Belfast Telegraph

Police complaints shock: Grievances at highest level since dawn of Ombudsman

By Claire Williamson

Complaints against the PSNI in the past year are the highest recorded since the Police Ombudsman's Office opened in 2000.

In the year 2013/2014 there were 3,734 complaints and 6,089 allegations made against the PSNI – a rise of 14% on the previous year.

The highest number were from District B, which covers east and south Belfast, and appear to originate from city centre arrests and complaints made via Musgrave Street PSNI station.

Four per cent of all complaints were about parades and demonstrations. The number of allegations of "incivility" rose by 6%, and the number of complaints of "oppressive behaviour" rose 29%.

Yesterday members of the Policing Board's performance committee questioned senior officers on the causes of the rise.

Chair Jonathan Craig MLA said: "The committee is concerned at the significant rise in complaints... which is the highest number of complaints recorded by the Ombudsman's Office since they opened in 2000.

"Indeed, the level of complaints has risen by 14% in 2013/14, when the number had been decreasing since 2009/10.

"While complaints indicate that people are engaging with the policing structures, it is vital that officers ensure that they are consistently compliant with the code of ethics so that our community gets the best possible policing service."

Chief Supt Chris Noble outlined factors which may account for the increase in complaints.

He said: "As a service we are committed to policing with the community and recognise the critical role the Ombudsman has in police accountability and increasing public confidence in the PSNI.

"An increase in complaints, whilst showing confidence in the complaints system, also gives the service cause to reflect, learn and improve on our engagement with the public and how we deliver our service.

"The PSNI is one of the most accountable police services in the world and we expect our officers and staff to behave professionally, ethically and with the utmost integrity at all times.

"Any perception or allegation that we have fallen short of the high standards expected is treated with the utmost seriousness."

Although he pointed out that during 2013/2014 police recorded and dealt with nearly half-a-million reports of incidents, a small number of which resulted in a complaint, they would not be complacent.

"Action is being taken to address the rise in complaints and we will be reporting back to the Policing Board," he added.

Belfast Telegraph


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