UK

Crime commissioners 'to hear police complaints'

Police officers Image copyright PA

The home secretary is proposing to strip police forces in England and Wales of the power to deal with public complaints made against their officers.

Theresa May has begun consulting on plans to allow directly-elected police and crime commissioners take charge.

The reforms could also increase protection for whistleblowers and let the College of Policing oversee the internal disciplinary system.

Plans to hold disciplinary hearings in public were unveiled earlier.

The Home Office says the changes aim to simplify the complaints system and make it more transparent.

Police and Crime Commissioners began their responsibilities in 41 areas, excluding London, after elections in November 2012.

The consultation also sets out new powers for the Independent Police Complaints Commission to strengthen its role as an independent oversight body.

Among the other proposed changes is the introduction a system of "super-complaints" to allow systemic issues in policing to be explored by consumer groups and other designated organisations.

A similar system is already used in financial markets.

The consultation, which runs until 5 February next year, will also look at the recommendations of an independent review of the police disciplinary system.

Retired Major General Clive "Chip" Chapman's review found the public did not have confidence in the police dealing with most complaints themselves.

The Home Office has already said it is looking to implement a number of its suggestions, including holding police disciplinary hearings in public in front of independent, legally-qualified panels.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mrs May said the consultation will allow people to share their experiences of the existing system

The number of complaints against the police rose from 22,898 in 2004-05 to 34,863 in 2013-14.

But in 2012-13, 89% of those dissatisfied with the police did not complain, a 2% rise on 2006-07.

Mrs May, said she hoped the public would share their views and experiences of the police complaints and disciplinary system.

"This government has always been clear that the vast majority of police officers do their job honestly and with integrity.

"But the good work of the majority threatens to be damaged by a continuing series of events and revelations relating to police misconduct.

"This consultation represents an important part of our radical programme of police reform."

Labour has called for the IPCC to be replaced "tougher, more robust" standards authority.

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