Each quarter, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) collect data from forces about how they handle complaints. They use this to produce information bulletins that set out performance against a number of measures. They compare each force’s data with their most similar force group average and with the overall results for all forces in England and Wales.
The below narrative accompanies the IOPC Complaints Information Bulletin for Quarter Three 2022/23:
This latest Q3 bulletin demonstrates that Surrey Police continue to excel in relation to initial contact and recording of complaints. It takes an average of one day to make contact.
The Force have however, been asked to comment upon why so many cases are being filed under ‘no further action’ rather than other outcomes such as ‘learning from reflection’ etc.
The data also shows how our office have been performing in relation to reviews of complaints. It takes an average of 38 days to review a complaint which is better than the national average. We upheld 6% of complaints.
Surrey Police have provided the following response:
Complaint Cases Logged & Initial Handling
- Although we have seen a 0.5% increase in days to contact complainants and a 0.1% increase to log their complaint, this increase is minimal and we continue to outperform other forces nationally. A new complaints handling structure has recently been introduced and whilst the initial performance is positive, we will not be complacent and will continue to monitor any fluctuations as processes embed
- Surrey Police has a 1.7% reduction in complaint cases logged in comparison to the national average and 1.8% reduction in comparison to our most similar force. Although a small decrease, we remain positive that work to reduce complaints through operational delivery is taking place.
- We acknowledge that the reasoning Schedule 3 complaint cases are recorded as ‘Complainant wishes complaint to be recorded’ and ‘Dissatisfaction after initial handling’ are higher than our most similar forces and nationally, however, we remain hopeful that additional training to our complaint handling team and learning gathered from national scoping will aid in reducing this number over time. It is believed that more complaints can, and should, be dealt with outside the Schedule 3 process where appropriate as this significantly reduces time delays and improves customer service. This will be an area of focus as we embark upon the new financial year.
- Complainants who are dissatisfied after initial handling remain high, double that of the national average and 14% higher than our most similar force. System changes have allowed for our staff to become omni-competent, dealing with both complaints and conduct, however it is anticipated that it will take time to upskill all our staff to manage complaints at the outset as effectively as those who specialised in this area. – We need to work to improve dissatisfaction
Allegations Logged – Top Five Allegation Categories
- Although the increases across the categories remains consistent with our trajectory from Q1 & Q2, we remain outliers both nationally and compared to our most similar force in relation to complaints under ‘General Level of Service’. This will need exploring to establish why this category remains consistently high and whether this is a recording issue.
Allegations Logged – Situational Context of Complaints:
- Complaints regarding ‘arrests’ and ‘custody’ have doubled (Arrests – +90% (126 – 240)) (Custody = +124% (38– 85)) within the last quarter. Further analysis will need to be undertaken to establish the reason for this increase and to assess whether this tracks a general increase in arrests and detention.
- We have seen a 6 day decrease in working days to finalise allegations. Although a positive direction, we remain cognisant that we remain 25% higher than the national average. This is no doubt impacted by our performance in dealing with complaints initially. It is also worthy of note that we remain under establishment by 5 investigators which we are hoping to recruit into during the next financial year having been successful in securing funding for the uplift.
How allegations were handled and their decisions:
- Further investigation is required to establish why only 1% (34) are investigated under Schedule 3 (not subject to special procedures) in comparison to our most similar force who investigates 20% under this category. We are also outliers in the number of complaints ‘not investigated’ under Schedule 3. We have taken the approach to investigate what can be appropriately investigated outside of Schedule 3 in order to improve timeliness, provide better customer service and provide us with more time to allow us to focus upon the more serious complaints.
Complaint cases finalised – timeliness:
- Those complaints falling outside of Schedule 3 are being carried out expeditiously with an average of 14 working days. This is consistently strong performance over the third quarter and is believed as a result of the new complaints handling structure. This is as a result of the model which allows us to process our complaints quickly and therefore resolve them as such.
- A small number (3) of ‘invalid’ referrals were made to IOPC. Although higher than our most similar force,. The number is still extremely low. Those cases that are invalid will be reviewed and any learning disseminated within PSD to reduce unnecessary referrals being made in the future.
Decisions on LPB reviews:
- We are pleased to see that the reviews of our complaints process and the outcomes are found to be appropriate, reasonable and proportionate. Within the small number of cases that are not, we are identifying and disseminating the learning in order that we can continue to improve.
Allegation actions – on complaint cases handled outside of Schedule 3:
- Surrey Police reports double ‘No Further Action’ actions than both our most similar forces and nationally. This will need further exploration to establish whether this is a recording issue. We also have a significantly lower ‘Apology’ outcome.
Allegation actions – on complaint cases handled under Schedule 3:
- As reported in E1.1, the use of ‘No Further Action’ as opposed to other more suitable recordings need to be investigated to establish why other categories are not more appropriate. As previously reported, this issue will be addressed during the next round of training for complaint handlers.
- Although there is a lower percentage of ‘Learning from Reflection’ outcomes than our most similar forces and nationally, we are referring more to RPRP, a more formal process of reflective practice. It is believed that RPRP a greater degree of structured to support to the individual officers by their line management and organisation as a whole. This approach is supported by the Surrey’s Police Federation branch.