West Yorkshire Police to face racism complaints probe

Cindy Butts who is the IPCC Commissioner for Yorkshire.
Cindy Butts who is the IPCC Commissioner for Yorkshire.
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A POLICE watchdog is probing how Yorkshire’s biggest force handles complaints about racism and discrimination less than a year after publishing a damning report into the Metropolitan Police’s performance on the same issue.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission last year criticised the London force for having “an unwillingness or inability to deal with [race] complaints robustly and effectively” after a number of high profile race scandals including its handling of the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence.

Investigators have now turned their attention to West Yorkshire Police, alongside Greater Manchester Police and West Midlands Police, in a bid to see whether the same problems effect the country’s other major urban forces.

Cindy Butts, the IPCC’s commissioner for Yorkshire and the North East, said: “If that is happening in the Met I wondered if this is happening anywhere else. I persuaded them to do a piece of work outside London.”

The report will be published later this month and Ms Butts said it would have some “incredibly interesting results” and highlighted areas that were “ripe for improvement”. She declined to reveal whether the report contained criticism of the three forces.

Ms Butts said: “We go out and engage with voluntary sector organisations, what people tell us is that there are concerns about the way police carry out stop and search in particular. As a result we make sure we do investigate these cases very carefully when they come to us.”

She added concern had also been raised about the way stops were carried out by police under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act, which allows officers to stop, examine and search passengers at ports, airports and international rail terminals.

The IPCC commissioner, who started her role scrutinising Yorkshire’s four forces last year, says the quality and speed of investigations being done by the watchdog will improve after the Government increased their budget.

The majority of complaints about police conduct will still be dealt with by forces themselves, but the IPCC will now be able to take on more significant and sensitive cases as a result of the extra £18m in revenue funding and £10m in capital funding.

Ms Butts said: “Our intention is not just to take on additional cases. The public will see an increase in the quality of our investigations, we hope they will see an improvement in the timeliness of our investigations.

“We are now able to triage and make much quicker decisions when we receive referrals from forces. Having additional staff means we can do more and take the pressure off some of our investigators.

“We are having much more engagement with families and supporting them when they have a complaint or if there has been a death in custody. We are able to really support them in going through the process.”

Earlier this year, a report by a former top policing advisor said West Yorkshire Police struggled to win the trust of the public because of regulations that place its chief constable as “prosecutor, jury, judge and sentencer” in most misconduct and complaint cases.

West Yorkshire Police said they would not be commenting on the report until it had been published.