Increase in complaints a matter of definition, say police

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The number of complaints and allegations about officers received by Yorkshire’s largest police force has risen sharply in the last six months, figures show.

But West Yorkshire Police say the 15 per cent rise in the number of complaints between April and September, 543 compared to 471 for the same period in 2013, has been caused by a change in the way they are classified.

According to new statistics, Bradford has seen the biggest increase over this period, rising 54 per cent from 76 to 117, while the numbers is Kirklees, Wakefield and Leeds rose by 20, 18 and 13 per cent respectively. Calderdale was the only district to see a fall.

A quarterly scrutiny report by crime commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson said: “There appears to be an issue, especially in Leeds, with a high number of appeals being upheld.

“It was identified that the quality and standard of communication with the public around complaints could have been better, which has been addressed. The police have stated that further work and education will be undertaken with districts to assess and improve the situation around the increase in complaints relating to lack of fairness and impartiality, which have increased by 79 per cent over the past year.”

The report said the increase in complaints was “due to a change in guidance from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) as to what constitutes a complaint”. It said: “Previously a complaint was only something that related to misconduct, the threshold has been lowered meaning quality of service issues and dissatisfied customers can now be classed as complaints.”

An IPCC spokesman confirmed that a change in the way complaints are defined came into force in late 2012.

IPCC figures show that West Yorkshire Police saw a rise in the number of allegations in the April to September period compared with 2013, from 90 per 1,000 employees to 98, though this is still lower than comparable forces.

South Yorkshire and Humberside Police also saw the number of allegations climb sharply in the same period, though the number received by North Yorkshire Police dropped slightly.