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The best ways to complain about conduct of police

BY making a complaint to the Police Complaints Commissioner for Scotland (PCCS), Robert D Campbell (Letters, December 31) would be using one of the six regulatory bodies I referred to in my previous letter (December 29).

By way of expectation management, Mr Campbell should note that the PCCS staff includes a number of retired senior Strathclyde Police officers. The commissioner himself is a former member of one of the police authorities the PCCS is responsible for reviewing. One may therefore reasonably question the independence of the PCCS.

The good news is that complainants need not use the PCCS.

If Mr Campbell wishes to complain to an independent body about the conduct of Strathclyde Police officers, he might consider another perfectly valid route, which may lead to a payment of compensation (something the PCCS has no power to award).

The first stage is to lodge a complaint with the Professional Standards Department of Strathclyde Police. If dissatisfied with that internal review, the matter may be referred to the deputy chief constable, who has responsibility for complaints made against the force. In the event that redress is not forthcoming from the deputy chief constable, the matter may then be referred to the Strathclyde Police Authority (SPA), which reviews the performance of such senior officers. The SPA will then obtain all relevant data from Strathclyde Police. At that stage, the complainant might submit a subject access request to the SPA in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 to obtain full disclosure of all relevant data (precedent demonstrates that the SPA – a body of democratically elected persons – favours greater openness in such matters, as compared to the police force it regulates or the PCCS). On receipt of that data, the complainant, while awaiting the SPA's decision, will be able to make an informed choice as to whether the matter should be referred directly to the Crown Office (contrary to popular assumption, there is no need to make such a referral via the police, particularly if police personnel are the subject of the complaint).

Unfortunately, with the advent of a new single police force and the corresponding single police authority (not comprising elected persons), the SPA's role in holding its police force to account is now moribund.

Allan C Steele,

22 Forres Avenue,

Giffnock.

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