My views on how to deal with complaints against the police have been aired several times in this newspaper and, at last, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
The legislation being brought before the legislators should hand overall oversight of dealing with complaints against the RCIPS to the Office of Complaints Commissioner and she should be given the additional resources to handle the increased workload.
However, there is one area that needs widespread consultation – around the seriousness of the complaints.
There should be three levels: The first level would be those matters so serious that they are actually investigated by the complaints commissioner – she might have in-house staff or use specific individuals brought in for the purpose. The second are those where the complaints commissioner actively manages the investigation but it is carried out by RCIPS staff.
The final level is where the complaints commissioner is notified of the complaint and to whom the complainant has a right of appeal, but the investigation is undertaken and managed by the RCIPS.
It must be for the complaints commissioner, after taking on board the views of the key stakeholders – RCIPS, government, civic leaders and the wider public – to decide on where the boundaries lie.
However, a word of caution. The complaints system in the UK is creaking under the burden. Not from an increased number of complaints but from the increase in vexatious complaints and while it may be reasonably easy to purge these, they do take up a significant amount of time as they do generate a large number of appeals that have to be fairly and transparently looked at.
I wish the legislators all good wishes in this enterprise and while members of the RCIPS may view this move with trepidation, can I assure them, they have nothing to fear from a robust and independent complaints system.