Strathclyde Police has been heavily criticised in a report PCCS/00044/11/SP (pdf) published by the Police Complaints Commissioner for Scotland for the way it handled a series of complaints from a driver pursued for seven miles along a motorway by plain clothes detectives in an unmarked police car. During the incident, which happened in January last year, the man was so frightened that he called 999 from his car, only to be told that the vehicle following him was in fact a police car. In his report, the Commissioner, Professor John McNeill, describes the way Strathclyde Police handled three out of four complaints from the man as ‘poor’.
One of the complaints centred on the decision by the officers involved to pursue his vehicle in their unmarked car. The Commissioner cited the 2009 ACPOS guidance on police vehicle pursuits, which prohibits the use of unmarked vehicles which do not have audible visual warning equipment. He went on to remind the force that under Section 3 of the Road Traffic Act only uniformed officers can require a vehicle to stop. The Commissioner’s view was that it was “wholly unsatisfactory” that the force issued corrective advice to the officers involved, effectively substantiating the complaint, while failing to formally record it or issue any kind of response to the man who made the complaint.
The report, called a complaint handling review, goes on to recommend that Strathclyde Police apologises to the man on two counts; for the pursuit in an unsuitable vehicle and for having been stopped when the plain clothes officers lacked the power to do so. The Commissioner has also asked the force to respond to concerns raised by the man in his complaints about his personal safety during questioning in a vehicle on the hard shoulder.
Professor McNeill: “I am currently undertaking an audit of all forces in Scotland to establish how effective they are at identifying and recording complaints from the public. I am happy to say that this man’s experience is not typical of what I have seen elsewhere in Scotland. Nonetheless, this case serves as a timely reminder that poor complaint handling damages public confidence in the police.”
No comment has been issued by Strathclyde Police on their website.
The other 15 complaints reports published this month by the PCCS can be downloaded from PCCS Complaints Handling Reviews
Under proposals in the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Bill, the Police Complaints Commissioner for Scotland will be renamed the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner and its remit extended to include investigations into the most serious incidents and criminal offences involving the police.