As Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Northamptonshire I have elected to adopt additional responsibilities in relation to the police complaints process. These include the receipt and initial handling of all complaints against the force. To help you understand how we deal with complaints, you may find the questions below useful:
Northamptonshires quarterly and annually performance data can be found here –
To measure satisfaction with the complaints process a voluntary survey captures feedback on how people found the system to use. This is part of a wider victim satisfaction survey. It also offers the opportunity to suggest improvements in the complaints process. Demographic information is compiled and analysed for disproportionality making sure that the system is accessible to all. This survey is regularly reviewed to ensure that it remains relevant.
How do Northamptonshire Police deal with progress updates on implementing relevant recommendations made by the Independent Office for Police Complaint (IOPC) and/or Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) in relation to complaints handling, or where recommendations were not accepted an explanation as to why and how the PFCC hold the Chief Constable to account?
Northamptonshire Police work closely with the IOPC and HMICFRS in relation to complaints handling. There are times when they may make recommendations around improvements to complaints handling, if this happens both Northamptonshire Police and the OPFCC work to deliver a quick resolution and the PFCC expects the Chief Constable to update him on the timescale for improvements and how an action plan will be delivered. At present there are no outstanding recommendations in relation to complaints handling.
How Northamptonshire Police respond to trends or themes identified through complaints.
The Force and OPFCC regularly look at trends/themes identified through complaints. Bulletins are prepared focusing on key themes and trends. The bulletins provide information about good practice and organisational learning, and management are advised when officers and staff have received more than 4 complaints in a year. This instigates a locally driven reflective practice process to address any issues, provide support and reduce the likelihood of future complaints. Northamptonshire Police continue to use complaints as a learning mechanism to facilitate improvement. In addition to help identify, promote and drive organisational learning an additional Inspector post has been created in the Professional Standards Department. This role seeks to identify themes and issues which will improve service delivery in the drive to prevent complaints and dissatisfaction.
How Northamptonshire Police monitor and improve performance in timeliness of complaints handling
Northamptonshire Police have internal performance monitoring processes and a Strategic Complaints Learning and Processing Group with internal and external whose remit is to improve service standards across the force. The Board meet regularly and an update is provided by the Head of Professional Standards in relation to complaints.
How does Northamptonshire Police deal with the number of written communications issued by the force under regulation 13 where complaints are over 12 months old.
All complaint investigations which are coming close or have passed the 12 month timeframe are monitored and reviewed on a regular basis. This is captured by OPCC via reports from Northamptonshire Police PSD. This allows the service to focus on timeliness. As of October 2021 the OPFCC had received notification that there were 10 complaints that were more than a year old. There were no concerns about the timeliness of these investigations.
What quality assurance mechanisms are in place to monitor and improve the quality of its responses to complaints?
Complaint investigations are subject to a quality assurance process and are subject to dip samples.
Details of the arrangements that the PFCC has in place to hold the CC to account for complaints handling.
Through his accountability process the PFCC receives a report from the Professional Standards Department that provides performance information, trends and key themes. This includes information about complaints volume, timeliness or recording, themes and nature of complaints across the force. It also provides an overview of the number of reviews processed and upheld, application of the ‘practice requiring improvement’ process and IOPC referrals.
Role of the PCC in respect of his complaints handling functions
In February 2020, the OPFCC took on the role of dealing with reviews in relation to the outcome of police complaints. This process focuses on the original complaint to determine if it was handled in a reasonable and proportionate manner, it does not reinvestigate the complaint. The Office of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner has a formal scheme of delegation and has appointed the Director of Delivery to make decisions on his behalf in relation to reviews. Within two days of receiving the application for a review, we acknowledge the correspondence and inform complainants when they can expect to hear about the review and what will happen next. We aim to complete the review process within 28 days, however the complainant can expect to be updated at least every 28 days.
What quality assurance mechanisms the PCC has established to ensure that review decisions are sound and in line with the requirements of the complaints legislation and IOPC statutory guidance?
The Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner is made aware of any concerns that may arise through the review process. The Director of Delivery provides an overview of the outcomes of reviews and any learning or feedback that has been identified.
How the PCC assesses complainant satisfaction with the way in which they have dealt with complaints? The OPCC works closely with those who have submitted a review request. To conclude, we never see dealing with complaints and reviews as a problem. We will always help facilitate someone who wishes to make a complaint or request a review. Only by learning from mistakes can improvements be delivered officers. We will learn and improve from the process to ensure our vision that Northamptonshire Police becomes one of the best forces in the country is delivered.
How does the PFCC ensure that the initial handling of complaints is conducted in a timely manner?
Upon receipt of a complaint, the OPFCC aims to log the complaint and make initial contact with the complainant within 2 working days. According to the latest IOPC data, that target is currently being achieved. The PFCC believes that by providing initial contact as soon as possible, complaints are more likely to be resolved to the complainants satisfaction.