Complaints, investigations and misconduct in policing: implementation progress report
Fifth thematic progress report following publication of the independent review of complaints, investigations and misconduct in policing in Scotland, setting out implementation progress with details of the status and lead responsibility for each recommendation.
Recommendations Signed Off as Completed
Since the last thematic progress report was published in December 2022, a further 3 non‑legislative recommendations were approved by the Ministerial Group as completed:
R68 Strategic Oversight Group or National Complaint Handling Development Group to engage with SPSO.
R69 Amendment to Letter of Rights to clarify general rights and right to complain for detainees in custody.
PR27 All audit arrangements, including regular dip-sampling to be priorities and co-ordinated to improve standards and service to the public.
A table illustrating all of the non-legislative recommendations now signed off by the Ministerial Group as completed is shown in Annex A. Consistent with previous thematic progress reports, the recommendations have been organised by theme and include details of the lead partner, as well as date of completion. The table shows a total number of 58 non-legislative recommendations now completed, leaving only 10 still in progress.
Some recommendations will take longer to implement. For example, recent upgrades to the Centurion database require testing to ensure new systems for collection of diversity data are reliable and training plans need to be developed so that staff using the systems have the appropriate skills. Others are more complex, involving several different partners from across the public sector and requiring multiple phases of work to be completed before reaching conclusion.
The table also includes 2 recommendations which Scottish Government will continue to keep under review (R43 and R75) and 2recommendations that stretch beyond policing, such as those relating to NHS mental health provision (R72) and civil law (R76). These recommendations will, therefore, continue to be progressed by Scottish Government but will no longer feature in thematic progress reports.
A high-level summary of the overall progress made within each of the themes is given below.
Theme 1: Rights and Ethics
Protecting and respecting fundamental human rights is at the heart of the justice system in Scotland and are central to the framework and systems for police complaints handling, investigations and misconduct. Indeed, rights and ethics are themes that emerge throughout the entirety of Dame Elish Angiolini's Independent Review and significant progress has been made to deliver these recommendations.
New structures and arrangements to strengthen cross-agency liaison, scrutiny and accountability (R4) have been implemented. Revised Post Incident Procedures were also developed and successfully deployed by Police Scotland, in consultation with PIRC and COPFS ensuring the integrity of independent investigations of serious incidents involving the police (R3).
Joint working by COPFS, PIRC and Police Scotland led to successful introduction of a revised approach to assessment and investigation of alleged breaches of Article 3 (prohibition of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) and/or Article 5 (the right to liberty and security of person) where all such cases are referred to PIRC (R47) who will also conduct audits of triage within PSD of public complaints against the police to ensure that allegations of criminality and breaches of Article 5 are correctly identified and reported (R42).
Scottish Government, in consultation with partners, also developed new Easy Read and Children and Young People's versions of the Letter of Rights to clarify general rights and the right to complain for detainees in custody (R69).
One remaining non legislative recommendation in this theme relating to SPA's development of an Ethical Oversight Framework (R32) is anticipated to be fully completed in the coming months.
Theme 2: Jurisdiction and Powers
As we have reported previously, all recommendations within this theme are likely to require either primary or secondary legislation to fully implement – with the exception of one which we will keep under review – and reporting on this theme has, therefore, been limited.
Theme 3: Governance and Accountability
Whilst many of the recommendations in this theme require legislation to implement, the PIRC has made changes to staffing structures. They have strengthened their leadership and scrutiny function through increasing legal capacity and appointing new members to its Audit and Accountability Committee.
Joint working between SPA, Police Scotland and PIRC has resulted in improved content and public reporting to SPA's Complaints and Conduct Committee (R29 and R79). Reporting now includes KPIs, timeliness and 5-year trends analysis (R4, R45 and R78); as well as annual assessment and publication of whether or not the Chief Constable has suitable complaint handling arrangements in place (R59).
Police Scotland has also redesigned the Local Commanders' Report to improve the information provided to local authorities (R33) providing further support to the role of Local Scrutiny Committees in considering complaints handling within local areas.
The two recommendations still in progress (R29 and R79) are on track for completion in the summer and, if approved by the Ministerial Group will, at that point, see all non-legislative recommendations within this theme completed.
Theme 4: Transparency and Accessibility
All of the recommendations grouped under this theme are non-statutory and were reported as completed in June 2022.
The progress made was the result of collaborative working by partners to ensure that information on the complaints system and processes are transparent and accessible and clearly communicated to members of the public.
The PIRC's website has been updated to clarify the role of SPSO in handling complaints about PIRC (R36), particularly if an individual is dissatisfied with how their complaint has been handled. Improvements have also been made to the SPA website so that the role of the SPA's Complaints and Conduct Committee is more prominent, and its activity is now reported on via SPA's Annual Report and Accounts (R30 and 31). SPA's complaints handling page now provides further clarity about the complaints handling process, including an online complaints form which incorporates equality and diversity monitoring, as well as guidance to complainers on the types of complaints within and out with SPA's remit.
Since December 2021, COPFS has published additional easily accessible guidance on their website explaining the option of making a complaint against an off-duty police officer directly to COPFS (R46) rather than Police Scotland. The signposting of the option for reporting directly to COPFS is now also included in the websites, and other publications, published by other partner investigating agencies (Police Scotland, SPA and PIRC).
The completion of all recommendations within this theme ensures that information on the complaints system and processes are easier for everyone to access and understand.
Theme 5: Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
Throughout her report, Dame Elish emphasised the crucial importance of living up to professional standards and that achieving this depends to a large degree on the culture that exists across the service.
Since publication of Dame Elish's final report, Police Scotland has established and is delivering a substantial programme of work aimed at transforming its culture, enhancing recruitment, leadership and training to develop a culture which reflects its values of integrity, fairness, respect and commitment to upholding human rights.
Almost all of the recommendations within this theme have now been signed off as completed which reinforces Police Scotland's determination to eliminate discrimination which is critical to ensuring we have a fair and equal justice system. This includes the establishment of a Sex, Equality and Tackling Misogyny Working Group and the Policing Together strategy to embed equality and inclusion and become an actively anti-racist organisation (R15 and R17). The Policing Together Strategy brings together various initiatives within Police Scotland under this one umbrella with the ultimate goal of improving equality, diversity, inclusion and human rights – tackling racism, sexism and misogyny and becoming an actively anti-racist organisation. A new Assistant Chief Constable has been appointed to lead implementation of this significant portfolio of work.
To further support this strategic aim, the Chief Constable has established a standing Independent Review Group (IRG) to provide critical oversight of equality matters, guide strategic direction and scrutinise activity across 3 main themes: Culture, Strategic Direction and Training and Development. It will deliver a report to the Scottish Police Authority by the end of 2023 (R18).
A suite of new and revised training products and guidance has also been developed by Police Scotland, SPA and PIRC to enhance workforce capability in number of key areas, including complaint handling and resolution; law of evidence; supporting individuals with mental health trauma; and unconscious bias (R17, R44 and R66).
Four recommendations (R5, R18, R19 and R60) are currently still in progress within this theme, three of which encompass work by Police Scotland and SPA, to collect and publish diversity data to facilitate better analysis and understanding of issues relating to discrimination (R5, R19 and R60). The Centurion database which captures this data is currently undergoing an upgrade. This is being supported by a training programme to ensure staff using the database have the necessary knowledge and skills to fully deliver on these recommendations. It is anticipated that these recommendations, together with R18 will be considered for sign off as completed once the IRG has presented its report to the SPA Board towards the end of 2023.
Theme 6: Conduct and Standards
Dame Elish set out a framework that strengthens the investigation of misconduct by police officers and most of the recommendations that underpin that framework will require either primary or secondary legislation to fully implement.
In advance of legislation, the SPA took steps to improve its Guidance on Senior Officer Conduct Regulations (R26), including the preliminary assessment process and consideration of alternative options other than suspension of officers (PR18). This also took account of points such as anonymity and potential vexatious basis of complaints. Revisions also addressed prioritisation of complaints against senior officers (PR16) ensuring that timeliness is reinforced throughout the guidance. The revised guidance is now available on the SPA website.
Theme 7: Training and HR
Progress under this theme illustrates the importance policing partners have placed on the need for training and reviewing working practices to improve the experiences of those engaging with the police complaints, investigations and misconduct systems.
A strategic workforce planning needs analysis exercise undertaken by PSD has examined the composition of the workforce and the resourcing requirements of PSD in the area of complaint handling. As a result, PSD now has more officers at constable and sergeant rank and has dedicated, experienced staff to progress all complaints (PR3). Police Scotland has also established an Operational Priorities, Capacities and Resilience group (OPCR) and Resource Prioritisation Group (RPG) which will ensure that the allocation of resources is managed appropriately and that no area is disproportionately impacted as a result of any change in resourcing and experience.
A suite of training packages has been developed by Police Scotland, PIRC and SPA, based on skills analysis, to ensure that all officers and staff involved in the complaints handling process have the appropriate skills and expertise required. The training packages range from a comprehensive 5-day induction for new PSD officers (R6) jointly developed by Police Scotland, COPFS and the Scottish Police Federation and training material developed jointly by Police Scotland and PIRC which is designed to embed learning from thematic analysis of complaints. SPA has also implemented a comprehensive programme of training and development (PR17) for its own Complaints Handling Team.
Police Scotland also now provides training on engaging with individuals displaying mental ill‑health symptoms or related behaviours (R67) which is delivered to all new uniformed sergeants. They have also appointed a training coordinator in National Support, Partnerships and Prevention Unit (NSPPU) with responsibility for coordinating training across PSD business areas (R62).
In addition, PIRC has actively ensured that its recruitment practices are focused heavily on assessing the skills the business requires at the point of a vacancy being created and work has been embedded to develop the PIRC Skills Matrix, which generates the production of specific skills profiles for each role in the organisation (PR24).
The recommendations delivered within this theme represent a significant body of work to develop new and improved induction and other training packages for all officers and staff involved in the complaints handling process. Only one recommendation remains in progress (R11) which asks Police Scotland to consider front line sergeant workload and supervisory ratio of sergeants to constables. Given the complexity of this recommendation, it will take longer to fully address.
Theme 8: Efficiency and Effectiveness
Dame Elish identified a number of areas where greater efficiency and effectiveness could improve the complaints process and elements of these feature in many of the recommendations, with learning for all partners.
Almost all of the recommendations within this theme can be implemented without legislation and the work progressed by partners to address these recommendations has now been approved for sign off as completed. Highlights of the progress made are included below.
As noted earlier in the report, one of the most significant changes to the system of police complaints resulting from Dame Elish's review is the development and roll out of a new operating model for complaint handling within Police Scotland, whereby all complaints are managed by dedicated teams within the Professional Standards Department, supported by a revised process to improve early resolution and consistent service delivery (R9).
PIRC also updated its Statutory Guidance which now clarifies timescales for the submission of complaints (R80) by the public and includes discretion for Police Scotland to discount complaints that are more than 12 months after the event if they satisfy the specified criteria. This links closely with recommendations within theme 4 which are aimed at ensuring information on the complaints system and processes are transparent and accessible and clearly communicated to members of the public.
Dame Elish's observations regarding NHS accident and emergency facilities in relation to mental health care and acute crises (R72) extend beyond policing and, therefore, does not sit within these governance and reporting structures. However, given the Scottish Government's ongoing commitment to improving mental health services in Scotland, we have provided substantial progress updates in all four previous thematic reports.
Theme 9: Audit and Review
Most of the recommendations within this theme have been signed off as completed, with only two still in progress (R7) and (R71) and one which Scottish Government will continue to keep under review (R75).
Partners took early action to implement these recommendations as quickly as possible and have continued that commitment to ensuring the benefits of audit and review in improving services and increasing public confidence in the police complaints and misconduct system are realised.
PIRC now conducts annual audit of triage within PSD of public complaints against the police to ensure matters are properly identified and routed, and to provide assurance that Article 3 and Article 5 cases are correctly identified and reported to COPFS (R42). The first audit took place in 2022 and PIRC will also be producing an annual audit programme. SPA will also conduct regular dip sampling which is designed to identify poor and good practice and emerging trends to support the common objective of improving standards and service to the public.
In addition, Police Scotland has, with input from Audit Scotland, now developed an audit methodology for complaint handling (R61) which involves a fully comprehensive audit of all complaint categories, featuring controls which measure the life cycle of a complaint. This provides a complete oversight of the six stage complaint handling process demonstrating an ongoing commitment to monitor and track all types of complaints against the Police received by Police Scotland.
As reported above, work is continuing on delivery of a further two recommendations within this theme - (R7) and (R71). Although the partners involved and aims of these recommendations are different, both recommendations are dependent on a number of other actions being concluded which will then allow work to progress further. It is anticipated that these recommendations will be further advanced by autumn after which they can then be then be considered for sign off as completed.
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