Narrative – IOPC Complaints Information Bulletin Q3 2023/2024

Each quarter, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) collects data from police 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 2023/24:

The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey (OPCC) continue to monitor and scrutinise the complaint management function of Surrey Police. This latest Q3 (2023/24) complaint data relates to the performance of Surrey Police between 1st April 2023 to 31st December 2023.

Most Similar Forces (MSF) Group: Cambridgeshire, Dorset, Surrey, Thames Valley

Allegation categories capture the root of the dissatisfaction expressed in a complaint. A complaint case will contain one or more allegations and one category is selected for each allegation logged.  Please refer to the IOPC Statutory guidance on capturing data about police complaints, allegations and complaint category definitions. 

The OPCC Complaints Lead is pleased to report that Surrey Police continue to perform exceptionally well in relation to logging of public complaints and contacting complainants. Once a complaint has been made, it has taken the Force an average of one day to both log the complaint and between 1-2 days to both log and contact the complainant.

Surrey Police has logged 1,686 complaints and this is 59 more complaints than recorded during the Same Period Last Year (SPLY). It is slightly higher than MSFs.  The logging and contact performance remains stronger than MSFs and the National Average, that is between 1-2 days (see section A1.1). 

This is the same performance as last quarter (Q2 2023/24) and something that both the Force and the PCC are proud of. 

The Force logged 2,874 allegations (166 more than SPLY) and also recorded more allegations per 1,000 employees than the MSFs and National Average.  The Force acknowledge that it is recording a significantly higher number of allegations than the MSFs and training is underway with complaint handlers to ensure that points of complaint relating to a specific aspect of police activity are covered under one allegation where appropriate and inline with IOPC guidance.

An area that the PCC is pleased to report is that the percentage of cases logged under Schedule 3 and recorded as ‘Dissatisfaction after initial handling’ has reduced from 32% to 31%.  This is still higher than MSFs and National Average who are between 14%-19% under this category.  To address this concern, the Force has made changes to its recording processes, and we should see further improvements in the coming months, with less complaints being recorded under this category.

Surrey Police is also in the process of addressing the challenges presented through the handling of property. Operation Coral has been launched to address property auditing, retention and disposal processes, and it is hoped that this activity will reduce the number of future complaints under this category (see section A1.2).  The Force is also anticipating a reduction in the recording of ‘General Level of Service’ in the next quarter owing to the training that has recently been delivered to the complaint handlers (section A1.3).  Although higher than our MSFs, the majority of complaints relating to the use of our powers to arrest and detain are resolved having established that the service was acceptable.

The Force is also in the process of reviewing why the ‘None’ category (section A1.4) remains the second highest. The Force anticipate that complaint handlers are using this instead of other, more appropriate factors and will seek to respond with its findings within next quarters report. 

The timeliness of investigations for cases under Schedule 3 – by local investigation, was 216 working days compared to 200 days for the SPLY (+16 days).  The MSFs is 180 days and national average is 182 days.  Surrey PSD are in the process of recruiting three new complaint handlers to increase resilience and timeliness of investigations. It is anticipated that timeliness will improve once the officers are in post and have received sufficient training to carry out the role.

The way allegations were handled (section A3.1) shows that only 2% were handled under Schedule 3 investigated (not subject to special measures).  The Force believe the number of allegations handled that are not subject to special procedures remains lower than that compared to MSFs owing to the fact that Surrey PSD have omni-competent complaint handlers, responsible for both the initial handling and any subsequent investigation that is required. This allows them to manage complaints outside the requirements to record the matter as an investigation.

Although Surrey Police have made 29 (27%) more referrals to the IOPC compared to our MSF (section B referrals), both the Force and the OPCC have sought reassurance from the IOPC that these have been appropriate and in-line with guidance. 

An area of work that the Force will now be focussing upon, is its actions following outside of Schedule 3 complaint cases (see section D2.1).  PSD accept that it is not recording the appropriate outcome, recording it as ‘Explanation’ and therefore, training is being delivered to complaint handlers to ensure that the most accurate outcome is recorded.  Again, Surrey Police identify ‘NFA’ less frequently than our MSF, thereby demonstrating that we are taking positive action where appropriate in the majority of our cases. (48% last quarter to 9% this quarter).

Where a complaint has been recorded under Schedule 3 to the Police Reform Act 2002, the complainant has a right to apply for a review. A person can apply for review if they are unhappy with the way their complaint was handled, or with the outcome. This applies whether the complaint has been investigated by the appropriate authority or handled otherwise than by investigation (non-investigation). The application for a review will be considered either by the local policing body or the IOPC; the relevant review body depends on the circumstances of the complaint. 

During Q3, the OPCC took an average of 32 days to complete complaint reviews.  This was better than SPLY when it took 38 days and is much quicker than MSF and the National Average.  The IOPC took an Average of 161 days to complete reviews (longer than the SPLY when it was 147 days).  The IOPC are aware of the delays and communicate regularly with the PCC and Surrey Police.

Author:  Sailesh Limbachia,  Head of Complaints, Compliance & Equality, Diversity & Inclusion

Date:  29 February 2024.