Sunday, 28 June 2009

The Complainant

generally have a great dislike of dealing with complaints. The majority of those I receive are either spurious or malicious, seen by the complainant as a method of getting their process ticket revoked or in the misguided belief that the police will decide it's best we drop criminal charges as a result. I mean, they're evidently innocent if they've gone to the bother of making a complaint. Maybe the police will realise they got it wrong? Maybe the police will realise they got it right, but won't want the embarrassment of the complaint being mentioned at court? The police will say they're sorry and everything will be alright. It's that easy. It must be, or why would there be a complaints process?

Of course, there are occasions when we do get it wrong, and there is very little to do other than offer an apology. It won't change any such recurrence in the future. We still won't get to your call any earlier because we still won't have the officers. There still won't be a sergeant present to advise the young officer who made the wrong decision about how to deal with your matter, because the sergeant would have been back at the police station completing paperwork. I can't make the CPS change their mind about not charging the person who assaulted you, because that person went no comment in interview on the advice of their solicitor - which the CPS was really hoping they wouldn't do. Those damned defence solicitors, they've figured out how to defeat the Crown before the case even gets to court.

This is where I have to disagree with Nightjack's infamous post on complaints. You know, the one that The Times cited as being one of the few dubious reasons why they felt the need to reveal his identity. You see, the fact of the matter is that as a Detective Constable, he would never have had to take a complaint. The same is true for Detectives of any rank, as all complaints received over the front counter at the police station, or by letter or telephone, will be dealt with by a Uniform Inspector. How far a complaint actually proceeds depends on the Inspector recording it. It needs to be an experienced officer, someone who is able to get to the root cause - and as I said often a malicious or spurious cause - of the complaint, and to politely inform the complainant that the matter won't be proceeded with. Words of advice will always be given to the officer concerned, regardless of the veracity of the evidence provided. Sometimes even this does not occur, and the words of advice are directed back at the complainant, as in the following example.

The Station Reception Officer comes to speak to me in my office. Steve Slag is at the front counter and he wants to make a complaint about an officer. I know Steve Slag. I've dealt with him many times during my time in Utopia. I've seen him progress from being a petty shoplifter selling stolen frozen meat in local pubs for £5 a pop to buy his cannabis, to breaking into people's homes whilst they sleep and stealing their LCD televisions, selling them in local pubs for £50 a pop in order to buy his heroin. I've stopped and searched him a few times myself. He has always complained on those occasions of police harassment, which he bases on the fact that it's been over a week since he was last arrested.

"Hello Steve. I understand you're here to make a complaint about an officer?"

"Too f*cking right I am. It's PC 4422."

"Oh yeah, I know 4422, he's a fine officer. Very proactive."

"Too f*cking proactive. The c*nt's always arresting me."

"Okay, mind your language. I see you're upset, but you don't want to upset me. So he's always arresting you? Is it the manner in which he treats you whilst arresting you that you're complaining about? What is it he does to upset you?"

"Nuffink. It's just whenever I've been arrested the last 8 times, he's always f*cking there."

"It sounds to me like he's doing his job. What's happened when you've been arrested by him? Have the cases been dropped or have you been charged?"

"I've been charged."

"On all 8 occasions?"

"Yeah, but that's not the point. If other officers stop me they get on the radio to him and he'll come down and arrest me, even if he's had nuffink to do with it."

"Sounds to me as though he doesn't like you."

"That's not right. That's harassment and I want to make a complaint against the c*nt."

"It's not harassment and I'm not taking a complaint. However, I would like to offer you some advice if you're willing to listen to it."

"What's that?"

"Best you get out of my station before I call 4422 to come down and arrest you."

Hobbesellian Footnote: I don't want anyone who has read the above to leave with the impression that Inspector's will try their hardest to send a genuine complainant away. We know from what is presented to us in the first instance by the complainant what warrants further investigation, and what is malicious, as in the above semi-fictitional example. Nothing is so frustrating for an Inspector to know that one of his officers has behaved inappropriately - claims of bureaucracy, target-setting, government interference etc have no bearing on how an officer should conduct themself. For further clarification on Police Complaints and what actualy constitutes a complaint, please click on this link.
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  1. In my game, the customer is always right.
    In your game, the 'customer' is always a total fucking scumbag who deserves a doing*.

    *West of Scotland slang term for a right good kicking'

  2. Sierra Charlie28 June, 2009 12:10

    I have only had one experience so far of a complaint. The customer wanted us to arrest someone but no offence had yet been committed. The customer thought that by threatening a complaint he could get us to do what he wanted. He came out with all sorts of gems such as "you won't get any further promotions after this!" and "you'll find yourself in a whole heap of trouble if you don't arrest this person".

    He seemed disgusted that officers need an actual reason to arrest someone! I don't know if he did complain in the end, but we were reassured by the duty inspector that we would not be criticised for doing our job correctly.

  3. Hmm. Glad to see that SOME discretion is allowed to officers so close to the front line - I'd thought it was worse than that. Reassuring.

  4. My only experience of a complaint was when my 16 year old daughter, who was working in Burger King on a shift finshing at 10 pm came out and was verbally abused by 2 asian youths, suggesting, in their words that "white girls is only good for fucking". I did hear some shouting, but could not make out what for the noise of a very noisy pub nearby, but when she came around the corner from the pedestrian precinct she was in tears.

    At my request, she made a complaint in person at the local police station. I took her there. Six weeks later we had heard nothing and I wrote to ask what had happended to the complaint. No trace, we werre told some 3 weeks after the letter. Could she identify the officer to who she had spoken some 9 weeks later and did she have his identifying number? Is it any wonder that in our area there are rumours circulating that the police should not do anything to offend the Asian population? And is it any wonder that I, who used to support the police, following this and an earlier incident in which they failed to turn out to our home when my wife was alone at home with a 6 month old child and a man was trying to force his way into the house, now see my local force as a bunch of idlers who spend all their time trying to raise revenue for the government with speed traps in areas where it is relatively safe to speed and ignoring all other crime.

  5. I am utterly convinced that EVERY PC out there has a Steve.

    I'm not even a copper and I have hundreds

  6. Our canteen had a faulty gas oven. The pilot light kept on going out. The remedy was to light a roll of newspaper and reach into the oven to relight the pilot. One Officer did this but the pilot light had been leaking gas. As soon as the flame was introduced to the oven a large fireball blew out of the door and burned his eyebrows off. A day or so he was back at work, but the eyebrows did not return for ages.
    He was a big guy and when one of the local yobs kicked off, the officer dealt with him singlehandedly. The yob was also well over 6 ft tall and heavily built and to be detained by one officer was a huge loss of street cred. So he complained.
    'Who do you want to complain about?' asked the Insp.
    'Well' replied the yob, 'I don't know his name or number, but he is a mad bastard with no eyebrows'

  7. The 2nd paragraph identifies the bulk of the complaints. When I received a complaint file and having read it carefully and established the basics, my opening line to the complainant, after allowing the venting of the spleen, would be to say, "Well I can't wind the clock back to just before the incident and give it another go at trying to get a different result for you, but apart from that, if I had the power to do anything to make you feel better, what would you have me do"? With few exceptions, the result of this was a long period of silence. I found this to be a great reality checkpoint. I hated dealing with complaints. Nothing made my heart sink faster than the sight of the complaint file from HQ, steaming like a turd in my in-tray.

  8. "Best you get out of my station before I call 4422 to come down and arrest you."


  9. I can't help but feel the essence of the above post is entirely correct. Granted, anyone who has, in a highly charged situation may well after consideration, regret a certain decision. However I think the ECHR, coupled with a penchant for litigation fuels many of these complaints.

    No doubt some may be justified, but as a cynical measure to defeat culpability, I say tough Steve Slag, where is 4422

  10. Tom, I concur. BTW, 4422 is in the OED - under "Bogeyman" ;)

  11. Hilarious... you should write a comedy.

  12. Not funny really, because you describe exactly the path these little bastards take, bit of petty crime, bit more, bit bigger, until eventually this fucker is known to you - why the hell hasn't he been dealt with properly from the outset? Ahhhh no, let him be, bit of low level crime eh? You know full well that these arseholes will be dealt with you again as they get older - they are your future work load and you let them get away with it. Pathetic.