Body worn cameras see drop in complaints against police

Thursday, 6 July 2017

OVER 200 complaints were received in the Derry City and Strabane Policing District last year about the conduct of police officers, newly-released figures have revealed.

According to the annual statistical bulletin for 2016/17 just released by the Police Ombudsman Office, a total of 204 complaints were made against local police.

Complaints ranged from accusations of incivility, failure in duty and oppressive behaviour by officers and/or 'designated civilians' within the PSNI.

Overall, Derry City and Strabane had a fall of 13 per cent in the numbers of complaints about officers across all three categories - the second largest decrease of the 11 policing districts.

The Ombudsman's report also highlighted that in the local policing area, complaints are at their lowest levels in the last five years.

However, they have not decreased year on year since 2013/14. In 2015/16, the district had two more complaints than the previous year.

Derry City and Strabane District Commander, Alan Hutton, has welcomed the reduction in complaints. The police chief said he believed the introduction of body worn cameras (BMV) is one of the contributing factors to the decrease.

In January last year, frontline officers in the Derry City and Strabane Policing District became the first to use the recording devices following a successful pilot scheme ran across four policing districts in 2014, including the old 'G' district, which evidenced the benefits of the devices.


"The news is very encouraging and it is good to finally see a reduction in failure in duty allegations," he told a meeting of the local Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP).

"All categories; complaints, allegations and the three main allegation categories have experienced reductions this financial year when compared with the previous. All categories are also at their lowest level since 2008."

The police chief described the overall complaints as "a really positive outcome" adding: "While it would not be appropriate to accredit any single reason for the reduction in complaints, police in Derry City and Strabane have continued to maximise use of Body Worn Video (BWV) in potential areas of conflict. We have implemented a complaints reduction strategy which has delivered results."

Across Northern Ireland, the number of complaints made by members of the public about police officers has fallen by eight per cent from the previous year, to fewer than 2,800.

Belfast City District received the largest number of complaints, around 740 complaints in 2016/17, accounting for 26 per cent of all complaints received.

It also had the largest decrease in complaints, where numbers fell by 19 per cent. All other districts had fewer than 240 complaints.

Around four out of 10 (41 per cent) complaints dealt with by the Police Ombudsman's Office were subject to a full investigation. In 22 per cent of these complaints the office found evidence to substantiate all or part of the complaint, or identified another concern during the investigation.

On 24 occasions during the year the Police Ombudsman recommended that the director of Public Prosecutions should prosecute an officer. This is more than in each of the four previous years.

The Police Ombudsman recommended on 261 occasions that a police officer should receive a discipline or 'performance' action. It also made 47 recommendations that police make changes to their existing policies.


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