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Limited resources obstacle to improving police complaints process

Limited resources obstacle to improving police complaints process

Saturday 27 January 2024

Limited resources obstacle to improving police complaints process

Saturday 27 January 2024

Home Affairs says it’s committed to reforming the island’s “not fit for purpose” police complaints process, but warned other workstreams are preventing independent recommendations from being implemented.

Two deputies requested that annual reports from the independent Police Complaints Commission were debated following an increase in complaints since 2019, and calls from panel members that its responsibilities are widening to bolster public confidence.

Deputy Rob Prow, Home Affairs President, sympathised with their views, but told the States this week that other work, such as Moneyval preparations and social policies, had been prioritised instead of updating complaints legislation. 

“It needs to be reviewed and I completely accept that,” he said. 

“It is very difficult indeed to undertake the work that we very much want to do. 

“We have an excellent police force, that doesn't mean to say the question of public confidence isn't vitally important. We are determined to do what we can.” 

Deputy Marc Leadbeater, who supported the motion to debate the report in November, said a social media post highlighting more complaints per capita than rest of the British Isles convinced him to seek answers. 

He noted that the local complaint rate is four times higher than the national (British) average at a ratio of 1.05 complaints per local officer. This is comparable to Lincolnshire Police, the worst performing UK force in this regard, he added. 

police station

Pictured: Guernsey Police Station.

The fact the report emphasised how the current complaints process isn’t fit for purposewas concerning, and suggested maintaining a positive perception internationally is important, Deputy Leadbeater said.  

Deputy Gavin St Pier, who also backed the debating motion, said the pair’s move wasn’tindicative of lack of confidence in the Commission or police service, but said the report was “disappointing” in several respects.  

The main one was that the independent commissioners themselves were becoming frustrated in legal limitations preventing enhanced oversight. Home Affairs was also involved in the oversight of complaints against senior officers, which he said “does put at risk public confidence in the police service”. 

Border Agents, who can sometimes act with police powers, are not currently captured by the same oversight rules and in those instances are governed by general civil service rules. 

Many people won’t be aware of that when interacting with them, he said. 

There was also disappointment in a failure to produce the annual reports in a timely manner, and the fact the content within them “is so light“A cover page is followed by a half page statement, a page summarising the role of the Commission, and then a ¾ page reporting on 2021 and 2022,” Deputy St Pier said. 

Deputy Prow said it was “dangerous and misleading in the extreme to compare complaints of other police forces” due to different processes and the possibility of multiple complaints coming from the same people. 

“That completely skews the figures.... vexatious complaints are obviously a very real possibility where people who have been dealt with by the police do feel very aggrieved.” 

But he agreed with the need to remove politicians from the process: There needs to be a conduit into this assembly. That would be better done by the Commission, and that is exactly one of the criteria for the review."

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