Complaint allegations made against Scottish police officers have increased by 13 per cent in the last year, according to figures released today (Monday 8 October) by the Police Complaints Commissioner for Scotland.
According to the report Police Complaints: Statistics for Scotland 2011-12, in the year ending 31 March, a total of 4,379 complaint cases containing 7,933 allegations were received by the eight territorial police forces operating in Scotland, up from 7009 for the same period the previous year.
The most common complaint allegations disposed of during the period were irregular procedure (36.9%), incivility (15.3%) and neglect of duty (11.6%). “Irregular procedure” covers complaints that the police are not carrying out their duty well, such as taking a less than detailed statement or not following a particular line of inquiry. “Incivility” is rudeness in manner of speech, language or demeanour. “Neglect of duty” relates to complaints that an officer has failed or neglected to perform a duty, such as failing to submit a report following an investigation.
Complaints cases referred to the Area Procurator Fiscal fell during the year from 649 to 479. Although this is an overall drop of 26.2 per cent in the number of cases referred, nevertheless 2011-12 saw a peak in the proportion leading to proceedings being taken with 39 cases or 8.1 per cent of the total falling into this category.
In 2011-12, 152 complaint allegations resulted in misconduct proceedings against the officers involved and a further 29 allegations led to criminal convictions.
Given that Strathclyde Police serves the largest segment of Scotland’s population it is not surprising that it commonly receives the greatest share of all complaints directed at the Scottish police service. However, successive annual decreases since 2008 have seen its share fall to less than a third of all complaints (31.2%), smaller than its 42.2 per cent share of Scotland’s population. Conversely forces such as Tayside, Northern and Central Scotland all received higher percentage shares of complaints this year than might have been expected from their respective shares of the population.
In order to adjust for differences in force size and geographic area and enable more direct comparisons to be made between forces, the report uses a population denominator of complaint cases received per 10,000 of the population by police force and one per 1,000 on duty officers.
The largest force, Strathclyde, received the lowest number of cases per 10,000 population at 6.1, with Tayside Police the highest at 11.4 cases per 10,000 population. The average for Scotland is 8.4 cases per 10,000 population.
Using the on-duty complaint allegations per 1,000 officers measure, Northern Constabulary was the highest with 734.9 complaints received, while Strathclyde received fewest by this measure at 225.1 complaints. The average for Scotland is 350.7 allegations received per 1,000 police officers.
Professor McNeill, Police Complaints Commissioner for Scotland said: “While it is disappointing that that both cases and allegations increased this year, I am happy that the longer term picture remains one of declining numbers of complaints about the police in Scotland. Reasonable people understand that the police face challenging circumstances daily and inevitably they will sometimes get it wrong. What is important is that the public has a route to voice their complaint and that police have a framework in place to identify learning and to implement improvements to procedures and practices as a result of complaints received.
“This report deals with historical information relating to eight forces. We must now start to visualise how to take best practice within a national police service and apply that across the country. My office is already part of a Scottish Government-led project to create the oversight and governance mechanisms we need to hold the single force to account. A consistent standard of reporting, recording and handling complaints from the public is central to that.”
The full report and individual reports for each of the eight Scottish forces can be downloaded from on the PCCS website www.pcc-scotland.org from Monday 8 October.