Posted: Thursday 22 March 2012

99 per cent certainty that Grampian Police record complaints accurately, according to Police Complaints Commissioner

Grampian Police is the latest Scottish force to receive an assurance rating of "substantial", the second highest available, for its initial complaint recording practices. Just three complaints were found to have been missed from over 500 records examined by the Police Complaints Commissioner's office, representing a non-recording rate of less than 1 per cent.

During fieldwork the Commissioner's staff looked at correspondence received at Aberdeenshire Divisional Headquarters and the Crime Management department, both located in Queen Street in the city. Also included in the audit were emails sent through the force's gateway and correspondence received at the Divisional Administration Unit in Inverurie.

Two of the three non-recorded complaints involved MSPs and their constituents. In one, the owner of an off licence wrote to his MSP complaining about the lack of police response, after football fans had allegedly stolen alcohol from his shop. The local commander apologised in writing to the man and, although the licensee did not wish to make a formal complaint, the Commissioner's view is that where there is a clear expression of dissatisfaction such as this, the police should formally record it.

In another case, a constituent contacted his MSP twice to complain about the police response to his complaints of cars parking on the footpath. It is clear from both letters to the MSP that the man was not satisfied with the police response to his complaint, but it had never been recorded as a complaint by the police.

In the final case, a member of the public wrote to the Chief Constable to complain that the police had not investigated her allegation of intimidation by a neighbour. The local division provided a detailed response, including referral to the PCCS if she was still dissatisfied, but no complaint was recorded on the force's system.

The Commissioner, Professor John McNeill said: For statistics about complaints and their outcomes to be meaningful, the public needs to be certain that all of their complaints are being identified and recorded accurately by the police. While we found some examples during the audit I am satisfied that in more than 99 per cent of cases, if any member of the public expresses dissatisfaction with the actions of Grampian Police, whether in writing or face to face, it is being recorded."

In recommending to the Chief Constable that he considers introducing procedures to establish an audit regime for correspondence receive by the force, the Commissioner acknowledged in his report that there was already a high level of awareness as to what constituted a complaint about the police. He went on to commend Grampian Police for its pro-active response in updating its own procedures, following the publication of Statutory Guidance on complaints handling by the PCCS last year.

Chief Superintendent Ewan Stewart, Head of Professional Standards for Grampian Police, said:I welcome publication of the PCCS complaints recording audit and I am pleased that the audit process confirmed that Grampian Police employs sound systems and processes for complaint recording.  Grampian Police continue to strongly support the messages contained in the PCCS Statutory Guidance on complaints handling, "From sanctions to solutions", and I am very pleased that our pro-active stance has been acknowledged and commended by the Commissioner."

The Police Complaints Commissioner's office is carrying out these audits as part of its remit to drive up standards in police complaints handling. Copies of the six reports published so far are available on the PCCS website www.pcc-scotland.org.

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