Complaints against South Yorkshire Police increase

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Complaints against South Yorkshire Police went up by 44 per cent last year, new figures reveal.

Between April 2014 and March 2015 there were 660 official complaints lodged against the force, compared to 459 the year before.

The complaints lodged over the last year were made up of 1,412 specific allegations - up from 988 the year before.

The force hit the headlines and came under scrutiny last year following the publication of a report which suggested that 1,400 Rotherham children had been abused by men of largely Pakistani heritage while those in authority turned a blind eye.

It is believed child sexual exploitation sex scandal and the police force’s handling of the Hillsborough disaster may be to blame for many of the complaints.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission said there are wide inconsistencies in the way police complaints are handled by forces across the country.

Nationally, last year, there were more than 37,000 complaints made - a six per cent overall increase on the year before.

In South Yorkshire, the total number of appeals made by dissatisfied complainants was 146 – a 20 per cent increase.

The IPCC upheld 25 per cent of the appeals made about South Yorkshire Police complaint investigations.

Dame Anne Owers, Chairman of the IPCC, said: “The figures for England and Wales show a complaints system that is both over-complex and inconsistent, and is clearly failing to satisfy a significant number of complainants.

“Chief Officers and Police and Crime Commissioners should look closely at the figures for their own forces to satisfy themselves that complainants are being treated fairly and well.

“However, the underlying problem is the system itself. We welcome the fact that the government proposes to bring in legislation to simplify and streamline a system that at present satisfies neither those who need it nor those who have to operate it.”

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Foster, from South Yorkshire Police’s Professional Standards Department, said: “The Force has a dedicated team of investigators within the Professional Standards Department who are committed to investigating public complaints and misconduct. These matters come to light as a result of complaints from the public and from inquiries carried out internally.

“While the force has one of the lowest number of allegations recorded per 1,000 employees nationally, we recognise there has been an increase in public complaints. We remain committed to investigating matters raised by the public swiftly and thoroughly.

“There could be a number of reasons for an increase, including complaints made around child sexual exploitation and the Hillsborough disaster. In addition to this, a revised approach was recommended by the IPCC, which could go some way to explain the increase.

“The ‘there and then’ approach deals with a complaint made on the spot and clarifies the complaint recording requirements. If the complainant is not satisfied at this point, forces have been instructed to go a step further and record it as a complaint and then investigate the complaint in accordance with IPCC guidance. We welcome this change as it allows us to review and improve our working practices.

“That said, the amount of complaints received by SYP from the public is below the national average.

“We are committed to carrying out thorough investigations wherever a member of the public feels the service they have received fell short of what they, and the force, would expect.

“This is reflected in the fact that just 25% of our IPPC appeals are upheld, compared to 40 per cent nationally. We believe this demonstrates our commitment to ensuring the investigations we conduct as a result of a public complaint are taken very seriously and dealt with thoroughly.

“Police officers and staff are rightly held to a higher set of standards by the public, who justifiably expect a good level of service. Those who fall short of those standards will be dealt with appropriately.”