It is often suggested that news is slow at this time of year… As a consequence, journalists often resort to that relatively new tool, the Freedom Of Information Act (FOI). When there is nothing new (or of little public interest) or, they have already done the last big story to death, they resort to FOI requests in an attempt to actually invent some news. The following is probably a case in point…
At least 2,000 police officers were subject to three or more complaints by members of the public in the last year, figures obtained by the BBC have shown. (BBC News)
Firstly there is a need to look at this ‘story’ in context; 2,000 officers actually equates to something like 1% of the total police establishment in England and Wales. I agree that even 1% is too many given the nature of the role however, is there any other element of the public sector (and subject to the same microscopic examination) who could report similar levels of complaint?
Secondly and as pointed out by both the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the Police Federation, policing is a “difficult job in difficult circumstances, and many of the claims were unsubstantiated”. By the very nature of the role police officers are often working in conflict situations. Incidents where tempers, anger and perceptions of the rights or wrongs of the circumstances are heightened. That said, there is little or no excuse for one of the most prevalent complaints which is incivility.
Rob Garnham, the chairman of the Association of Police Authorities (APA), which represents police organisations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, said “any complaints against the police had to be treated seriously and fairly.”
Another factor that has to be remembered is; it is common place for people to try to offset any trouble they may be in by actually inventing a complaint… Hardly surprising when you think of how many people in our society are happy to make bogus insurance claims or, develop an injury or illness simply to obtain cash compensation!
- Police complaint numbers revealed (bbc.co.uk)
- Every BBC freedom of information request made – and what happened to it. As a spreadsheet (guardian.co.uk)
- Data shows complaints against police (guardian.co.uk)
- Thousands of police face multiple complaints (telegraph.co.uk)