ALLEGATIONS of misconduct against the police soared by ten per cent in the last year, new figures revealed today, as force chiefs unveiled a bid to improve “customer service”.
The public made 1669 allegations about the behaviour of Lothian and Borders Police staff between last April and March, with accusations including assaults, harassment and discriminatory behaviour.
The allegations were lodged by 884 complainers, a figure which also rose nearly five per cent against the previous year.
The ability of the public to complain via the force website was cited as one potential reason behind the increase.
Police chiefs said they took complaints “very seriously”, adding that a drive to reduce their volume was being launched.
Efforts will be made to improve the way officers communicate with the public to ensure they are properly informed about how the police are handling an incident, a common source of complaints.
Councillor Stefan Tymkewycz, a member of the police board and a former officer with the Met in London, said: “The force procedure on handling and investigating complaints is robust. One reason for the rise may be that people can now make complaints online.
“Care also needs to be taken with a rise in allegations as a single person can make several at the same time which can change the figures.
“The force has been trying to improve the way it deals with the public for a number of years but I would welcome any moves to enhance that further.”
Meanwhile, the figures showed that residents in West Lothian lodged the most complaints out of the force areas, with 214. The south of Edinburgh had the largest number from the Capital at 151.
Councillor Iain Whyte, convener of the police board, said: “I’m aware that there have been attempts to reduce complaints so it’s slightly disappointing that the figures show a rise.”
Complaints about “quality of service” issues soared by 70 per cent in Edinburgh over the year, with 85 in total.
Cllr Whyte said: “These complaints usually involve officers not explaining procedures. The force is trying to improve how they communicate with the public. It’s about providing a better level of customer service.”
He added that he did not believe a reduction in police staff numbers due to budget cuts had affected complaints. He said: “The staff were backroom people who did not deal with the public, and the number of officers has stayed the same if not risen, so I don’t think cuts have been a factor.”
A police spokesman the force did not have figures on how many of this year’s complaints had been upheld as many were still being investigated. He added: “Lothian and Borders Police strive to provide the highest level of service and accountability to our communities.
“If, however, the public feel the provision has fallen below their expectation they can make a complaint to our Professional Standards Unit, which will be robustly investigated.
“During 2012-2013 a reduction in complaints will be targeted through the identification of repeat concerns and implementing change.”