Compliments and complaints

If you’d like to say thanks or make a complaint we’d like to hear from you.

Your feedback helps to shape us

Policing is often carried out under difficult conditions. There may be times when you think we haven’t delivered the service you expect. Good or bad, your experience could help improve Policing across Northumberland and Tyne and Wear.

We are committed to preventing crime, protecting the vulnerable and helping those in need.

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If you’d like to say thanks or make a complaint we’d like to hear from you.

Get in touch using the online tool below.

       

How can I make a complaint against police?

You can make a complaint in the following ways

Or you can complain to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC)

Making a complaint FAQ

What can I complain about?

If you think you have been treated unfairly by the police or that the standard of service fell short of your expectations, you have a right as a member of the public to make a complaint. This can also be referred to as an ‘expression of dissatisfaction’.

Complaints can be made about general standards of policing, operational policies/procedures and individuals who work for Northumbria Police. This includes serving officers, members of police staff, contractors and volunteers.

You must have been directly affected by the issue you are complaining about. You cannot make a complaint if you have only heard about the actions of an officer, police staff member, contractor or volunteer by a 3rd party.  Similarly you cannot make a formal complaint if you have only viewed the actions via video or online post of an incident where you were not present.

If you wish to make a complaint on behalf of another person, you will need to have their written permission to do so.

Is there a time limit for making a complaint?

There is no time limit for making your complaint; however you should try to submit it as soon as possible.  If a complaint is made a long time after an incident, it can be more difficult to obtain evidence to investigate it further. This may affect the outcome of the investigation as many lines of enquiry such as CCTV or Body Worn Video are not retained after a certain length of time and may not be available to the investigator. It may not be possible, reasonable or proportionate to investigate complaints about officers or incidents where many years have passed as the persons involved may no longer be working with us and accounts or records may not be available. 

If your complaint is submitted more than 12 months after the incident you should provide an explanation as to why it has been delayed.  We will consider your explanation and consider if it is reasonable and proportionate to address your complaint.

What happens after I make a complaint?

Once we have received your complaint, we will work to address the issues you have raised. Within five working days you will be contacted by our Complaints Services Team in order to fully understand the context of your complaint and guide you through the process.

We have a responsibility to respond to your complaint in a ‘reasonable and proportionate’ manner; the team will seek clarity from you as to your expected outcome and will help to address your concerns where appropriate at the earliest opportunity. Where this is not possible, you can expect your complaint to be referred to our Professional Standards Department to be recorded in accordance with Schedule 3 of the Police Reform Act 2002.

The Professional Standards Department will review and assess your complaint to determine if it is reasonable or proportionate to investigate.

What happens if my complaint is investigated?

If your complaint is assessed and deemed suitable for investigation, the complaint will be allocated to an investigator. Serious conduct issues are allocated to the Professional Standards Department to investigate. Other complaints will be allocated to the most suitable investigator within the relevant force area.

You will be contacted by the investigator to discuss your complaint allegations to ensure that your concerns are understood. You will be contacted at least every 28 days with an update on the progress of your complaint.  At the conclusion of the investigation the investigator will provide you with an investigation outcome letter. The letter will outline the actions the investigator has undertaken to determine the outcome of your complaint.

The outcome of your complaint will determine the service provided to you by the police as being either acceptable, not acceptable or the investigator could not determine the level of service. The investigator will also provide some explanation or rationale for the complaint outcome.

If the level of service provided by the police has been unacceptable, the following actions may be taken with the officer or member of police staff.

  • Learning from Reflection. The officer or member of staff will be spoken to by their supervision to reflect on the learning raised by the complaint investigator.
  • Practice Requiring Improvement (PRI) – Reflective Practice Review Process (RPRP). The officer or member of police staff will have a formal discussion which is documented. During this discussion the behaviour or actions of the officer or member of police staff subject of the complaint, will be discussed and issues addressed. This may be by additional training, mentoring or any other method deemed suitable.
  • Misconduct Meeting - this is takes place when an individual is found to have a ‘Case to Answer’ for misconduct. The maximum disciplinary outcome is a final written warning.
  • Misconduct Hearing – This takes place when an individual is found to have a ‘Case to Answer’ for gross misconduct. The maximum disciplinary outcome is dismissal without notice.
  • Unsatisfactory Performance Procedure (UPP) – this may be invoked due to an officer’s inability or failure to perform their role to a satisfactory level where there is no evidence of misconduct.
  • The outcome of a complaint investigation may include non-disciplinary outcomes such as individual or organisational learning.

What happens if my complaint is deemed not reasonable to investigate?

There are many reasons why it may not be reasonable or proportionate to investigate your complaint, which may include:

  • Repetitious – your complaint is the same or similar to a previous complaint made by you and for which you have received a response
  • Process – the police complaints process may not be the correct one for dealing with your dissatisfaction. A more appropriate process may be better suited to your needs and you will be advised of the one to follow for your issue.
  • Not a valid complainant – You have not witnessed the alleged conduct of an officer or member of police staff or are not directly adversely affected by such conduct.
  • Vexatious – Your complaint has been made solely to vex, worry or annoy the officer or member of police staff and the allegation is without foundation.
  • Fanciful – Your complaint allegation is without foundation and no reasonable person would believe that such conduct or behavior has occurred.
  • Time – your allegation is with regards to an incident that occurred so long ago that it would not be reasonable or proportionate for a serving officer or member of staff to recall the events or due to the passage of time and there is no evidence reasonably available to support your allegation.

You will be notified of the assessment outcome at the earliest opportunity.

Will my complaint be referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC)?

By law, Northumbria Police must refer certain complaints to the IOPC, including those with an allegation of serious corruption or serious injury.

If your complaint is referred to the IOPC, you will be notified and the IOPC will decide who investigates the complaint. It may be investigated independently by the IOPC or it may be returned to Northumbria Police to investigate further.

Reviews

What is a review?

If at the conclusion of your complaint investigation, you are unhappy with the way your complaint was handled or with the final outcome you have a right to apply for a request for review.

The relevant review body will look at whether the handling or the outcome of your complaint was reasonable and proportionate. Reasonable and proportionate means doing what is appropriate in the circumstances, taking into account the facts and the context in which the complaint has been raised within the framework of legislation and guidance.

Some reviews are handled by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) and some by an Independent Review Officer (IRO) who is appointed by the local Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC). They are impartial and independent from Professional Standards Department; they have no prior knowledge of your complaint and have not been involved in the investigation.

To find out who should handle your request for review please refer to the letter you received from Professional Standards Department informing you of the outcome of your complaint. This will ensure that you send your review request to the correct organisation; your letter will also tell you when your review must be received by.

A review against an investigation

You can request a review against the investigation into your complaint if:

  • You feel you did not receive enough information to enable you to understand why Northumbria Police came to their decision.
  • You disagree with the findings of an investigation into your complaint. You might feel that the right witnesses were not interviewed, or that your complaint was misunderstood, or that Northumbria Police did not make the right decision based on all the evidence.
  • You disagree with the action that Northumbria Police plan to take after investigating your complaint.
  • You do not think that Northumbria Police made the right decision about whether an officer or staff member you complained about has a case to answer for misconduct, gross misconduct, or whether their performance was unsatisfactory.
  • You disagree with the decision not to refer the officer’s or staff member’s conduct to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for a decision about whether to bring criminal charges.

A review against the decision not to investigate your complaint

  • You can request a review against the decision made by the Force Assessor not to investigate your complaint on the grounds that it is not reasonable or proportionate.
  • You disagree with the rationale provided by the Force Assessor when making their decision

How do I submit my request for review?

Your outcome letter will provide you with details of the relevant review body. You have 28 days within which to lodge your request for review to either the OPCC or the IOPC.  You are advised to lodge your request for review in good time to ensure it reaches the correct review body before the end of the 28th day which will be provided in your outcome letter.                                                    

A request for review received outside of the 28th day may not be considered.

If you have been advised the relevant review body is the Office of the Police Crime Commissioner you can:

You can request a review to Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner online here.

You can submit your request for review by post to:

Director of Confidence, Standards and Statutory Reviews

Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner

2nd Floor Victory House

Balliol Business Park

Benton Lane

Newcastle upon Tyne

NE12 8EW

Alternatively attach your completed request for review form and return by e-mail to: enquiries@northumbria-pcc.gov.uk

If you require any further information please refer to the PCC website at: northumbira-pcc.gov.uk

If you have been advised the relevant review body is the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC)

You can request a review to Independent Office for Police Conduct online here.

Or you can request a form to be sent to you in the post, please contact the IOPC direct on 0300 020 0096.

You can submit your request for review by post to:

IOPC

PO Box 473

Sale

M33 OBW

Alternatively attach your completed request for review form and return by email to: NorthCasework@policeconduct.gov.uk

If you require any further information please refer the IOPC website at: www.policeconduct.gov.uk

Professional boundaries

Report corruption

The below number is the confidential reporting line for you to report ANY matters you wish to bring to the attention of the Counter Corruption Unit, regarding criminal and/ or unethical behaviour you have witnessed or are aware of within the Force.

Examples of the type of behaviour you may wish to report are:

  • Disclosing of confidential information
  • Criminal associations
  • Abuse of position for sexual gain

ANY reporting, will be handled in the strictest confidence and your identity will be protected.

Confidential Reporting Number

Police Integrity Line
Tel: 0800 111 4444
northumbria-confidential-hotline@northumbria.pnn.police.uk

or email: countercorruptionunit@northumbria.pnn.police.uk

Abuse of authority for a sexual purpose

The abuse of position for a sexual purpose is defined as:

'Any behaviour by a police officer or police staff member (including volunteers or staff contracted into police roles), whether on or off duty, that takes advantage of their position as a member of the police service to misuse their position, authority or powers in order to pursue a sexual or improper emotional relationship with any member of the public'.

This includes: committing a sexual act, initiating sexual contact with, or responding to any perceived sexually motivated behaviour from another person; entering into any communication that could be perceived as sexually motivated or lewd; or for any other sexual purpose.

The majority of police officers and police staff (including volunteers or staff contracted into police roles) are hardworking, professional and deliver an excellent service, however, sadly corruption of this kind does occurs in all forces and we all have a responsibility to prevent it and to protect all sections of the community, most notably the vulnerable.

People who are particularly vulnerable to such abuse include those suffering mental ill health, those with learning difficulties, juveniles, those who are drug or alcohol dependent, victims of abuse and victims of an alarming or traumatic experience.

Possible warning signs

  • The perception of an officer as a ‘knight in shining armour’. This might manifest itself as gushing praise.
  • Victim has a ‘favourite officer’ or frequently requests a certain officer
  • Unexpected visits/ welfare checks by the officer
  • Domestic abuse investigation is steered towards low level/ quick resolution
  • Physical contact
  • Flirtatious behaviour
  • Nicknames/ pet names
  • Unnecessary communication i.e. through social media/ phone/ email
  • Kisses on end of messages (‘x’) or other sexualised comments
  • Contact or visits off duty
  • Presents/ gifts/letters
  • Continued contact after an incident or case is concluded

Reporting options

  • Report via a third party agency (IOPC, Local Authority, Solicitor, Citizens Advice Bureau, other support agency or charity)
  • Report via the Police Confidential Reporting Line

The below number is the confidential reporting line for you to report ANY matters you wish to bring to the attention of the Police Counter Corruption Unit, regarding criminal and/ or unethical behaviour you have witnessed or are aware of within the Force.

Examples of the type of behaviour you may wish to report are disclosing of confidential information, criminal associations and abuse of position for sexual gain.

ANY reporting will be handled in the strictest confidence and your identity will be protected.

Confidential Reporting Number
Police Integrity Line
Tel: 0800 111 4444
northumbria-confidential-hotline@northumbria.pnn.police.uk

Police perpetrated domestic abuse

The majority of police officers, staff and volunteers are hardworking, professional and deliver an excellent service. However, some are sadly still capable of falling below the high standards set by the force. We have a responsibility to prevent domestic abuse, protect against the risks of having domestic abuse perpetrators in police roles, and to protect all sections of the community from it.

Some victims of domestic abuse at the hands of police officers, staff and volunteers may find it more difficult to report given the unique nature of it and position of the abuser. Northumbria Police will not tolerate its employees perpetrating abuse of any form and will ensure reports of domestic abuse will be investigated thoroughly, with impartiality and confidentiality, and appropriate support provided regardless of the position of the perpetrator. The position of the perpetrator should not be a barrier to reporting. Any allegation that a police workforce member has used their police status, knowledge and powers to deter a victim from reporting, to harm or discredit them or to undermine a police investigation will be treated with utmost seriousness. 

The definition of domestic abuse:

Domestic abuse is any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of sexuality.

It can include the following types of abuse:

  • Psychological
  • Physical
  • Sexual
  • Financial
  • Emotional

Domestic abuse can include harassment, stalking, female genital mutilation, forced marriage and honour based abuse.

If you are concerned that you or someone you know might be a victim of police perpetrated domestic abuse please speak to our Professional Standards Department:

Or you can complain to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC)

Confidential Reporting Number
Police Integrity Line
Tel: 0800 111 4444
northumbria-confidential-hotline@northumbria.pnn.police.uk

Read more information and support relating to domestic abuse.

Lessons learnt

Accessing data on the force computer system

Issue

Through organisational learning, reflective practice and misconduct meetings Northumbria Police revealed issues surrounding officers/ staff accessing data on the Force Computer System without a ‘policing purpose’.

Such actions may also constitute a criminal offence under Section 55 Data Protection Act 1998 and/ or Section 1 Computer Misuse Act 1990.

So that lessons can be learned, officers/ staff need to be aware that any confidential and personal information they access on the Force Computer System must be related to their role and/ or for a ‘policing purpose’. 

Failure to comply may result in individuals facing criminal prosecutions/ convictions at court and regulatory action against the Force undertaken by the Information Commissioner’s Office. 

To ensure that all officers and staff understand their personal responsibility when using Northumbria Police ICT Systems there is an Acceptable Use Policy which they are asked to read.

Lessons

Issues around confidentiality have been addressed during Professional Standards Department (PSD) presentations to all officers/ staff across the Force. An awareness of the impact/ outcome of any breaches is highlighted during these inputs. A Force Wide bulletin called ‘The Standard’ continues to raise awareness and learning. 

Outcomes

Reduce/ Prevent breaches of the Data Protection Act 1998/ Computer Misuse Act 1990 and the Professional Standards of Behaviour; Confidentiality.

Drunk and incapable

Issue

There was an increase in the number of persons brought unnecessarily into custody whilst heavily under the influence of alcohol, drugs and other intoxicants.

CCTV within custody suites has shown that these individuals have been:

  • Unable to either walk unaided or stand unaided and have been unaware of their own actions, or unable to fully understand what has been said to them.

Persons who present in this condition should be treated in hospital rather than taken to a custody suite. The medical services at a police station are not equipped to provide the extensive care such detainees require.

Where a police officer/ PCSO deals with a person who is drunk and incapable and/ or heavily under the influence of drugs or intoxicants they will:

  • Administer first aid where appropriate, in accordance with their training
  • Request the attendance of an ambulance to enable a medical assessment of the person to take place.

Where a person has declined or has been refused treatment this does not absolve the police or medical services of their responsibility. A dynamic risk assessment should be carried out taking into account all of the given circumstances. Officers should have an understanding of the drunk and incapable protocol between Northumbria Police and the North East Ambulance Service which will assist in the decision making process. 

However, arrest and detention at a custody suite should only occur in exceptional circumstances as appropriate medical treatment is delayed and increases the risk to all parties.

In instances where detainees are drunk/ under the influence of drugs but are not deemed to be ‘incapable’, officers need to be confident that the person is fit to be transported to a custody suite and monitor their condition throughout the journey.

It is important to understand that a person who presents as being drunk and disorderly may in fact have another medical condition. Further information can be found on the College of Policing APP Guidance on Detention and Custody: Alcohol and Drugs.

Any person with a head injury or open wound which requires medical attention should go directly to hospital for treatment.

Lessons

Amendments have been made to the Force Policy/ Procedure on drunk and incapable to bring them up to date. A lessons learned bulletin was circulated Force wide providing guidance on how to deal with persons who present in such a way. Further updates have been provided in ‘The Standard’ bulletin to ensure learning and development continues.

Outcomes

Medical attention provided to persons who present as drunk and incapable at the earliest opportunity. Prevent/ reduce the risk of deaths in custody.

Missing persons

Issue

Missing persons who have subsequently been found deceased in circumstances which have resulted in mandatory referrals to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) due to police contact. Concerns were identified around the risk assessments carried out either at the time the person(s) was reported missing or during the period prior to them being found. Other reflective learning identified the need to record clearly what areas had been searched. 

Lessons

A review of the training provided to Silver/ Bronze commanders was carried out, particularly around risk assessments. New policy documents for Silver commanders and police searched trained advisors (PolSa’s) have been issued to ensure decisions are recorded and that effective handovers are given regarding what areas have been searched. Further training has been provided and the Force procedure has been updated reflecting the need to identify the correct risk assessment after an incident has been created. A Force focus group has been introduced to ensure procedures and how we deal with missing persons reflects current organisational learning. The Force regularly reviews updates from the IOPC to reflect on learning across the country. 

Outcomes

The Force will continue to improve its response and handling of missing persons in line with its up to date procedures and learning.

Abuse of position for a sexual purpose

Issue

Officers/ staff using their professional position to establish or pursue a sexual or improper emotional relationship with any current or former victim, offender or witness, or using contact with them to pursue a relationship with someone close to them. 

The abuse of position for a sexual purpose is defined as:

"Any behaviour by a police officer or police staff member*, whether on or off duty, that takes advantage of their position as a member of the police service to misuse their position, authority or powers in order to pursue a sexual or improper emotional relationship with any member of the public."

This includes: committing a sexual act, initiating sexual contact with, or responding to any perceived sexually motivated behaviour from another person; entering into any communication that could be perceived as sexually motivated or lewd; or for any other sexual purpose. (*including volunteers or staff contracted into police roles)

The Standards of Professional Behaviour state that:

"We do not use our professional position to establish or pursue a sexual or improper emotional relationship with anyone with whom we come into contact with in the course of our work, who is vulnerable to an abuse of trust or power."

Lessons

Presentations/ briefings have been delivered by Professional Standards Department (PSD) staff to all officers/ staff across the force on Maintaining Professional Boundaries.

Presentations/ briefings have been delivered on the same issue by PSD staff to partners/ agencies. These issues and awareness are continually raised in ‘The Standard’.

Outcome

To prevent this serious form of corruption and highlight the importance of reporting any concerns/ suspicions in relation to colleagues. 

Performance

Misconduct outcomes and hearings

Northumbria Police demands the highest standards of professionalism, honesty and integrity from its officers and staff. Where those standards are not met, consideration may be given to instigating misconduct proceedings.

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