SOUTH Yorkshire Police has defended its handling of complaints as “robust” after being criticised by a watchdog.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission listed the force as one of four nationally which had taken longer last year to resolve allegations against itself every year for the past four years.
South Yorkshire received 607 complaints in 2016/7 — up five (one per cent) on the previous year — although the total number of allegations involved was down nine (one per cent) from 1,170 to 1,161.
Of 903 allegations finalised in 2016/7, just 61 per cent were resolved “locally” without further investigation, with 21 per cent leading to an investigation.
The average time to finalise complaint cases was 99 days.
Nineteen forces took longer to locally resolve allegations in 2016/17 than in 2015/16, including South Yorkshire.
Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts, said: “Over the last year, we have seen a small increase in the number of complaints made to the force at a time when the number of incidents we have dealt with has increased significantly.
“This figure includes complaints recorded last year but relating to events some years previously.
“I am confident that we have a robust complaints procedure in place, however we will always aim to learn from it and look at ways in which we can improve the service we provide.
“It is important that the complaints procedure — be it dealt with By South Yorkshire Police or the IPCC — is both thorough and transparent for the Public, but also efficient and fair to the officers complained about.”
The IPCC said forces across England and Wales remain inconsistent in their approach to handling complaints made by the public.
A total of that 34,103 complaints were recorded across the country in 2016/17, slightly down from last year.
But the watchdog said there was a great deal of variation between forces, both in the number of complaints and the way they are handled.
There will be significant changes to the police complaints system in 2018, including a greater role for police and crime commissioners, who will decide on appeals that do not go to the IPCC.
The IPCC has repeated its call for the system to be simplified, and for a consistent approach to complaints and complainants across forces.
IPCC Chair Dame Anne Owers said: “The current system is extremely complex and bureaucratic and this has led to some of the inconsistencies we have recorded year on year.
“It is also not sufficiently independent, since some dissatisfied complainants can only appeal to the force that rejected their complaint in the first place.
“While some local variation is unavoidable, it is clear that some forces need to look closely at their own performance and approach, where it is clearly at odds with the norm.
“The new system will be simpler and more flexible, and will also provide an independent appeal right for everyone, either to the IPCC or to a Police and Crime Commissioner.
“This is welcome, but we will still need to ensure that complainants throughout the country can be assured that their complaints will be handled appropriately and thoroughly.”