Handling complaints in Wiltshire Police seems to be getting worse.
The police and crime panel, made up of councillors from both Swindon and Wiltshire councils will be told by the Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson that complaints have risen and the length of time to record and resolve them has also gone up.
There were 833 allegations made against officers and staff in the last year finishing in March 2019, compared to 809 the year before.
One of the most concerning figures in the report is a near doubling of ‘conduct cases’ where complaints are serious enough to warrant investigating whether misconduct has taken place.
Comparisons with police forces across the nation and statistically similar forces don’t flatter Wiltshire Police.
There were 360 allegations made per 1,000 employees compared to a similar force number of 293 and a national average number of 264.
Nearly half, 396, were allegations of neglect or failure of duty. There were 87 allegations of incivility, impoliteness or intolerance, 55 of non-sexual assault and 40 of lack of fairness and impartiality.
It is taking longer to record and finalise complaints. Half of this year’s complaints were recorded within the recommended 10 days, well below last year’s 96 per cent and below the national average of 89 per cent.
Police bosses say things are getting better. Head of professional standards Supt Steve Cox said: “Twelve months ago we had a significant backlog of work which was greatly affecting our ability to record complaints within the 10 days. Over the past year, we have expanded and developed our department which has seen a dramatic improvement in terms of us dealing with complaints.
“In the first quarter of 2019, we recorded 92 per cent of complaints within 10 days – a significant improvement on previously, and, three weeks ago, the latest figures show that we recorded 99 per cent of complaints within 10 days, the average being three days.
“I want to reassure the public that we will thoroughly investigate any complaint made to us and aim to work as quickly and diligently as possible to reach a resolution.”
The county's Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson said: “I was aware of the drop in recording performance and the reasons behind it almost 12 months ago. I am satisfied that corrective action has been taken.
“The public have to battle through a bizarre system if they want to complain, and the process offers no flexibility to the police in how they can respond.
“I am delighted that the Government has listened to concerns that I, and other PCCs have raised.
“They are changing the system radically in the new year and I am confident that the public will see more in the way of service recovery and the police will be able to respond sensibly to frivolous and repetitive complaints which currently occupy far too much of their time. Time better spent policing our communities.”