Who deals with my complaint?
The Professional Standards Department will consider your complaint and make the decision in respect of recording the complaint and informing you how Cheshire Constabulary intends to deal with matters you raise.
The Professional Standards Department is responsible for assessing and recording all public complaints and allegations of misconduct or breaches of professional standards of any police officer or member of police staff.
Headed by a Chief Superintendent, the department consists of trained and experienced investigators, supported by dedicated civilian staff. Our staff come from a variety of policing backgrounds.
The department is committed to ensuring emphasis on treating you with fairness, dignity and respect and ensuring that you have fair access to our services at a time that is reasonable and suitable to you.
What happens next?
Most complaints can be dealt with by way of local resolution. This may involve a suitable supervisory officer contacting you to understand the context of the issues you raise, explain, apologise or otherwise seeking to satisfy you that any appropriate action is being taken to address matters. Approximately half of all recorded complaints are dealt with by local resolution. Please note that local resolution cannot result in misconduct proceedings being taken against an officer or member of police staff.
In some cases we will carry out a more formal investigation. If so, the investigating officer will contact you and discuss with you what will happen and when, and will keep you updated as to progress. Generally speaking, such an investigation will determine whether or not your complaint should be upheld or not upheld, and if upheld, what action should be taken against the officer(s) or member(s) of staff subject of the complaint. There may be action even if the investigation does not find in your favour.
Direction and Control
Some complaints may relate to the direction and control of a police force by the chief officer. Complaints that concern how the constabulary is run, as opposed to the day to day decisions or actions of individuals serving with the police which affect individual members of the public, will be recorded as ‘direction and control’ complaints. These complaints will be recorded and handled in the same way as a complaint about the conduct of an individual however the right of appeal in relation to direction and control matters is more limited.
Disapplication of a complaint
There are certain limited circumstances in which a recorded complaint does not have to be dealt with under the statutory framework. This is referred to as disapplication and means Cheshire Constabulary may handle a complaint in whatever manner it sees fit, including taking no action. A disapplication may only take place if the complaint meets one of more of the following grounds; more than 12 months have elapsed between the incident giving rise to the complaint and there is no good reason for the delay or injustice would be caused, the matter is already subject of a complaint by the same individual, the complaint does not disclose the name or address of the complainant and it is not reasonably practicable to ascertain these details, the complaint is vexatious, oppressive or an abuse of the complaint procedures or the complaint is repetitious.
Discontinuance of a complaint
In some cases the investigation of a complaint may be brought to an end before the investigation is concluded. This is referred to as a discontinuance. Such course of action may only take place if the complaint meets one of more of the following grounds; the complainant does not cooperate and it is not practicable to continue with the investigation, the complaint is suitable for local resolution, the complaint is vexatious, oppressive or an abuse of the complaint procedures or the complaint is repetitious.
Referral to the Independent Office for Police Conduct
Certain categories of serious complaints (for example those involving death or serious injury or serious allegations of corruption) will be referred to the IOPC to allow them to determine whether the complaint should be independently investigated, or whether the IOPC should manage or supervise any investigation or return the matter to Cheshire Constabulary’s Professional Standards Department to investigate.
Whichever route your complaint takes, you will be informed in writing of the outcome and be given information about your right to appeal if you are unhappy with the outcome.
How quickly will my complaint be resolved?
We cannot predict how long it will take to deal with your complaint fully, but we undertake to categorise, assess and record a complaint within ten days of it being reported.
If the complaint appears to be minor in nature, a senior officer or member of staff from the relevant Area or Department of the Force will be asked to speak to the complainant and the staff involved. This will hopefully enable the matter to be resolved locally. We aim to conclude this process within 28 days. We hope this simple approach will mean the complaint can be brought to a conclusion that is satisfactory to the complainant.
Some cases take more time to investigate than others and in some cases we have to refer a complaint to the Crown Prosecution Service (who are impartial in the matter and has responsibility for considering allegations against police personnel that amount to criminal conduct). We do, however, undertake to conclude our investigation and any subsequent proceedings over which we have control as soon as reasonably practicable.
Will complaining affect my other rights?
Making a complaint does not affect your rights to pursue civil litigation against the Force.
What action will be taken as a result of an investigation?
All members of the Constabulary are required to live up to nationally agreed standards of professional behaviour. Any breach of these standards of behaviour may result in disciplinary action.
Many less serious complaints can be resolved quickly by local supervisors and managers without the need for a full enquiry, with the remainder being dealt with by professional standards investigators.
At the conclusion of any investigation, a decision is taken as to whether any officer or member of staff has done anything wrong and, if so, what action should be taken. In serious cases concerning gross misconduct, this may involve a formal disciplinary hearing at which the person may be dismissed. In lesser cases of misconduct where a breach of professional standards is either admitted or found proven, a range of lesser disciplinary sanctions is available as a sufficient sanction.
Very serious matters will be referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) for investigation, who have their own non-police investigators. If you are dissatisfied with the investigation by Cheshire Constabulary then you can contact the IOPC. Cheshire Constabulary will always co-operate fully with the IOPC in such cases.
How do Cheshire Police learn from complaints?
The Constabulary uses the information gained from investigations into complaints to improve its service to the public. The Professional Standards Department liaises closely with local police commanders and department heads to provide them with feedback on individual officers and members of staff subject of complaint and trends in order to improve future performance and take any proactive steps to identify any early or ongoing problems.
Professional Standards Department staff attend meetings and seminars, and deliver training courses at all levels throughout the Constabulary to raise awareness of these issues and to ensure the lessons learnt are passed on to the widest possible audience.