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"Changing the culture" of Law Enforcement

Monday 06 July 2020

"Changing the culture" of Law Enforcement


Complaints against Bailiwick Law Enforcement dropped by about 40% last year, which has partly been put down to recent efforts to "change the culture" within the service.

A total of 71 complaints were made in 2019, compared to 129 the previous year.

30 were made in regards to law enforcement officers or procedure, while 12 were internal issues, 19 were quality of service complaints and the other 10 were 'very minor or informal'.

21 of the complaints were subject to management action and two were referred on to the Guernsey Police Complaints Commission to supervise.

 business meeting manager

Pictured: 21 complaints led to management action.

"We're really trying to change the culture in law enforcement," said Head of BLE, Ruari Hardy. "We don't always get everything right, but when we get something wrong we want to see the organisational learning. So, from previous mistakes, rather than just deal with the individuals who may have been involved in that particular area, we are now pushing the learning to everybody so we don't make the same mistake again.

"We're trying to change the culture from the old-school type law enforcement culture into more of a learning and development culture. We're trying to improve staff in areas where, historically, complaints were made."

One example Mr Hardy gave was use of force.

"The use of force by law enforcement, as we know, is a highly controversial area and it has extreme risks. We invest heavily in training our staff about use of force and the necessity and proportionality of when force is used. I would like to think, if incidents happen where force is used, we have a standard debrief mechanism and we will always look at whether it was appropriate that force was used."

Ruari Hardy BLE GBA annual report

Pictured: Ruari Hardy holding the 2019 BLE Annual Report, published last week.

Mr Hardy recognises that the law concerning law enforcement complaints is in need of an update.

"The legislation we have is quite old. It doesn't necessarily acknowledge the organisational learning as a proper outcome of complaints," he said. 

"Please be assured that if staff behave in a way that is unacceptable, there are still plenty of mechanisms that can deal with that, but when it comes to improving the service and members of the public feeding back to us about how we dealt with certain things, that should be very much more in our DNA than the current law allows."

While the law reform is on the Committee for Home Affairs' to-do list, other laws such as the recently-approved sexual offences legislation have been given priority, so it is likely to take some time before the complaints process gets the attention it needs.

In the meantime though, Bailiwick Law Enforcement has been working with members of the public to try and improve the service.

support group community

Pictured: BLE has been holding community feedback groups.

"We have community groups - one in Alderney and one in Guernsey," Mr Hardy continued. "They are very much for members of the public. We haven't included, for example, politicians or parish constables because we want to reach out to the broader public, to the third sector, to charities and all those types of organisations."

Some meetings took place in 2019, but many of the meetings scheduled for this year have had to be cancelled because of the corona virus pandemic.

"We'll almost have to start again from scratch because of the gap we've had, but I think it's a really important piece of work," Mr Hardy added.

"It always brings me back to what Sir Robert Peel said: 'the police are the public, the public are the police'. We are no different. We are just individuals who do a role for the rest of the public and part of our role has to be to listen to our fellow members of the public. The more we do in that space, the better and that's work we'll seek to do more as we move forward from covid."

The complaints stats were released as part of the BLE Annual Report 2019, which can be read in full HERE.

Pictured top: Complaints against Bailiwick Law Enforcement dropped by 40% in 2019.

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