Police complaints nearly treble

A POLICE union boss last night blamed an increasingly litigious society on figures showing complaints against Suffolk Constabulary have nearly trebled in the past year.

A POLICE union boss last night blamed an increasingly litigious society on figures showing complaints against Suffolk Constabulary have nearly trebled in the past year.

Jim Keeble, chairman of the Suffolk Police Federation, was speaking after it emerged the number of grievances against the force jumped from 46 to 126 over the past two years.

New government legislation, introduced last April, made it compulsory for all forces to record complaints about their decisions and procedures.

In Suffolk, various criticisms have been levelled against officers, ranging from the inappropriate use of search warrants to wrongful arrest.

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The force was also condemned for its handling of an illegal rave in Ramsholt, near Woodbridge, in August last year.

An estimated 1,000 revellers gathered in a field in the village and were allowed to continue for more than a day before police finally intervened.

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Chief constable Alastair McWhirter apologised for the handling of the event, even attending a parish council meeting to explain his officers' actions.

Mr Keeble said the force is increasingly being called upon to justify its actions.

“People are starting to realise they can complain about the policies and procedures of the police force,” he said.

“It's a bit of a new thing. I know there was a lot of furore about the way the Ramsholt rave was dealt with and it was a big issue for a lot of people. They felt it shouldn't have happened on their doorstep.

“We're in a litigious society. People like to complain about almost anything they can. We in the police have to accept that people will complain about our policies and procedures. We try to look at all aspects to try to make things fair for everybody but sometimes people will feel aggrieved.”

Although it only became mandatory for police to keep records of “direction and control” complaints last year, the Suffolk force had been voluntarily tallying the figures for the previous year.

Direction and control complaints cover four areas, which are operational policing policies, organisational decisions, general policing standards and operational management decisions.

Superintendent John Everett, from Suffolk Constabulary's professional standards department, claimed the rise was down to more effective working practices.

He said: “Suffolk Constabulary remains committed to providing local people with the best policing service.

“In order to improve upon the policing service Suffolk Constabulary provides, considerable work has gone into raising awareness among staff of the new complaints recording procedures. We are now able to capture a more realistic picture of organisational complaints.”

Of those complaints received, 69 were for operational policing policies, seven for organisational decisions, 44 for general policing standards and six for operational management decisions.

The number was spread evenly throughout the county with 33 in the western sector, 31 in the south, 34 in the east and 28 in police headquarter departments.

A complainant's daughter had her Bury St Edmunds home searched for drugs by officers using a warrant. Nothing was found and the complainant alleged the search resulted from malicious information. A detective inspector wrote to the person explaining the reasons for the search.

A complainant wrote to express his concern after a police newspaper advert depicted an armed officer. A letter was sent to the complainant.

Someone objected to the wording of a job advert for the post of central ticket office manager, which included the line “applications welcome from all sections of society, especially minority ethnic communities”. The advert was later amended by the force.

A juvenile was arrested on suspicion of damaging a police car. He was released on bail but a decision was later made to warn him. However, failure to cancel the bail by the police resulted in the juvenile being rearrested for failing to report to the police. This resulted in the force having to settle a civil claim for wrongful arrest.

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