Posted: Monday 25 June 2012

Commissioner identifies a learning point for the police

Professor John McNeill, Scotland's Police Complaints Commissioner, has written to two forces highlighting what he sees as shortcomings in statements taken from officers during complaint investigations.

The first case involving Grampian Police came about after a man complained that discriminatory comments were made about his nationality and gender during two conversations with officers investigating an incident at a health centre. The comments were alleged to have been made during a telephone call and at a meeting at his home. In its investigation into the complaint, which the police found to be unsubstantiated, a statement was taken from the Constable about whom the complaint was made but it contained no reference to the alleged telephone conversation, only to the discussion that took place at the man's home.

The other case followed complaints after a police investigation by Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary into an alleged theft of a boat. One of the complaints was about the attitude of the Detective Sergeant investigating the theft, which the man involved described as disrespectful during a meeting at his home, something the officer involved denies. During the force's internal investigation into this complaint, a statement was taken from the other officer present at the time but it focused only on the Detective Constable's recollection of the conversation and did not address the concerns regarding the other officer's attitude.

The Commissioner found that neither complaints had been handled reasonably by the forces involved and asked for further statements to be taken from the Constable from Grampian Police, specifically addressing the allegation concerning the alleged phone call, and from the Detective Constable in Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary addressing the complaint about the Detective Sergeant's attitude and demeanour.

Speaking following the publication of the reports, known as Complaint Handling Reviews, the Commissioner commented:

All too often officers who are subject to complaint, or who may be witnesses, do not address the substance of the complaint within their operational statements. Where this occurs, and the officers' accounts are considered to be necessary for the proper determination of the complaint, enquiry officers should remind them of the benefits of addressing the complaint and provide them with a further opportunity to do so. I see this as an important learning point for the police and a positive contribution to driving up standards in complaints handling."

Link to the Grampian Police Complaint Handling Report
Link to the Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary Report

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