Elected Local Policing Bodies (Specified Information) Order 2011 (amended 2021)
Holding the Chief Constable to Account
The Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) holds the Chief Constable to account for the exercise of his/her functions, including the provision of a complaints handling service that is effective, efficient, fair and accessible to everyone.
As part of the PCC’s ‘holding to account’ arrangements, the PCC seeks assurance from his Independent Ethics Panel (IEP) on the Chief Constable’s complaints-handling.
The police complaints system in England and Wales is overseen by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC). The IOPC collects data from all police forces about the type of complaints they are receiving and how long it takes them to look into what has gone wrong. This information is used to produce quarterly performance data for all police forces.
You can view the IOPC’s quarterly complaints statistics for South Yorkshire Police (SYP) by clicking here https://policeconduct.gov.uk/tags/south-yorkshire-police
The IOPC also publish annual police complaints statistics.
You can view the IOPC’s annual statistics report by clicking here https://www.policeconduct.gov.uk/research-and-learning/statistics/police-complaints-statistics
How is complainant satisfaction measured?
We understand that any complainant is, by definition, dissatisfied with some aspect of the service they have received. It can therefore be challenging to measure complainant satisfaction objectively.
SYP has a voluntary survey to measure satisfaction with the complaints process to capture feedback on how people found the system to use. It also offers the opportunity to suggest improvements in the complaints process. However, very few responses were received. SYP is currently considering other options for monitoring satisfaction.
If a member of the public is unhappy with the outcome of their complaint, they can apply for a review of the outcome of their complaint. This review is conducted by the PCC (a PCC complaint review).
Closely monitoring the number of PCC review requests received, against formally recorded complaints, gives a reasonable indication of the number of complainants who still feel dissatisfied after the handling of their complaint has concluded. From that measure, we can take a broad indication of the percentage of complainants who have felt satisfied with the handling and outcome of their complaint.
As at 1 November 2021, SYP has formally recorded 1137 complaints in 2021. 114 PCC review requests have been received by the PCC and 2 review requests have been received by the IOPC for their complaint outcome to be reviewed – that is, 116 cases where the complainant has not felt they needed to exercise their right to review. This equates to a current complainant satisfaction rate of 90%.
Oversight of IOPC and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) Recommendations
The IOPC and HMICFRS produce a range of publications which aim to promote improvements in policing.
There are times when the IOPC or HMICFRS may make recommendations around improvements to complaints handling. If this happens, the PCC expects the Chief Constable to update him/her on actions to be undertaken and the timescales for improvements. This is monitored via the PCC’s IEP and through staff in the PCC’s office.
You can view the IOPC’s learning recommendations to SYP by clicking here https://www.policeconduct.gov.uk/tags/south-yorkshire-police
You can view the HMICFRS latest assessments of SYP by clicking here https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmicfrs/police-forces/south-yorkshire/
Identifying Themes and Trends
SYP’s Professional Standards Department (PSD) produces a detailed quarterly complaints and conduct overview. This includes the number of recorded complaints, allegation themes and trends, and lessons learnt. This information is reviewed at a Quarterly PSD Champions Meeting; each district and department has a PSD Champion (a member of the senior leadership team). This meeting is attended by the IEP link member for complaints and a member of the PCC’s staff. This information is also presented to the PCC’s IEP, who then have the opportunity to scrutinise, support and challenge factors including performance, resources/department structure and culture.
PSD also produces a more detailed performance overview for each district and department. This data feeds into district and department Quarterly Performance Reviews, which are also attended by a member of the PCC’s staff.
Finally, a quarterly newsletter is produced. This highlights some of the current and emerging themes PSD are seeing from complaints and conduct, explains some of the main roles and functions, and provides key messages to staff.
Monitoring and Improving Performance (Timeliness and Quality of Force Responses)
The Head of PSD monitors SYP’s performance in respect of complaints and complaint/conduct investigations on a regular basis. The recording and handling of complaints is reviewed weekly with the Administration Manager, Complaints Resolution Team (CRT) and Operational Support Unit (OSU) to ensure timeliness, appropriate ownership and the progression of complaints.
The Head of PSD holds a monthly meeting with the Detective Chief Inspectors and Detective Inspectors with responsibility for the investigation teams. This is an intrusive review meeting of all gross misconduct investigations to ensure:
- investigations are being progressed in a timely manner
- in the best interest of complainants and staff and
- in line with the regulatory framework.
This meeting takes place ahead of a monthly meeting with the Deputy Chief Constable and provides the audit trailed governance and accountability required to manage such investigations. Any lessons learnt from the handling of complaints and investigations are cascaded to the PSD team in order to improve the quality of service provided to the public and support the welfare of those staff subject to misconduct investigations.
To help improve the quality and timeliness of complaints handling, a number of positive changes have taken place since the introduction of the new Regulations in February 2020. This includes the introduction of a CRT and absorbing the vast majority of complaints within PSD. The Head of PSD has re-structured the existing establishment, creating two additional posts in CRT to ensure those volume complaints are progressed in an effective and timely manner, thereby preventing further dissatisfaction and demand.
The Head of PSD produces a regular report for the IEP, which provides an opportunity for members to scrutinise, support and challenge factors including performance, resources/department structure and culture.
IOPC data is also reviewed on a quarterly basis.
Upon the conclusion of a PCC review, a determination report is shared with SYP’s PSD which details PCC review findings. This critical feedback is shared with the Head of PSD, who ensures that learning is shared in real time with complaint handlers to drive continuous improvement and reinforce the need for a consistently high level of customer service.
12-Month Investigation Letters (Regulation 13 notifications)
Regulations place a duty on the Chief Constable to report to both the IOPC and the PCC when a local investigation is open for longer than 12 months (and at 6 month intervals thereafter). A parallel duty is also placed on the IOPC to report its own investigations to the PCC, to ensure that the same scrutiny applies.
The scrutiny of Regulation 13 letters enables the PCC to hold the Chief Constable to account for the timeliness of SYP investigations. Over time, the information obtained may help to identify common factors which impact upon timeliness. We know that sometimes those factors can sit outside the control of SYP, such as investigations which are held ‘sub judice’ whilst awaiting trial at court.
Quality Assurance mechanisms in place to monitor and improve the quality of its responses to complaints
The Head of PSD undertakes intrusive and supportive supervision of the Detective Inspectors, and any lessons learnt that are identified during the course of a complaint investigation or PCC review process.
All review findings by the PCC, including comments on the quality of responses to complaints, are shared with the Head of PSD. Lessons learnt are then fed back to complaint handlers to drive continuous improvement and reinforce the need for a consistently high level of customer service.
Administrative arrangements the PCC has put in place to hold the chief constable to account for complaints handling
The Head of PSD produces a regular report for the IEP which provides an opportunity for members to scrutinise, support and challenge factors including performance, resources/department structure and culture. The Chair of the IEP then produces an exception report for the PCC which is presented to the PCC’s Public Accountability Board.
The IEP complaints link member attends the quarterly PSD Champions Meetings and has regular meetings with the Head of PSD.
Now the Covid-19 restrictions have eased, the IEP complaints link member will be attending PSD on a more regular basis, and will be observing and actively involved in the following areas:
- The triage of initial complaints by the OSU including Appropriate Authority assessment/decision making
- The recording of a conduct matter and severity assessment completed by the Appropriate Authority
- The handling of complaints by the CRT
- Investigative lines of enquiry undertaken by the investigators to progress and expedite overt and Counter Corruption Unit (CCU) gross misconduct investigations
- Scrutiny of the final assessment undertaken by the Appropriate Authority to determine a ‘case to answer’ or ‘no case to answer’ for misconduct and gross misconduct investigations
- The work undertaken by OSU to progress finalised cases to a misconduct hearing
Role of the PCC in respect of his/her complaints handling function
From 1 February 2020, the PCC became the relevant review body for conducting independent reviews of police complaints (previously known as “appeals”), where the IOPC is not the relevant review body.
The role of the PCC is not to re-investigate a complaint, but to consider whether the outcome of SYP’s investigation of the handling of a complaint is reasonable and proportionate.
Timeliness of complaint reviews
The IOPC’s statutory guidance does not place a time limit within which a PCC review must be carried out. However, a request for a review will be acknowledged within five working days of receiving a request for a PCC review. The PCC’s Office (OPCC) then aims to provide a meaningful response as soon as practicable.
To date, during 2021, the average duration of a review case from acknowledgement to completion is 39 working days. The OPCC is taking steps to streamline the process and understand the resources necessary to reduce this completion time.
Delegation, Impartiality, Transparency and Process Assurance
PCC reviews are carried out by officers from the OPCC who scrutinise the handling of the complaint to ensure that the outcome is reasonable and proportionate. In making their determination, the OPCC will consider actions taken by SYP to address the complaint, including:
- whether or not relevant legislation and guidance has been considered
- whether the complaint was fully understood
- whether the information or evidence obtained (during handling) was fairly and appropriately weighed, and
- any potential for learning.
Having considered all of the information available, including a complainant’s own representations, a review report is produced which details the findings and recommendation to the PCC. This report is carefully considered by the PCC who, once satisfied, will sign off the final decision letter. On occasions, the PCC will ask for further information or challenge findings or recommendations, and a report and draft decision letter will then be re-presented to the PCC after the completion of further work. The PCC’s involvement in this way provides an additional layer of quality assurance to ensure that PCC review decisions are sound and in line with the requirements of the complaints legislation and statutory guidance.
How the PCC assesses complainant satisfaction with the way in which they have dealt with complaints.
The OPCC treats all PCC complaint reviews as an opportunity to improve, maintain or restore trust and confidence in SYP’s complaints handling or in SYP more generally. The OPCC handles complaints by liaising with the individual and addressing their concerns, whilst managing their expectations. There is always an opportunity afforded to those pursuing PCC reviews to draw to the OPCC’s attention any dissatisfaction with the PCC’s review process. If this occurs, the OPCC seeks to resolve this immediately, and to escalate the handling of the matter where appropriate.
The OPCC is actively considering asking the IEP complaints link member to conduct dip samples of PCC reviews to draw conclusions about the process and the satisfaction levels of those pursuing such reviews.