IOPC Acting Director General comments on Police Complaints Statistics report 2022/23

Published: 05 Oct 2023

The Independent Office for Police Conduct today published its annual ‘Police Complaints Statistics’ report for England and Wales 2022/23.

These are the third set of annual complaint statistics to be published since significant changes were made to the police complaints system in February 2020.

They provide a view of police complaints in England and Wales – identifying the volume and type of complaints being made and how police forces are dealing with them.

Commenting on this year’s figures, Acting IOPC Director General Tom Whiting said: 

“Our annual police complaints statistics broadly reflect public concern with day-to-day policing issues and the level of service that people directly experience, rather than high-profile police misconduct cases that have repeatedly dominated news headlines. 

“It is notable that by far the most commonly recorded complaint type continues to relate to police service delivery such as a lack of updates or delays in responses, rather than concerns around police misconduct.

“The 8% rise in the total volume of complaints is likely linked to the simplifying of the system and the widening in the definition of a complaint to ‘any expression of dissatisfaction’.

“While needing to be treated with caution, this year’s figures suggest more complaints are being dealt with more quickly, as the new system intended, with fewer resulting in lengthy investigations. In many lower-level cases, investigations are being replaced with responses that are more proportionate with relevant explanations and apologies. I am pleased the figures indicate that over nine in ten people whose complaint was handled informally had it resolved to their satisfaction or did not wish to pursue it any further. 

“It is also welcome that police forces have significantly improved how quickly they respond to complainants, almost halving from a previous average of nine working days, to five days.

“There has been a rise in the number of complaints that were investigated that led to misconduct proceedings, 113 compared to 68 the year before. This amounts to 24% of the 468 formally handled cases subject to special procedures where misconduct proceedings are available as an outcome, a rise from 15% the previous year. 

“I recognise there is more work needed to properly embed new ways of working in all forces to ensure we deliver a complaints system that is accessible for all, more straightforward, and better aligned to the needs of the complainant. 

“I would encourage police forces, where possible, to focus on learning for individuals and themselves as an outcome. I believe that learning from reflection and the use of the reflective practice review process represent positive actions resulting from complaint cases and can help to prevent issues re-occurring. 

“I would like to see the numbers of reviews requested reduce in the future and we will continue to work closely with forces and provide further handling guidance to help them get complaints right first time. 

“However, while there is room for improvement and steps that police forces can take to improve how complaints are dealt with, I am heartened that this year’s figures indicate we are moving in the right direction in establishing a healthy complaints system, where people have confidence to raise concerns and in the knowledge they will be taken seriously.” 

It is important to remain cautious when comparing the figures from this year to previous years as the statistics remain experimental, meaning they are still in the testing phase and not yet fully developed.