we have deliberately brought in from outside, with an entirely new skills set, to be focused on providing a service for the customer.
“We’ve got lots of different ways for the public to contact us. We’ve done work via my Youth Commission to see what they think is important for young people, and we’ve done specific outreach work in some of our more diverse communities – a whole range of things to encourage people to come forward.”
Under the model opted for by PCC Sue Mountstevens in Avon and Somerset, the force’s Professional Standards Department (PSD) remains the first point of contact for complainants. The PCC has responsibility for carrying out reviews in some cases when someone is subsequently unhappy with how PSD dealt with the complaint.
But, she said:
“I don’t think it matters which model we are doing. We have a good, professional, working relationship with our PSD. We interrogate them and have full access to their system for transparency.
“Listening to our local people is absolutely key which is why, whether they come to us or PSD, it is about making sure it is easy for them.”
South Wales PCC Alun Michael told the Committee:
“Engagement has to be about the whole of policing – community policing, PCSOs, recruitment. It isn’t just an issue within the complaints system.
“A lot of this is down to the ability of a Police and Crime Commissioner to engage with local communities and to drive things, and down to the stronger scrutiny of the force which the Police and Crime Commissioner provides.”
Originally published by the Association of police and Crime Commissioners.