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IPCC – big failings in handling of police discrimination complaints


Can the Police investigate the Police?


The IPCC have recently criticised three different Police forces with respect to handling complaints of discrimination, disability and age.


Greater Manchester Police, West Yorkshire Police and West Midlands Police were picked out for criticism, although we at James Murray Solicitors believe that the problems are far more widespread


The IPCC made the following observations;


IPCC ReportOf 170 complaints from the public alleging discrimination only 94 were investigated and of those no discrimination allegations were upheld yet overall the three forces uphold between 11 and 13% of complaint allegations from the public.By contrast, over half of the 32 investigations into discrimination allegations raised by the police themselves were upheld.The report found that there was insufficient training in diversity, and that this both results in complaints and means that they are not well handled.”


Importantly for us, the IPCC made a very important and apparent observation:


IPCC Report “For particular sections of the community, likely to be more distrustful of the police, or more vulnerable or both, they are litmus test of confidence in policing as a whole and of the police’s understanding of the communities they serve.”


The gap is widening between the Public and the authorities. 

We believe that there is widespread distrust in the Police.

This particularly given recent scandals such as Plebgate, Hillsborough and so on.

It says above that a maximum of only 13% are upheld if a member of the public makes the complaint.

We are not naïve not all complaints should be upheld – we accept that some complaints are spurious or malicious.

But why is it that half the complaints, if made internally by a Police Officer, are upheld?

No discrimination allegations upheld

This is shocking – of the 94 actually investigated (rather than locally resolved), no discrimination allegations were upheld if made by the public.

Oh yes. Half the discrimination complaints raised by the Police were.

Are the police saying, “Well out of those 94, none of them must have been valid”?

We simply do not accept this.

We know that discrimination by the police does take place – evidence the findings of this by the Police themselves (50% upheld).

It seems that the Public are being dismissed or investigating Officers are too afraid to stand up for what is right.

Does this report indicate that the Police simply do not believe the Public?

Are Police Officers the only witnesses who are deemed to be truthful?


IPCC ReportThe police are required to follow standards of professional behaviour, which are set out in Schedule 2 of the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2012. If they fail to follow these standards, they can face misconduct proceedings. Concerning equality and diversity, the standards state that:  “Police officers act with fairness and impartiality. They do not discriminate unlawfully or unfairly.”


In other words, discriminatory allegations are serious allegations.

Let us take James Murray case study (typical of many)

We have recently made a complaint for a client.

She claimed she was unfairly targeted and unlawfully arrested because of the result of a disability.

She has autism.  She was arrested on suspicion of being drunk and disorderly, although later found Not Guilty.

The Officers who dealt with her were found to have limited training and did not have the relevant expertise when dealing with people with a disability.

The IPCC recommended that Merseyside Police reconsider there own disability training, (which only emphasises our earlier point – that the problem is much more widespread).

In this case, luckily, the IPCC were the appeals body – the local Police did not uphold the original complaint  - they claimed that she showed all the signs of drunkenness.

In fact one of the Officers based their ‘assessment’ of her alleged “drunkenness” on the fact that he/she had a distant family member with autism, and our client was not acting in the same way….

I ask you…!

There was never any reliance on training that they had received.

So, the IPCC overturned this decision and found in favour of our client. 

It appears to us and we agree with the IPCC, that the Police force had limited training in dealing with discrimination, age and disability.

Is it any wonder that people such as our client have less faith in them.

Exactly what training do they receive?

In our opinion, there should be more.

The gap between the Police and the Public is widening

Will the IPCC do something about it, as they say?

IPCC ReportOther findings from the report include:

  • 8 out of 10 cases were not properly assessed, failing to take into account the gravity of the complaint and/or the officer’s previous disciplinary record;
  • In 42% of cases, local resolutionwas being inappropriately used in cases that needed to be investigated because if substantiated they might have led to misconduct or criminal proceedings;
  • 60% of local resolutions and 44% of investigations did not meet basic standards, and this rose to two-thirds and a half in cases that were handled at local level, rather than by professional standards departments;
  • In nearly a fifth of cases, complainants were not directly contacted, and around two-thirds of eventual decisions were poorly communicated to complainants;
  • In a quarter of investigations, findings were not based on evidence and in general the balance of probabilities was not properly applied.


The report makes a series of recommendations for improving the quality of investigations into discrimination allegations, on training for both frontline and complaint-handling police personnel, and on ensuring meaningful contact with complainants.

As well as reviewing case files, the IPCC invited community representatives from the three force areas to take part in focus groups led by IPCC Commissioners. The IPCC commended their important input, and also the three police forces for their cooperation and willingness to learn.

The IPCC will use the study to inform a review of its own guidance to all police forces in England and Wales on dealing with allegations of discriminatory behaviour later this year.



When reading the above findings are they shocking?

Of course, it is but in our experience it is not uncommon.

At James Murray Solicitors we deal with a number of complaints on a daily basis, yet we find the same problems time and time again.

We often have clients who say that the Police have dealt with their complaint by way of local resolution, when clearly local resolution was not appropriate.

We believe that the Police force, as underlined by the IPCC, try to sweep them under the carpet.

We believe they do this because if upheld, “they could lead to misconduct”.

This is simply wrong.

Local resolution process will not allow misconduct proceedings to take place

…and as you may already know, once your complaint has been dealt with the decision tends to be final.

What you may also find by reading the report yourself is that the majority of the above-mentioned complaints relate to racial discrimination.

Have the Police force not learnt from past failings?

Have a look at the following example;

IPCC Report

Case study

An Asian man was brought into custody and placed under constant observation because he was identified as a high risk detainee. He made a complaint that one of the custody staff had mouthed “Paki” at him.


It was assessed as a performance matter.


Behaviour like this is overt racism, and, if proven, should be treated as a conduct matter. An allegation of racism should not be treated as a performance matter.


This is simply astonishing!

In our opinion, the guidance is absolutely clear for such matters.

They should be dealt with formally by way of investigation. It is not about whether this allegation is true or not, but about the correct guidance being applied so that a fair and proportionate investigation is undertaken. 

In our opinion: 

  • the Police need better regulation,
  • members of the Public need more information,
  • they need to be treated equally,
  • they need to be treated independently,
  • their evidence should be given the same weight as a Police Officer,
  • investigation must be used more often

The Professional Standards Department should allocate less complaints to the divisional level or alternatively, a completely independent body must regulate all complaints.

Complaints are an important tool for the Public to ensure the Police are regulated.

One final note:

 In a quarter of investigations, we (IPCC) could not decide if the outcome was appropriate because the investigation was too inadequate to explain the findings, or the records of the investigation were too poor. 


James Murray Approach:

In our Actions against Police Department, we ensure that complaints are dealt with correctly, through the correct investigation and that none of the allegations deemed suitable for investigation are dealt with by way of local resolution.


This is absolutely crucial.


Many of our clients will tell you that we very rarely recommend local resolution. In our view it is very limited and is inappropriate in the majority of cases.


Unlawful arrest, assault, misfeasance, discriminatory behaviour are all types of complaints that are only suitable for investigation. This is what the IPCC have found and in our opinion, investigating Officers know this too.


Yet the findings show that local resolution is being used far more often than is necessary and appropriate.

If they do not know then better training should be implemented.


We also tell a lot of our clients that the complaints system needs reforming, it needs an independent regulatory body to govern the day-to-day conduct of the complaint.

What you may not have picked up from this report is that whilst the IPCC have made recommendations, they will not handle the majority of complaints on a daily basis and neither will they be the appropriate appeals body.


So, what you have is local area Police investigating each other.

Again it leads you right back to the IPCC report, which stated that complaints of this nature are litmus test of confidence in policing as a whole and of the police’s understanding of the communities they serve”, or in our opinion, widening the gap between the local community and the local Police force.


Trust must be restored and one way they could start is by dealing with public complaints correctly, fairly and independently and bringing back the IPCC as the regulatory appeals body for all complaints and not just the chosen few.


Please see link for further information


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