THREE separate public complaints about the conduct of police officers have not been handled according to guidelines, an ombudsman’s report reveals.
An investigation from the Police Investigation and Review Commissioner warned that he was “concerned” about the way the single police force, which was formed a year ago from the amalgamation of Scotland’s eight regional forces, handled minor complaints.
In three cases, Police Scotland had not adhered to regulations published three years ago to ensure that gripes from the public were handled properly, commissioner, Professor John McNeill, found. The guidance, From Sanctions to Solutions, promotes the use of local resolutions for relatively minor complaints and a specialist investigation for more serious matters.
“I am concerned about the process followed by Police Scotland in resolving minor complaints,” said Prof McNeill.
One case centred on allegations of corruption against public officials involved in the planning consent for a housing development, which was investigated by a local inspector at the former Northern Constabulary.
In his report, known as a Complaint Handling Review, Prof McNeill found the complaint, if upheld, was such that it could cause serious reputational damage to the police and could adversely affect public confidence. As such, he did not consider the complaint was suitable for local complaint-handling under the terms of his statutory guidance and should have been subject to specialist investigation by the police professional standards department.
In another report published this month, the commissioner criticises officers from the former Tayside Police for their decision not to inform an officer, known only as Constable C, that a complaint had been made about her conduct. This was done at the request of the person making the complaint who feared that it might escalate an ongoing neighbour dispute involving the officer’s mother.
The commissioner ruled the decision not to inform the officer was flawed, regardless of the applicant’s wishes.
“In order to address effectively any complaint made about an officer’s conduct, it is essential that the officer concerned is given an opportunity to state their position,” he said, recommending that the officer concerned was given the opportunity to do so.
The third complaint under review was made by a man who had been apparently satisfied with the outcome after what was described as “a full and frank discussion”. But the man, who had been detained on suspicion of fraud, went on to request a review of the police handling of his complaints, specifically about the execution of a search warrant and the seizure of property as evidence by the police.
Mr McNeill said Police Scotland should “re-engage” with the man to find out which of his complaints were still to be addressed.
Chief Superintendent Ellie Mitchell, of Police Scotland’s professional standards department, said the force would be looking into the recommendations. “We will continue to improve and refine our complaints-handling processes,” she said.