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Police Commissioner to have new role in Police complaints system

Merseyside's Police Commissioner is set to have a new role in the Police Complaints System.

THE Home Office has introduced legislation that will change how complaints made against the Police are handled, whilst also making changes to the discipline system for officers. The changes come into effect on 1 February 2020, and whilst complaints will continue to be dealt with by Merseyside Police's Professional Standards Department the Police and Crime Commissioner will take responsibility for complaints appeals, when a member of the public is not content with the outcome of their complaint. At the moment appeals are dealt with internally within the Force . From next month, all complaint reviews will be dealt with external to the Police Force   either by the PCC or by the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC). Police Force  s and the IOPC will also need to write to the PCC when any investigation has taken more than 12 months to explain the reason and set out how they plan to conclude the investigation. This will then be reviewed every 6 months. Legally Qualified Chairs, who are appointed by the Police Commissioner already to preside over serious Police misconduct hearings, will also be given greater powers to manage hearings more effectively. This includes:- greater flexibility to hold pre-hearing conferences to avoid issues potentially arising at the hearing which may lead to lengthy delays.

Jane said:- "These changes to the Police complaints and disciplinary system made by the Home Office are far reaching and complex and have required significant preparation and planning. Police Commissioners were brought in to improve oversight and transparency while providing a voice for communities on Policing. These changes provide some improvements, but there are risks too. There is a risk that public expectation is raised beyond what either the Police Force   or I can deliver. Resource are still very tight and sometimes decisions are made that disappoint some members of the public. It is crucially important that Merseyside Police, through their Local Policing Team and the Professional Standards Department respond quickly and efficiently where legitimate complaints about the level of service are made. To meet these new responsibilities I have appointed a Complaint Review Adjudicator who is due to join my office next week. This means my team has had to expand slightly, but this is necessary in order to maintain and continue the scrutiny required. It is vital our Police service has the highest standard of integrity at all times. This is essential for the maintenance of public confidence. Complaints must be resolved in the right way at the right time. I already have responsibility for assessing and resolving all complaints made against the Chief Constable. I also monitor complaints within the Force  very carefully through high level Force  Inspections meetings and through audit inspections. As a result, I have a high degree of confidence in the Force 's Professional Standards Department; a view endorsed by inspectors from HMICFRS. In those unfortunate cases where members of the public feel they have not been dealt with appropriately 1st time, proper recourse is essential."

Central to the reforms is the introduction of 'Reflective Practices,' bringing the Police in line with other services where minor mistakes are not punished but rather used as an opportunity to learn. In particular, the threshold for misconduct will be raised, with the aim of making the discipline system for low level wrong doing, in other words, behaviour which falls short of the expectations of both the public and the Police service, more proportionate and encourages a greater focus on reflection, learning and improvement.

By dealing with minor misconduct through 'reflective practices,' it is intended that less time is spent on unnecessary investigations, allowing Force s to focus on resolving significant complaints more quickly.

Jane added:- "The vast majority of officers serve the public to the highest standards and when minor mistakes are made it is only right an individual has the opportunity to learn from it, improve and develop, rather than being overly penalised for a low level error. This does not change the fact that very robust action will be taken, as it is now, when serious misconduct has taken place."

From February 1, the public will also be able to complain about the way a Police Force acts; not just an individual member of staff. The reforms will also give the IOPC increased powers to investigate incidents, without a referral from the Force, reinvestigate closed cases and investigate allegations against Chief Officers.

Find out more about the reforms to Police complaints and discipline process here.

Royal honour for Liverpool Childline volunteer

A lorry driver who volunteers with Childline says he is flattered to have been honoured by the Queen, and dedicated his award to his late Mother. Jeff Scholes was awarded the British Empire Medal in the Queen's Birthday Honours List:- "for services to young people and to charity."  Jeff, 49, from Widnes, is a lorry driver for the Co-op, and was born and raised in Warrington. He said his Mother was 1 of the reasons behind his volunteering. Jeff, who has volunteered for Childline for ten years, said:- "I lost my mum 2 years ago, and the very 1st thing I thought of when I found out I was being honoured was her and how proud she would have been. Her name was Sheila Scholes, and she lost her fight to cancer in late 2017. She inspired me to always help and put others 1st.  I work shifts so had spare time in the afternoons and wanted to give something back. Childline was mentioned in a book of volunteering opportunities I got from my local council, and that's how I got started."

Since starting with the team at Liverpool's Great Homer Street Childline centre, Jeff has spoken to thousands of children and young people and helped support them through their darkest hours and said every call left its own memory, but it was amazing to think he'd made a difference. Jeff found out he had been awarded the BEM back in May 2019, but while he managed to keep it a secret until the Queen's Birthday Honours list was announced in June 2019, he was not given his honour until an investiture at Tatton Hall, in November 2019.

Danielle Azanuwha is volunteer coordinator in Liverpool and said Jeff's dedication to Childline was inspirational. Danielle said:- "Everyone at the Liverpool centre is so proud of Jeff, and he really deserves every honour for the thousands of lives he's helped over his decade here at Childline. We're so grateful to Jeff and every one of our volunteers, but it's such a privilege to know that he's so well-respected that his work for charity, supporting children and young people around the UK from our base here in Liverpool has led to him receiving such a wonderful honour."

Jeff said the BEM was a wonderful surprise, but he had received other significant rewards in his time at Childline. He said:- "When you get a thank you from them at the end of a call that they may have been scared and reluctant to make, that's really something. Nothing beats the feeling that Childline have helped in some way. It was so far out of my comfort zone to even think about becoming a counsellor at 1st but the training given and the excellent team at the base have help make my time there one of my proudest achievements."

To find out more about volunteering with Childline or supporting the NSPCC, go to:- NSPCC.Org.UK for more information.

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