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Complaints Protocol with Surrey Police force

Under the Police Act 1996 and the Police Reform & Social Responsibility Act 2011 (PRSA), the Office for the Police and Crime Commissioner’s for Surrey (OPCC) has a number of specific duties in relation to the handling of complaints. The OPCC has a responsibility to manage complaints it may receive against the Chief Constable of the Force, its own members of staff, contractors, and the Commissioner itself.

There is an expectation that all complaints are dealt with by both Surrey Police Professional Standards Department (PSD) and the OPCC in accordance with the Police Reform Act 2002 (PRA 2002) and the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) statutory guidance governing the management of such complaints.

The OPCC also has a duty to keep itself informed about complaint and discipline matters within Surrey Police Force (as set out in section 15 of the Police Reform Act 2002). Open and transparent information sharing between PSD and the OPCC will assist greatly in the scrutiny function of the OPCC and this in turn will help to build trust and confidence in the complaints system.

This document sets out the protocol of the OPCC and Surrey Police’s PSD for handling and sharing information relating to complaints and subsequent complaint reviews and dip checks.

The PRA 2022 places a responsibility on organisations to ensure that complaints received are passed to the appropriate authority as quickly as possible. Consequently, when the OPCC receives a complaint that relates to the conduct and performance of Surrey Police or its officers and staff, it will:

a) Forward the complaint to PSD as soon as possible or ask the complainant to contact the force directly and provide them with PSD contact details.

b) PSD will then make immediate contact with the complainant and log the complaint as soon as possible.

c) Upon receipt, PSD will update the OPCC on what action has been taken and provide a reference number for any complaint record created for audit purposes.

The OPCC frequently receives correspondence about complaints/incidents that are, strictly speaking, not part of its remit. However, the Commissioner is keen to be seen to be responding to people’s concerns. Therefore, on occasion, the Commissioner or their Office will investigate the background to complaints. In these instances, the OPCC will ask PSD to provide it with the information it requests, being mindful of GDPR compliance at all times.

Additionally, the OPCC occasionally receives requests and queries about on-going operational matters. When these requests come into the OPCC, they will be sent directly to Surrey Police, either via PSD or any other route deemed appropriate. Surrey Police will then provide an update to the OPCC as required. Any such requests received by the OPCC are to be recorded on the OPCCs Contact Log.

The OPCC keeps a record of all contact it receives in its Caseworker digital customer relationship management system.

Progress on cases is reviewed daily and is maintained by the OPCCs Contact & Correspondence Officer and Head of Complaints and Compliance. The types and themes of contact/complaints are then provided to the PCC by way of weekly casework reports, and where appropriate, discussed directly with PSD for any trends and themes to be addressed.

PSD will provide the OPCC with a monthly breakdown of the complaint and misconduct performance by numbers, status, type, location, and overall workload demand/performance. Data also includes, where available, information on disproportionality. This is then discussed between the OPCC Head of Complaints, Force Complaints Manager and Head of PSD. A summary of this report, and the results of any dip-checks and reviews are then provided to the PCC by way of a briefing document.

The OPCC Head of Complaints holds regular meetings with the Surrey Police Complaints Manager and Head/Deputy Head of PSD to discuss IOPC quarterly/annual complaint data bulletins and other associated matters identified following dip checks and/or reviews.

Themes and issues relating the management of complaints and police misconduct are also discussed. Any subsequent actions and areas of focus are then agreed between PSD and the OPCC. An open and transparent approach is made to such meetings, with a summary of discussion points kept from these meetings.

The OPCC Head of Complaints scrutinises and publishes quarterly IOPC complaints data, and any prepared narrative on the force data, for public consumption on the OPCC website. Special attention is given to ensuring any narrative is in a format that the public will understand.

The OPCC Head of Complaints will have full access to Centurion. A dip-check of a number of PSD files and vetting rejections are carried out on a quarterly basis by the OPCC Head of Complaints to ensure that learning points are being taken forward and that Surrey Police are following the correct policies/APP and procedures when investigating complaints or making vetting decisions. A summary of these dip checks is briefed to the PCC, published on the OPCC website, and shared with PSD and the IOPC during quarterly meetings.

The OPCC employs a dedicated Complaints Reviews Manager whose sole role is to conduct complaint reviews as detailed under the PRA 2002. The Complaints Review Manager will have full and unfettered access to Centurion. Reviews are undertaken in line with IOPC statutory guidance and PRA 2002. Should any further information be required as part of the review, the OPCC Complaints Review Manager will request this from PSD who will supply this material upon request so that a review can be completed.

The outcome of the review will then be notified to PSD who will have 28 days to respond back to the OPCC as to whether recommendations are accepted or not and what action has been taken to address any recommendations/learning given. An outcome letter will also be sent directly by the OPCC Complaints Review Manager to the complainant and a high-level summary is then published on the OPCC website of all reviews where learning has been identified.

In implementing this policy, the Commissioner’s Office will ensure that its actions are in accordance with the requirements of the Equality Act 2010, Human Rights Act 1998 and the Convention Rights embodied within it, in order to protect the human rights of complainants, other users of the police services and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey.

If the Commissioner’s Office and PSD do not have a protocol that they adhere to in relation to complaints this could have a detrimental impact on the perception that the public and partners have of the Commissioner and the Force. This would impact on the ability to deliver against the Police and Crime Plan and damage trust and confidence in the OPCC and Surrey Police.

The OPCC will only forward, hold or retain personal information where it is appropriate for it to do so, in line with the OPCC GDPR Policy, Privacy Statement and Retention Policy.

This policy is suitable for access by the General Public.