Most people who complained about police have no party politics: survey

Published Date: 09.07.2015

Most of the people who made complaints about the conduct of police officers in Northern Ireland last year do not align themselves to any of the main political parties here.

This is one of the pieces of information contained in a number of end of year survey reports which have been published by the Police Ombudsman’s Office alongside its Annual Report. The different surveys looked at attitudes of the general public, complainants and police officers to the police complaints system.  

As part of its legal obligation to promote equality of opportunity, each year the Office surveys those who used its services. The latest figures, published in an Equality Monitoring Report 2014/15, indicate that 52% of respondents said the phrase ‘no political party’ best represented their political opinion.  More than one fifth (21%) indicated that they supported a Unionist party and 16% selected a Nationalist party.

According to the Report, 46% of people who made a complaint about police (and who responded to the survey) were from the Protestant community, 38% were from the Catholic community and 16% said they were from neither.

The Office has also published a report arising from survey of public attitudes carried out by the Northern Ireland Research Agency earlier this year. It indicated that almost 90% of respondents were aware of the Police Ombudsman’s Office and more than 80% felt it would threat them fairly.

It has also published a report on school pupils’ awareness of the police complaints system, drawn from responses to the Northern Ireland Young Persons’ Behaviour and Attitudes Survey.  The report indicated that 43% of Year 12 pupils were aware of the Office: 

Over 80% of respondents said staff had been patient and professional.

In a survey of people who have had complaints dealt with by the Police Ombudsman’s Office in 2014/5, more than 80% of respondents said staff had been patient and professional with them.  50% said they were satisfied with the overall service.  More than 40% said they were not satisfied.

Police officers who had been subject of a complaint were also surveyed.  More than 90% of respondents said Police Ombudsman staff treated them with respect.  48% also said they were satisfied with how the Office handled the complaint and 25% said they were dissatisfied.

The Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, has welcomed the main findings from these surveys:

“It is clear the public are aware of the service we provide and know we will treat them fairly. It is also reassuring to know that people from both sides of the political divide would appear to have no hesitation in using our services if they need to.

I am pleased that most of the people who had their complaints dealt with by us last year and most of the police officers who were the subject of those complaints both had positive things to say about our staff and had similar levels of satisfaction with our processes.

I am also very conscious that we have more work to do in making young people aware of the police complaints system, but the figures would suggest that we have begun to make inroads,” he said.

Office dealt with more than 3,300 complaints during 2014-15.

Last month the Office released figures which showed that during 2014-2015 it received more than 3,300 complaints. On 380 occasions it recommended that PSNI officers be disciplined, which was an increase of 150 on the previous year.

It also made more than 60 recommendations during the period for change to PSNI policy or procedures in areas such as the safety of police custody suites, the use of police vehicles and the policing of public unrest.

The publications referred to are now available on the Police Ombudsman website:

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