Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC - formerly IPCC)
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IOPC Director General comments on Police Complaints Statistics report 2021/22

The Independent Office for Police Conduct today published its annual ‘Police Complaints Statistics’ report for England and Wales 2021/22.

Commenting on this year’s figures, IOPC Director General Michael Lockwood said: "These are the second set of annual complaint statistics to be published since significant changes were made to the police complaints system in February 2020.

“They provide a view of police complaints in England and Wales – identifying the volume and type of complaints being made and how police forces are dealing with them.

“It is important to remain cautious when comparing the figures from this year to previous years, as the statistics are experimental, meaning they are still in the testing phase and not yet fully developed.

“Notwithstanding that, there are notable increases in complaints from last year that indicate members of the public are increasingly willing to raise their concerns.

“The total volume of complaints rose by 11%. An increase that is likely linked to the simplifying of the system and the widening in definition of a complaint to “any expression of dissatisfaction”.

“The most commonly recorded complaint type related to delivery of duties and service. These often relate to service delivery complaints such as a lack of updates or delays in responses, rather than concerns around police misconduct.

“Meanwhile, the rise in the number of complaints resolved informally indicates more complaints are being sorted quickly, as the new system intended, with fewer complaints resulting in lengthy investigations. This is to be welcomed. In many cases these are being replaced with responses that are more proportionate with appropriate explanations and apologies. In fact, the number of cases where an explanation or apology was given to resolve a complaint doubled.

“There has also been a rise in the number of complaints that were investigated that led to misconduct proceedings (68 compared to 18 the year before), but the number remains a very low proportion (less than 1%) of all completed complaints. Only those complaints that are assessed as being subject to special procedures have misconduct proceedings as a potential outcome. Of the 33,602 complaints completed this year, only 451 were subject to special procedures, which in effect means those 68 cases account for 15% of cases where it was an available outcome.   

“More work is needed to fully embed new ways of working in all forces to ensure these reforms deliver a complaints system that is easy to access, less complex and more focused on resolution and learning.

“We will continue to work with police forces and others to improve the demographic data they collect for complainants and those complained about. We know that Black and Minority ethnic and young people have lower confidence in the police and this past year has seen incidents that have further undermined this confidence.

“For this reason, it is vitally important greater efforts are made to capture ethnicity data so we understand who is complaining. We have seen improvements across a number of forces but the changes are not as wholescale as we had hoped to see.

“Last year I was concerned very few cases resulted in learning for individuals, or the police forces concerned. Specifically, very few resulted in the use of reflective practice as an outcome. This year, the number of cases referred for reflective practice is still very low (3%).

“The introduction of the reflective practice review process (RPRP) was central to the reform of the complaints system. It is a process intended to provide an environment to encourage all those involved to reflect, learn and, where necessary, put things right to prevent issues reoccurring. This is something that complainants were strongly in support of. We will continue to work with police forces in this area and before the end of the calendar year we will publish a Focus Guidance issue on RPRP which will provide further examples to help them feel more confident in taking the process forward.

“It is disappointing to see no further action is still the most common outcome of formally recorded complaints, as we have run workshops focusing on this. However, we have seen a significant reduction and in many cases we found actions were taken by the force but were inaccurately recorded as no further action. We will continue to advise on this and hope to see further reductions next year.”

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