Published Date: 18.03.2004
The Police Ombudsman's Office, the Police Federation, (the body which represents rank and file police officers) and the Superintendents Association of Northern Ireland have agreed to set up a joint Working Committee following results from the first ever survey of officers' attitudes to police complaints.
The survey was conducted among PSNI members a year ago by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency for the Police Ombudsman's Office.
The results of the survey suggest that officers have mixed views on the issue: it reported thatmost officers said they supported the concept of independent investigation of complaints and believe the Police Ombudsman's Office helps people have confidence in the police. However officers have concerns about the process.
A questionnaire was distributed to around 9,900 officers and almost 40% (some 3877) of them responded. Out of that 40% response, one third (1,300) had experience of the Police Ombudsman's Office.
The survey consisted of a series of questions to which officers were invited to rate how strongly they agreed or disagreed.
Officers showed support for the system of independent investigation of complaints against the police but have some concern about those members of the public who complain about the police.
· 58% of police officers think that complaints against officers should be independently investigated
· 41% of police officers think that the existence of an independent Police Ombudsman's Office will help increase people's confidence in the police
· 43% of police officers think that members of the PSNI should be able to complain to the Police Ombudsman about the conduct of other members rather than to their line management
· 70% of police officers thought that the Police Ombudsman's Office do not approach both the person making a complaint and the officer complained with an open mind
· 63% of police officers think that the Police Ombudsman's investigators are more likely to believe the person making the complaint than the officer being complained about is.
In Contrast, of the 1,300 police officers who had been in contact with the Police Ombudsman's Office many had a largely positive attitude to most stages of the investigation process:
· 64% of officers who had been in contact with the Police Ombudsman's Office said they were satisfied with the outcome of the investigation.
· 48% of officers who had been in contact with the Police Ombudsman's Office said they were satisfied with the way the Office had dealt with them during the investigation.
The survey also indicated the desire of many police officers to know more about the Police Ombudsman's Office:
· 67% of police officers said they would like to know more about the role, responsibilities and powers of the Police Ombudsman's Office
· 36% of police officers said they had a good knowledge of the role, responsibilities and powers of the Police Ombudsman. 36% said they had not.
The Police Ombudsman, Mrs. Nuala O'Loan, said she believes the joint Committee will herald a new chapter in the relationship between the bodies:
"Other research has shown that my Office has won the confidence of the general public: this survey shows that I have more work to do to win the confidence of police officers. It has provided a useful 'benchmark' for the task which lies ahead. I hope the Committee will help me reach out to officers and will help the communication between our organisations."
Police Federation Chairman Irwin Montgomery said his organisation is totally committed to the principle of independent investigation of complaints against police officers:
"We believe the survey illustrates that there is much still to do to win over the support of individual police officers for the present arrangements and we look forward to working with the Police Ombudsman's Office to achieve this."