New guidelines have been issued for how police should respond to discrimination complaints a year after West Yorkshire’s force was heavily criticised for the way it dealt with allegations about its officers.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said last year that there were “significant failings” in the way West Yorkshire Police deals with claims of discrimination from the public, most of which relate to race.
The watchdog today issued revised guidelines to improve the handling of discrimination complaints, as well as a set of key principles to help police forces improve the accessibility of the complaints system.
According to the IPCC, the new guidelines “will assist police to properly and effectively handle allegations of discrimination, including discrimination based on race, sexual orientation, religious belief, age, or disability”.
Training workshops for police professional standards departments are being held by the IPCC across the country to support the introduction of the guidelines.
Dame Anne Owers, Chair of the IPCC, said: “It is crucial for public confidence in the police and the police complaints system that allegations of discrimination are handled properly.
“Fairness is a core principle underpinning the concept of policing by consent, and unfair or unlawful discrimination fundamentally undermines this principle.”
Alongside the discrimination guidelines, the IPCC has also published a set of key principles to help police forces improve accessibility to the complaints system.
In 2014, IPCC officials examined a sample of 202 cases where allegations were made against officers from West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and the West Midlands, after the previous year publishing a damning report about the Metropolitan Police’s performance on the same issue.
One section of the report, refuted by West Yorkshire Police bosses, claims: “Police in these force areas do not appear to have a good understanding of the diverse communities they serve.”
Across the three forces, the report suggests allegations of discrimination are taken much more seriously when claims come from the police themselves than those from the general public.
Of the 170 complaints from the public alleging discrimination only 94 were investigated and of those none were upheld, despite the forces upholding up to 13 per cent of allegations from the public overall.
Eighty per cent of cases were not properly assessed, failing to take into account the gravity of the complaint or the officer’s previous record, while nearly half the investigations launched did not meet basic standards.
The report said the number of cases where officers had reported their colleagues was lower for West Yorkshire Police. It added: “The difference suggests West Yorkshire Police officers are not reporting discriminatory behaviour to the same extent as the other two forces, and this is a cause for concern.”