Published Thursday, 19 June 2014
During a briefing on Thursday, members of the Policing Board's Performance Committee questioned senior PSNI officers on the cause of the 14% rise in complaints.
Before this period the number of complaints had been decreasing since 2009/10.
The committee heard from the Police Ombudsman's Office that 3,734 complaints and 6,089 allegations have been made against the PSNI in 2013/14 period.
The greatest proportion of claims surrounded failures in duty and there was also an increase in the number of complaints surrounding arrests.
Chair Jonathan Craig MLA said the committee was concerned by the significant rise.
"Detail provided shows that the highest number of allegations originate from District B which covers East and South Belfast and appear to originate from city centre arrests and complaints made via Musgrave Street Custody Suite," the DUP representative commented.
"It is also worth noting that four per cent of all the complaints received by the Office last year were about parades and demonstrations.
"Following concerns raised by the Policing Board about levels of incivility, the PSNI implemented a complaints reduction Strategy in 2010 which led to a decrease in the number of allegations in this area. However, the number of allegations of incivility has risen by 6% on the previous year."
The PSNI is one of the most accountable police services in the world and we expect our officers and staff to behave professionally, ethically and with the utmost integrity at all times. Any perception or allegation that we have fallen short of the high standards expected, is treated with the utmost seriousness.
PSNI Chief Superintendent Chris Noble
Mr Craig continued: "What concerns this Committee also is the significant increase in the number of complaints of oppressive behaviour which rose last year by 29%.
"While complaints indicate that people are engaging with the policing structures, it is vital that police officers ensure that they are consistently compliant with the code of ethics so that our community gets the best possible policing service which they can have confidence in. We expect nothing less of police officers and value the independent procedures in place to deal with complaints."
Chief Superintendent Chris Noble, Head of Professional Standards, said he outlined to the committee a number of factors which may account for the increase in the complaints and assured the board as to the PSNI strategy to reduce complaints.
"As a service we are committed to policing with the community and recognise the critical role the Ombudsman has in police accountability and increasing public confidence in the PSNI," he commented.
"An increase in complaints, whilst showing confidence in the complaints system, also gives the service cause to reflect, learn and improve on our engagement with the public and how we deliver our service."
He continued: "During the financial year of 2013/2014 police recorded and dealt with nearly half a million reports of incidents and whilst only a relatively small number of these interactions resulted in a complaint we are not complacent about the increase we have seen this year.
"Police in conjunction with the Ombudsman's Office, track and monitor complaints on a constant basis, analyse the reasons for such trends and respond as they arise. We also report to the Northern Ireland Policing Board to ensure they are fully briefed on complaint levels and trends and most importantly what the Police Service is doing to address them.
"Action is being taken to address the rise in complaints and we will be reporting back to the Policing Board."
© UTV News