IOPC Youth Panel publishes report outlining barriers to having trust in the police complaints system

Published: 28 Mar 2019

Findings from a report by a panel of young people published today reveals the impact of feeling powerless and not being heard has on their trust in the police complaints system.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) commissioned Leaders Unlocked to recruit and run an IOPC Youth Panel, to identify and recommend ways to better engage with young people and increase their confidence in the police complaints system. Leaders Unlocked established the group of 16-24 years olds to help us understand why young people have low confidence in the police complaints system, the barriers which prevent their engagement and potential solutions to increase trust and confidence.

The Youth Panel organised a series of meetings across England and Wales where they met with more than 800 young people.

The panel presented their initial findings and recommendations to staff from across the IOPC, including Director General Michael Lockwood, and a number of other stakeholders late last year. In those meetings and today’s report they have focussed on three key themes:


The panel found a significant issue with feeling powerless in the face of authority. They felt they wouldn't be taken seriously or believed by those in positions of power due to their age and lack of status. Some young people have the perception that the police have unchecked or absolute power and are not answerable to any other authority.

Dynamics of trust:

While exploring trust and confidence in the police complaints system, the Youth Panel found that many young people simply do not trust those in positions of authority, especially the police. The general mistrust of the police and other authorities has a knock-on impact on trust in the police complaints system and in the IOPC.

Marginal and minority voices:

The Youth Panel found that other factors such as ethnicity, sexual orientation and class also contribute to the ability to trust and have confidence in the complaint system. Young people from marginalised and minority groups feel they are less likely to be believed and more likely to be discriminated against.

In the report the panel also identify and recommend solutions to some of the themes that came up during their work. These recommendations primarily address concerns they raised about the visibility and accessibility of the complaints system.

The report outlines practical ways we can increase the confidence of young people. These include improving:

  • How we communicate and engage with young people, particular the use of social media, producing information material aimed at them and making the organisation more approachable
  • Increasing the number of initiatives we undertake to engage with young people, including working with trusted third parties and the police.
  • The diversity of our staff and the training they receive to help better engage with young people.

The Youth Panel also contributed to our Learning the Lessons magazine that focussed on Stop and Search. Three panel members wrote about their experiences and they also provided advice on how to carry out stop and searches in a way that respects young people and gains their confidence in the tactic.

In order to ensure the momentum of the work done by the panel is not lost we have, on their advice agreed to continue our work with them into a second year to help us implement their recommendations.

Michael Lockwood, Director General of the IOPC, said:

“I’ve met with the Youth Panel a number of times and have been really impressed with their commitment, drive and determination to help us make a difference. Their report provides a powerful insight into the range of factors that influence young people’s trust and confidence in not just the police complaints system, but other areas of public life.

“Our work with the Youth Panel reflects our drive to work with a range of groups to understand their experience of us and the complaints system more generally. This enables us to deliver work that makes a positive difference to complainants, the police service and the general public.”

Rose Dowling, Director of Leaders Unlocked:

"The IOPC Youth Panel did a fantastic job in their first year, engaging with 800 other young people across England and Wales to hear their views on the police complaints system. In their report, they have explored some important themes, such as powerlessness and trust, and put forward a number of practical recommendations for change. In the year ahead, a newly-expanded Youth Panel will focus on working with the IOPC to deliver these recommendations and making a real difference to levels of trust and confidence in the system."

Imran, a student from Leicester who sat on the panel last year and is a member for the second year, said:

“I am coming into my second year on the panel, and I can honestly say it has been an invaluable experience. Last year I met some of the most inspirational young people in the country and it has been an incredible journey working with them to make a positive difference. Engaging with 800 young people last year and gathering all their views was interesting and I am really looking forward to seeing our recommendations being put into practice. Our goal is for young people to have the confidence in the complaints system and receive the support they need. I really feel that my voice and opinions are valued, and that I am making a positive difference too many young people throughout England and Wales.”

Read the full report here (a Welsh language version is also available).