IF you make a complaint to Thames Valley Police, you may face one of the longest waits in the country to hear back from them.

That’s according to a new report detailing the way police forces across England and Wales handle complaints.

Thames Valley Police took the longest time out of 44 British police forces to log complaints at an average of 17 days.

The average time was six working days.

And the force typically took 22 days to get back in touch with the complainant, the second highest number of days behind West Midlands Police (24 days).

The report also reveals that only two per cent (50 out of 3,110) of schedule 3 complaints (which are allegations deemed serious enough to be handled formally) were investigated by TVP in 2020/2021 -- the joint lowest in the UK.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct conducted the research, which showed:

  • Thames Valley Police took the longest time out of any police force (17 days) to log a complaint, and the second longest (22) days to contact the complainant
  • 4,181 allegations lodged against TVP in 2020/21
  • Of these allegations, 3,110 were recorded as complaints under Schedule 3.
  • The majority of these complaints (2,004) were made about TVP’s service, with another 814 relating to police policy and procedure.
  • 187 times police were complained about due to discriminatory behaviour and 28 complaints related to police corruption
  • Three complaints were about officer’s sexual conduct and 31 allegations were made about ‘discreditable behaviour’
  • More than 3,000 schedule 3 complaints were not investigated with just 50 investigated (2 per cent)
  • TVP recorded 338 complaints per 1,000 employees -- the England and Wales average was 290.
  • Two complaints were deemed necessary to be reviewed by the IOPC

A Thames Valley Police spokesperson said: "Thames Valley Police is determined to work tirelessly to protect the communities of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire.

"However, we understand the effect of recent events on trust in policing. Public confidence in our officers and staff is of the utmost importance to us and we take all complaints extremely seriously.

"We have robust processes in place to identify and investigate when standards have fallen below our expectations.

"Complaints are investigated by our Professional Standards Department. Disciplinary action will be taken where required and where appropriate, officers or staff members will be dismissed from the force.

"In these cases, officers and staff will be placed on a national barred list preventing them from working in policing ever again. We also make referrals to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) when necessary.

"Communities in the Thames Valley should feel reassured that we hold all our officers and staff to the highest possible standards at all times."

These are the first complaints statistics to be published since moving to a new system of recording complaints, under new regulations within the Policing and Crime Act, which came into force in February 2020.

According to IOPC, ‘these changes were designed to achieve a simpler, more proportionate and customer-focused complaints system focusing on learning and improvement.’

An advisory note from the IOPC read: "Given the significant changes to how complaints are recorded and handled by police forces in the last year, more time is needed to ensure the consistency and completeness of this data. Therefore, these figures are what the Office of National Statistics defines as ‘experimental statistics’ - they are in the testing phase and not yet fully developed."

The first stage of complaint handling is for the relevant police force or local policing body to decide how it will handle the complaint.

The reforms allow for certain types of complaints to be resolved informally, while also allowing more flexibility in the handling of formal complaints.

This allows the police to better meet the needs of the complainant, and quickly make improvements based on the complaints they handle.

Have you experienced a delay in hearing back from Thames Valley Police about a complaint? Let us know by emailing oliver.sirrell@newsquest.co.uk