Saturday, 23 April 2011

Complaints Against the Police

After initial police training I was posted to my first station and given a welcome introduction by a grumpy old Inspector. I didn't think about it at the time but he would have joined the police in the mid 1950's, a very different world from today. He told me that he expected me to get complaints. 'Any officer who doesn't get complaints, isn't doing his job.' He also told me that if I ever got assaulted and ended up in hospital, the offender had better be there too. 'In intensive care!' Sometime later I recall walking past his office and  heard him on the phone, almost shouting. 'My officers wouldn't do that. How dare you complain about my officers. Now, go away and stop wasting my time!'  He would however, summon the officer concerned and God help them if he thought they had done something wrong. That is how most complaints were dealt with in those days.

I didn't let him down and in every rank I have held, I have received a lot of complaints. As a PC, I spent a lot of my time policing a busy town centre. I didn't tolerate all the drunken yobbery taking place and arrested hundreds of them resulting in a lot of rolling around on the ground and numerous complaints of false arrest, assault. excessive force, abuse etc. I have kept a folder full of all the notices you are given to inform you that you are under investigation for a complaint. I went through them recently and found some quite bizarre ones I had forgotten about. e.g. 'While searching X you squeezed his testicles and when you searched his car, you stole a packet of polo mints.' and 'When driving a police vehicle in XXX Street you stared at Mr Y causing him to hit the kerb and fall off his bike causing injury.' I never even recalled seeing Mr Y.

Nowadays most of my complaints stem from members of the public who haven't got what they want from their local beat officer. They ring me and demand that their issue is dealt with. If it is reasonable and we should be doing it, I agree. If not, I don't. For example, Mr Bloggs rings me demanding that we prosecute his neighbour for putting his bins out on the footpath the night before collection. The local officer has declined to do so. I try and reason with him but he won't have it and I get a complaint. I have had about 120 complaints made against me during my career. These complaints have taken hundreds or thousands of hours to deal with. I can honestly say that not one of these complaints is justified and none have ever been upheld.

The other Saturday I was about to get out of the office on patrol when I get a call to attend the front office. John Smith is in there, he has just been released from custody and wants to make a complaint of assault. I go and have a quick look at the custody record. Smith was smashed out of his brains and tried to start a fight in a local takeaway. The police attend and he decides he wants to fight them. He gets taken hold of and put face down on the ground, handcuffed and taken to the station. In custody it is noted he has a large graze to the side of his face. A doctor is called out to check him, and to examine the officers for cuts to the knuckles etc. There is CCTV of the arrest and the officers actions are reasonable and justified. In the morning Smith is charged with threatening behaviour and resisting arrest. He is released on bail and walks straight round to the front office to make his complaint. He knows the system and when he goes to Court, he wants to be able to say that in defence of the charges he has made a complaint against the officers who arrested him and that it is under investigation. The magistrates are not empowered these days to lock very many people up. They are even more reluctant to do so if someone has made a complaint, in case it is justified. I just wish they would cotton on to the fact that every bugger has made a complaint. To be fair to John Smith he is also very angry. His face looks a mess, but it is superficial grazing.

I ask him what his complaint is. 'Look at my fucking face. Your fucking officers beat me up.' I calmly explain to him the circumstances of his arrest and that the officers may have used perfectly reasonable force to arrest him. The incident is recorded on CCTV and just because he has injuries does not mean that he has been unlawfully assaulted. 'Look at my face! I'm the best man at a fucking wedding this afternoon. Your officers assaulted me and I want to make a complaint.' I would really like to give him the response that my old Inspector did but nowadays the only thing you might get into trouble for is not recording the complaint, even if it is complete tosh.

I fill in the forms and send them off to Professional Standards. I ensure that CCTV of the incident is retained. Smith has wasted the first couple of hours or so of police time that will add up to 20 or more before this complaint is now filed. Smith will either fail to co-operate with the investigation, in which case after his Court appearance it will be written off, once agreed by the IPCC. Alternatively, CCTV will be copied and sent to all and sundry, he will make a statement, the officers will be interviewed, witnesses will be interviewed and statements taken. The file will be sent to the IPCC and he will be told that there is no case against the officers.

I have sat in many an interview with our Complaints Department, or Professional Standards as they are now called, thinking how many more crimes might we investigate if we were not spending so much time dealing with this nonsense.

I do understand that there needs to be a robust complaints procedure that everyone has confidence in. There are some current issues ongoing, such as the Tomlinson case, where officers behaviour is questionable to say the least. The problem is that the system is being abused and overwhelmed which actually makes it more difficult to identify and deal with inappropriate behaviour. We need a system that quickly allows the bogus and unjustified complaints to be dispensed with which will allow more focus on the cases that require it. Incidentally, regarding the incident in the above photo, the IPCC decided that the force used by the officers was justified. This went largely unreported of course.

Between my old Inspector, above, and the current situation, as in many areas of policing, complaints have become a bureaucratic nightmare detracting from public confidence and reducing focus on the real issues.


  1. "I can honestly say that not one of these complaints is justified and none have ever been upheld."

    Spare the public voluminous bigotry in this elementary position. That complaints against police go nowhere, is common knowledge.

  2. I mainly agree with what you say. It is lax or weak administration of the system. We know who is responsible for that.....There does, however, need to be a respected complaints procedure which deals with the cases of unfair police treatment which do exist. In the end, the police have themselves to blame for the system that they have. As you admit, even with the system we have we still have some very public examples of poor policing tactics (Tomlinson). What I have seen in practice are some examples of police being tough on easy targets while allowing vandalism to go unchallenged during demonstrations.
    I don't think the problem is with the complaints system itself but rather with the way it is implemented as a tick box exercise.


  3. i've never been to the uk and i'm not british. american here, but i really enjoy your blog. i'm also not a cop.

    however, when i hear or read about the royal wedding, i just can't help but think about all the budget cuts you talk about... how do the british people pick up a british newspaper that has a news article about all the royal extravagance and news articles about cuts to public safety and not be really mad???

    i'm not saying america doesn't subsidize really rediculous things, but still.

  4. Royal wedding = 'Bread and circuses'


  5. I can understand the view regarding the Royal Wedding but it can be argued that it brings a lot of value to the country in terms of tourism, status and future business.
    I was very pleased to see that the wedding went off without any disturbances. As Amanda Holden apparently tweeted. 'Everyone here is so nice and polite.' I can tell you why.......
    I went round one of our sink estates at lunchtime today. The chavs and unemployable dross are all at home oblivious to the wedding but enjoying some Tennants and White Lightening in the sunshine.

  6. The royal wedding is a travesty. Severe austerity measures in the U.K and then 70 million on a wedding ! What a hideous insult ! Have you heard about Charlie Veitch ? Arrested for planning on making ironic statements thru a megaphone on royal wedding day:"On
    Thursday night Cambridgeshire police arrested Charlie Veitch, a
    self-confessed anarchist, for conspiracy to cause a public nuisance and
    breach of the p...eace.It is understood police believed Veitch, who
    runs a group called Love Police, was planning to cause disruption in
    Soho Square. His girlfriend, Silkie Carlo, told the Guardian Veitch was
    planning to use a megaphone to make "ironic comments" in the square.

    yes, the mere utterance of the words 'thought crimes' thru a megaphone will have you in jail.
    here's the reason Charlie Veitch is dangerous; he spreads the notion of self worth and love. Preposterous i know.

  7. Did you watch his last video?

    Clearly talking about disruption and much more aggressive in tone than his other stuff.

    I have a lot of time for his type of protest, peaceful and mildly humorous, but his recent announcement that he was being followed (by ONE person - have you any idea how many people are involved in a foot follow) and his wandering discussion of how he was protected from arrest by some pan dimensional mystery makes me hope that he was accompanied by an appropriate adult on interview.


  8. and here's the cost of security for the wedding 35 million !

  9. "makes me hope that he was accompanied by an appropriate adult on interview."
    yes sir, condescension goes a long way in the fight for unity.....

  10. more unprofessional conduct by the British police ?

  11. This is a Police-Nanny State. No democracy whatsoever. Just a disguised democracy, as you can't say anything against queen or monarchy or Police. You cannot make a complaint against a Police Officer, as you end up with comments on your MPS record which affects you employment prospectus, especially if you are a teacher or working with children, or a nurse, etc. Police is full of illiterate arrogant who will not accept you talking to them as equal human beings. Frustrated victims see their solid cases destroyed and criminals who know how to flatter them or to 'deal' with Police as 'friends' or 'business partners' escape and continue to harass victims. Criminals thrive in the UK. Police forces are a shame, most of them. There is no wonder why they are so unanimously hated, by good and bad people all together. Police works only to protect the rights of the rich and powerful people, no matter if they are criminals! Shame on you! One day, this system will suffocate any sign of intelligence, courage, dignity, independence, ethics, justice, freedom, liberties, rights in the UK. It's just a matter of time. Politicians are blackmailed by Police, Police is stronger than any other group or organisation in this country and leads drug dealing, people's illegal trafficking, crime, etc. Slowly, slowly, we will immigrate to other countries to feel free and respected. Hope something will happen soon enough to stop this 'disease'.

  12. I can't believe that all 120 complaints against you, MR POLICE OFFICER, were wrong. You must of made mistakes from time to time, but, as we can see, POLICE IS PERFECT! No need even to say sorry! Such an excellent example of how complaints are working in the UK and how 'correct' is Police....
    I know a disabled woman in a wheelchair since she was born. She, who never did anything wrong, is so afraid of Police....
    Police pick up on vulnerable people and makes other people 'vulnerable' by setting them up.
    Anyhow, Mental Health Act 1983, I belive, is in place to place in mental health institutions against their will, all people who dared to stand against Police corruption and wrongdoings. Being sectioned or dropped to mental health hospital by Police means that nobody will ever take into consideration whatever you say wherever you go.Practically you are left without any rights, moreover, you become completely vulnerable to any false accusations from any person all your life. They create a shadow of you, always afraid of standing up for your rights ever. Police a criminal organisation officially legalised. If I am wrong, please forgive me, but this is my point of view, after seeing what some friends of mine went through when complaint against Police and accused the officers of helping the criminals to be exonarated.

  13. Is it a full moon tonight?

  14. @ anonymous 1st May 1658. A 'police nanny state.' Surely that is a contradiction of terms? I agree we have become a nanny state. That is a large part of the cause of the state of our society today.
    Your comments about complaints being recorded on your MPS record are pure fantasy like the rest of your baseless rant.
    I would love to know how you imagine that the police control politicians and run drug and sex crime in this country. Are you actually in this country? Or is it Britain you are thinking of immigrating to?

    @ anonymous 1st May 1712. You are wrong, but are forgiven.
    Incidentally, I asert that none of my 120 complaints is justified. I am by no means perfect and I have made mistakes and done some things I should not have done in the heat of the moment. If I make a mistake I apologise. Ironically, or perhaps because the people involved understood what happened, I have never had a complaint when my actions might have justified one.

    Jaded, they are certainly out tonight!

  15. The Chief Constable of Manchester said something to the effect that without public support the police couldn't do their job. This was 2 or 3 years back and had something to do with speed camera revenue if my failing memory serves me well.

    The police would do well to remember this. Are police actually being taught that its a 'them n us' job now? When exactly did the police become political lobbyists (ref ACPO)? When did you become corporate entities (type the name of any police group into the Dunn and Bradstreet database)? When did you start siding with the 'authorities' rather than the Law? When did the friendly blue uniforms become replaced with black paramilitary gear? When did decent and honest people begin to fear the local 'cop' rather than welcome his presence? Why are so many modern policemen and women so completely ignorant of the distinction between The Law and statutes? When did the police become nothing more than glorified tax collectors? Do you even know who you are working for these days and their agenda? The Nuremburg defence won't wash either.

    I have friends who are policemen and they don't trust their own bosses and are VERY aware of the growing divide between police and the public they are supposed to work for. All are looking to get another job due to rock bottom morale. Maybe that's because you are no longer the good old sensible British bobby but turning into jack-booted, thuggish, policymen for the EU. Its a simple fact that people don't like bullies and that is exactly what many police have become. Bullies with a badge. Amazing how self important some losers become when they are given any type of uniform.

    Change is in the wind, mate, and most intelligent (a decreasing number I must say) policemen I come across know that its gone too far and a public rebellion is happening. Your job is to uphold the Law and keep the peace as a civilian in uniform, not act like the police thugs in other countries whose job is to suppress political dissent.

    Most of us don't ask much of our police. In return the police service don't seem to want to give much back. That's the truth of it.

    Argue as much as you want but I had the misfortune to hear about two policymen in my home town who were given a bad beating by a gang of lads. A crowd of young people formed around the scene cheering and egging on the lads administering the beating. Not one single person stepped in to help the policemen. I couldn't help but wonder why not. That was the day I realised that the police had lost the support of the majority of people by being on the wrong side.

    The world is changing in a bad way and the buggers that are wrecking the justice system, democracy, and the traditions of this country are using you guys as the first line in their suppression of resistance. You need to wake up to this simple fact. The people of this country are. Remember your roots mate and what your job is and perhaps you might just start winning back the support of the people who pay your bloody wages.

    As I once told an officer when I was in the army, "I'll salute the cap badge but not the **** under it".

  16. @ anonymous 5th May - I hope you feel a little better for getting that rant off your chest. The problem I have is that you don't have a clue what you are talking about regards the police.

    With a few exceptions (the Tomlinson case is a good recent example) far from becoming thugs in paramilitary the police are becoming ineffectual, politically correct automatons. Police officers would have more respect from the public if they carried out more enforcement rather than less.

    Regards senior managers, lets be honest most of us think our bosses are idiots and we could do the job better. More fool them for not going for that job and showing how it should be done.

    Finally, I haven't forgotten my roots. 'The police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent upon every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.'

    In my experience it is the public who have forgotten their responsibilities in this partnership. And the police are now the only part of the criminal justice system that actually gives a damn about you.

  17. having been assaulted by the police on many ocasions i still have bad dreams about it.

  18. peter g woodley22 May, 2011 22:39

    further to my last comment my name is peter g woodley

  19. @ Peter G Woodley - have you ever wonder why you have been assaulted numerous times by the police? Most people manage to get through their lives without this happening once.
    When people talk about being assaulted by the police what most of them mean is that lawful force was used to detain them. I suggest you stop being a complete arse and then you won't get arrested, you won't resist arrest and you won't have to moan that some nasty policeman put you in handcuffs and made you feel uncomfortable. Lex

  20. This page is an interesting rainbow of attitudes. I've come across police officers who have left me wide-eyed with admiration for their professionalism while carrying out the job, but since my teen son was just arrested from his after some officers ran into the wrong building, it's a reminder that like any other walk of life, the staff are a mixed bunch. For the sake of my son who spent 5 hours in a dingy cell for no good reason, and (to a lesser degree of course) the better police staff, it is important that I follow through with my complaint, even though it has already turned into a turgid business requiring me to repeat myself many times in the face of obfuscation. I'm keep written note of everything, and expect the process to take months. Principle not money is the motive.

  21. @ anonymous 19th June - what is the purpose of your complaint? The police make mistakes sometimes. If you don't want money then just ask for an apology. I would have offered it, if it was an error. Lex


  23. Any organisation that has freemasons as members is not to be trusted: their aim is to support members regardless. Twats.

  24. Every institution is corrupt. Police are no exception but should be. To meet their targets the Police escalate situations in order to get a conviction to ensure they meet the forces targets. They publish that all the targets are met. How many cases are thrown out of Court. How many times are the young people arrested for minor things - giving them a criminal record. We have to allow our young ones to make mistakes otherwise they will not grow up. Police brutality is very common and hidden and even the magistrates are covering up for the Police by not insisting the Police provide all evidence. People arrested are ignored in cells when they need help - all cells and all areas of police stations should have cameras and all material kept. To ignore a detained person is abuse. In small towns the same individuals are targeted , followed and repeatedly set up in order to easily meet their targets. It takes a good Policeman to arrest real criminals without force-intimidation-violence and corruption. The way you describe people as drunken yobs says everything -you have no respect for the individual. Police work with the ill, vulnerable every day and speak of them as trash. Despite themselves often having mental health issues for which you just go off sick. What goes around does come around but you are so brain washed that you forget how to treat people as people and hide behind the uniform to bully and intimidate the vulnerable. Restorative practice? What a shambles - hardly ever used. Inconsistent penalties and convictions - all depending who you are - the more you complain the harder you victimize and do so until that person can't cope and ends up in crisis - then you rub your hands and jump in - people are not able to complain against the Police because the board really do believe that Policemen are honest. Also because they will be persecuted. I have contacted my local new Police Commissioner for a face to face meeting about Police Brutality - has he responded - NO.

  25. Its not Police making genuine mistakes that are the problem we are dealing with corruption, harassment, bullying and set ups on a large scale. If you were tazered in your back twice whilst calmly walking away from a set up situation - which i have a video of and which was thrown out of the court - no police injured but victim had 73 reported injuries. A man with a bad heart and systemic sarcocidosis. Payback time not long after involved this man being dragged out of his home and onto the street and assaulted again by a PC who has a history of violence towards people but also against his own colleagues so why is this pc still working in a small cumbrian town with vulnerable people. I think Lex is seeing what he wants to see because it's easy and comfortable and fits in with his ideals.Police should be dismissed when using verbal bullying comments such as calling members of the Public drunken yobs!

  26. Fucking pigs. Corrupt people who got bullied in school. They all make me sick and I wouldn't even bother ringing them if my house got burgled.

    Pure corruption.