Interesting headline from the news this week; Complaints about county police officers rise sharply (D&S Times – print edition 27th May). However, I also find it surprising that the same story (by the same correspondent), was delivered under a slightly differing headline by The Northern Echo on the 6th May; Complaints up against North Yorkshire police officers and staff…
One has to ask, especially as both newspapers are part of the same Newsquest Media group (one local and one regional); are we short of ‘news’ in the North East or, is their some more sinister motive at play here within the repeat editorial?
I am aware that sometimes, there are subtle differences in content and publication date between the print and online versions of these journals however; doesn’t the repeated message also go some way towards further undermining public confidence in an already beleaguered service? An organisation that, under tough financial constraints, is trying to operate as efficiently as possible and provide a service for and to their public.
The Northern Echo: THE number of allegations against officers and staff at one of the regions police forces has risen sharply in the last year. North Yorkshire Police recorded an 18 per cent increase in the number of allegations made against the force in the first three months of the year, compared to the same period last year… (Read more)
Public confidence for varying reasons is already in decline and I suggest that, a portion of this decline can be attributed to the often continuous and repeated supposition and innuendo from some media outlets. The media could actually promote greater public understanding and often, more realistic expectations of the service… For the benefit of all within our communities but I doubt it. After all, any watering down of sensationalism may impact upon news sales.
With all that said, when you Google the term ‘police complaints increase’ you will actually find that North Yorkshire is not alone in their experience, numerous other forces across the country have also recorded an increase of complaints. On face value, this is indeed worrying however, I would suggest there are several factors at play here, other than simply concluding our police service and the officers that serve within them are getting worse.
I would also suggest that the reported ‘increase’ is also well short of ‘breaking news’. Back in March I commented upon the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) when they published their annual report on grievances recorded against police forces (see here).
When you consider that as a society, we have a tendancy to be less tolerant of and complaint with authority, it is hardly a surprise that individuals sometimes take umbrage when their behaviour is challenged and/or punished. When considering any trend in these figures we would also do well to remember that; police officers are (supposedly) representative and indicative of the society they serve. Doesn’t it therefore follow that any increase in complaints about “fairness and impartiality, incivility and failures of duty” could reasonably be construed as a reflection upon our society?
Don’t take this the wrong way, I do not condone any wrong doing by our police officers (of any rank), in fact I find any abuse of power an abomination. What I’m simply trying to point out is that often, we reap what we sow. We should also be mindful of the fact, our police operate in situations that are often difficult and stressful on our behalf.
And, as Mark Botham, the Chairman of North Yorkshire Police Federation branch said recently;
“While people are of course entitled to make complaints, and this is done in an open and transparent manner, it should be noted that most allegations are unsubstantiated. Police officers operate with a high level of integrity and are under huge pressure because of the cuts they are facing and given that it is no surprise that the figures have increased.”