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Police Complaints and Conduct Reform

Following extensive consultation, a package of reforms to the police complaints and misconduct system has been developed by the Home Office and the Independent Office for Police Conduct. As part of this work, from the 1st February 2020, Police and Crime Commissioners have a new stronger role in the complaints system. The reforms include a move towards a more reflective practice, focusing on learning outcomes for both individual police officers and staff, and the police force. 

The new complaints process is designed to provide greater clarity, reduce bureaucracy and to be flexible in resolving complaints quickly to the complainant’s satisfaction. There is a strong customer service focus, which promotes easy access into and through the complaints system, and allows for complaints about a broader range of matters. It aims to enable police forces to learn from complaints and other matters in order to improve the policing service experienced by members of our communities.

Improvements include:

  • A stronger focus looking at the whole organisation and reinforcing a culture of learning instead of blame.
  • Enabling matters to be dealt with at the most appropriate level and by the most appropriate people in a timely manner in order to resolve complaints quickly and to the satisfaction of complainants.
  • Promoting the use of reflective practice to address conduct complaints, which aims to encourage police officers to reflect and learn from any mistakes or errors, in order to find solutions.
  • Applying misconduct procedures only to serious breaches of the Police Standards of Professional Behaviour, to ensure that police time and resources are not tied up in unnecessary process.
  • Broadening the range of matters that people can complain about within the police complaint process, to include the service provided by the organisation as well as by individuals, giving opportunity for the police to consider and act on organisational improvements.
  • A stronger role for Police and Crime Commissioners in police complaints by giving them the complaint review function to provide transparency and independence, and to help end the perception of the police “marking their own homework”.
  • An ability for Police and Crime Commissioners to make recommendations to the police following the outcome of reviews.
  • Improvements to the misconduct hearing process to avoid issues that can lead to lengthy delays.

More information about complaints, including what you can complaint about, and how you can make a complaint can be found on the Independent Office for Police Conduct’s website here, and on our website here.

Police Complaint Reviews

The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly now have responsibility for reviews of police complaints (previously known as appeals) where the previous appeal body would have been the police themselves.

A review of a complaint is not merely a quality check of what has happened, it offers the opportunity to consider whether the complaint outcome is reasonable and proportionate, and if not, to put things right.

Complaint reviews will be considered by the PCCs Complaint Review Officer instead of the police force’s Professional Standards Department (PSD). As part of the review process, recommendations to the police can be made, which may include:

  • that a complaint is referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct
  • that the matter is investigated or re-investigated by the police force
  • that it is referred to be dealt with under criminal, disciplinary or performance proceedings, or through reflective practice review processes*
  • that an explanation and / or apology is made to the complainant
  • a policy or procedure is reviewed
  • any other recommendation that is considered reasonable and proportionate to the matter at hand.

Further information about complaint reviews, including when you can request a review, and how to request a review can be found on the Independent Office for Police Conduct’s website here, and on our website here.

Reflective Practice

Reflective practice, which is central to the reforms, brings policing in line with other services, where minor mistakes are not simply punished - they are used as opportunities to learn. It is a structured, non-disciplinary process which encourages officers to identify mistakes, consider the impact of their actions and reflect on how they can learn and improve. Outcomes can involve training courses, formal monitoring or mentoring, an apology to the complainant or even a process of continued reflection.

For more information on the reforms, please see the Independent Office for Police Conduct website: