Complaints against force down by quarter
SCOTLAND's biggest police force has seen a substantial drop in complaints and a major hike in official public satisfaction polls.
Strathclyde, which covers half the country, will next week reveal a drop of more than a quarter in the number of complaints it has recorded so far this year from the public about its performance and the behaviour of its officers.
The country's second biggest force, Lothian and Borders, is also seeing a decline in complaints in what police insiders hope is a sign that higher officer numbers and better training are starting to pay dividends.
The number of complaints recorded in Strathclyde plummeted from 1,015 in January to October 2008 to just 732 in the same period of this year. Complaints were down by 45 per cent and 66 per cent in September and October respectively, though this was partly because of a change in the way they were recorded.
The force yesterday said it expected to see real "healthy decreases" by the end of the year, even when accounting changes were factored in.
Its latest complaint figures, to go before its ruling board, Strathclyde Police Authority, this week comes after some of its most positive public satisfaction polls.
Independent researchers found more than three-quarters of people were fairly or very satisfied with their first contact with the police in 2009, up from 64 per cent last year. The percentage of people who were dissatisfied fell from 20 per cent to 14 per cent in the same period.
Paul Rooney, the Glasgow Labour councillor who chairs Strathclyde Police Authority, said: "It is good news that complaints about the force are going down while an independent report highlights a significant improvement in the levels of those satisfied with the service. I expect members will want to get behind these figures at the full authority meeting on Thursday."
Scotland on Sunday asked all Scottish forces for their most recent complaints statistics last week. Strathclyde, Lothian and Borders, Dumfries and Galloway and Central Scotland all revealed figures were down for April to September. Grampian recorded a slight increase. Other forces failed to respond.
The Scottish police service saw a substantial rise in the number of complaints they received when a national watchdog, the Police Complaints Commissioner for Scotland or PCCS, was put in place to oversee the issue in 2007. Insiders are now relieved to see figures drop back down again.
Iain MacLeod, the deputy chief constable of Central Scotland Police, who speaks on professional standards for the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, said: "Any reduction in police complaint figures is a pleasing development."
John McNeill, the police complaints commissioner, welcomed publication of complaints figures: "I believe that having PCCS as an independent body with the power to hold the police to account where necessary plays an important part in increasing public confidence in the police."
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