Police Officer's attitude to complaints system is improving: survey

Published Date: 24.07.2008

The attitude of police officers to the Police Ombudsman's Office has improved slightly in recent years, according to a research report which has just been published.

An independent survey of the attitudes of police officers here to the complaints system has been carried out by the Social and Market Strategic Research organisation for the Police Ombudsman's Office.

Its findings are based on responses from more than 2300 officers and show a more positive attitude to the Police Ombudsman's Office than a similar survey held five years ago.

The latest survey indicates that officers in general are reserving their judgment on many aspects of the police complaints system, while those who have actually been subject of complaint show no such reservations.

According to the survey, a majority of officers - 67% - believed the public should have the right to have their complaints against the police independently investigated. This is increase of 11% in those that took this view during the survey in 2003.

More significantly, a majority - 45%- thought that the existence of the Office helps contribute to good policing. In the earlier survey only 22% took this view. (36% had mixed views on this and 18% disagreed.)

Yet not all officers were convinced of the benefits of the system. Of those officers who felt that having a complaint against them would have an affect on their performance, 83% said they suspected it would prevent them from doing a better job.

The survey also indicated that when contemplating the possibility of an investigation of their conduct, a small majority of officers - 49% - said they were not confident that the Police Ombudsman's Office was impartial. (42 % thought that it was.) 48% of respondents said they thought the Police Ombudsman investigators would be biased in favour of the person making the complaint (33% had mixed views on this and 18% disagreed.)

These views changed starkly when police officers who had actually been the subject of a Police Ombudsman investigation responded: 79% said they were confident that the investigation had been impartial while 21% believed it had not been.

Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson said he both welcomed the results of the survey and found them challenging. He said he was pleased to note that overall judgements of the job done by his Office were more likely to be positive than negative, albeit not markedly so:

"What is challenging is that the officers are saying that they support independent investigation but also have a perception that we may be biased against them. This is not the case - and the officers who have been subject to investigation are saying so very clearly. Our message must not be getting out to the general police audience and we obviously have more work to do in this area," he said.

The full survey is available on the Police Ombudsman website: www. policeombudsman.org

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