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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 November 2007, 11:23 GMT
Police complaints on the increase
By Dominic Casciani
BBC News home affairs reporter

Rises in police complaints
Almost half of complaints against police are allegations of rudeness or neglect, according to a watchdog.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said annual figures showed a 10% increase in allegations against forces in England and Wales.

While the number of complaints has risen, there has been a fall in allegations later found to be proven.

Figures showed Bedfordshire Police saw the largest increase in complaints - 40% more than in the previous year.

Overall the watchdog recorded 28,998 cases during 2006-07, 2,700 up on the previous year.

Complaints have almost doubled since the IPCC began work in 2004. But that rise is largely down to legislative changes which have made it easier for more people to complain about a wider range of issues.

How complaints were dealt with

The IPCC said its figures showed that neglect, failure of duty and incivility accounted for 45% of all recorded allegations. Almost half of these complaints were dealt with locally.

Nick Hardwick, chairman of the IPCC, said while the figures showed the third successive annual rise, the pictures was "stabilising".

"Forces and police authorities need to address the various categories of complaints more effectively," said Mr Hardwick.

"What are sometimes perceived as relatively minor matters such as incivility and neglect of duty account for almost half of all allegations against police personnel.

"They concern such things as rudeness, not keeping someone informed about a case as promised, and failing to investigate someone's crime properly.

"But for the law abiding citizen, their contact with the police, whether real or perceived, can have a profound impact on their confidence in the police service as a whole," he said.

Police forces

Nine police forces saw rises of more than 20% in the number of complaints received - and 10 constabularies saw falls. Surrey Police was the best performing, seeing a 28% drop in complaints against the force. Bedfordshire Police was earlier this year found to be the worst performing force in an unofficial league table based on Home Office figures.

% RISES IN COMPLAINTS
40%: Bedfordshire
36%: Gwent
29%: Sussex
27%: West Yorks
25%: Humberside
Source: IPCC

The IPCC said almost half of all complaints were resolved locally by the force but 30% were sent on for further investigation.

Of those formally investigated nearly nine out of 10 were found to be unsubstantiated and one in ten substantiated - a slight improvement on the previous year.

Jan Berry, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, which represents rank-and-file officers, said that the figures needed to be seen in context.

"The fact that only one in ten of these investigated complaints were substantiated is extremely significant," said Ms Berry.

"When you consider there are 140,000 police officers in England and Wales, and that a primary function of our role will place us in conflict with individuals, then 1,376 substantiated complaints in a year is a low figure," she said.

Cambridgeshire Deputy Chief Constable John Feavyour, who is responsible for complaints at the Association of Chief Police Officers, said the rise showed the public were more confident that their allegations would be taken seriously/

"Today we see more criminals being caught, more convictions and record numbers of police officers on our streets," said Mr Feavyour.

"The smaller number of more serious complaints, substantiated or otherwise, provide real opportunities to learn from errors and mistakes," he added.

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