Sussex Police chief constable defends complaints increase

Sussex Police
Sussex Police
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A ROBUST defence of Sussex Police was launched by its chief constable after a rise in the number of complaints it receives.

Katy Bourne, Sussex’s police and crime commissioner, quizzed Chief Constable Giles York at Friday’s monthly performance and accountability meeting.

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She quoted the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which recently revealed forces in England and Wales experienced a 15 per cent rise in complaints for 2013/14. Sussex Police went up by 20 per cent.

“Complaints is merely one way of assessing how good our service is to the public,” said the chief constable. “There have been various changes in the past couple of years which may affect people’s awareness of being able to or wanting to make complaints. One has been the high-profile publication of the national code of ethics. This has been a really useful benchmark for every force to be able to pick up on.”

He said Sussex Police had gone ‘quite large’ with the codes of ethics and tried to be transparent.

“The satisfaction as opposed to the complaining part is around 80 per cent. Eighty per cent of the people who have had contact from Sussex Police are satisfied with what we’ve done,” he said, highlighting from 630,000 reports made to the force every year, just 0.2 per cent ended in a complaint.

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He went on to speak of ‘break the silence’ – an internal whistleblowing site for Sussex Police staff to report colleagues with guaranteed anonymity.

“I think it’s because we’re absolutely adamant about people’s anonymity on reporting on that line and we’ve uncovered significant elements of corruption coming through on that line to date,” he said.

He said this, combined with the satisfaction results, showed the complaints figures were just one aspect of the overall performance.

“Overall, I don’t think it’s a disastrous message to us that the force has suddenly lost control. It could be a reassuring message saying the public are more willing to come and tell us when we haven’t given a good service and they’re more aware of what a good service actually looks like based on the production of the code of ethics.”

Chief Constable York also said the force strived not to enter into a ‘protracted bureaucratic process’ when it came to dealing with complaints.

However, he said when things got to the stage where an officer had been fired, they were allowed to appeal.

“On two or three occasions I’ve had my hands forced to accept back officers who I’ve said no you should lose your job, but a third party says no you’ve got to have this person back,” he said.