An Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) review has found significant failings in the way West Yorkshire along with two other large metropolitan police forces handle complaints of discrimination.
The findings embarrassingly show that generally complaints of discrimination made by members of the public, are poorly handled right from the beginning through to the end.
The IPCC examined 202 completed cases to determine how West Yorkshire, West Midlands and Greater Manchester police forces deal with allegations in relation to any kind of discrimination including race, disability and age. Three-quarters were race allegations.
Of 170 complaints from the public alleging discrimination only 94 were investigated and of those no discrimination allegations were upheld – yet overall the three forces uphold between 11 and 13% of complaint allegations from the public.
By contrast, over half of the 32 investigations into discrimination allegations raised by the police themselves were upheld.
The report found that there was insufficient training in diversity, and that this both results in complaints and means that they are not well handled.
Traditionally, complaints are dealt with by local officers, not specialist professional standards departments, and the quality of complaint handling at local level is clearly worse.
The report accentuates that a significant amount of training and support is needed to provide information, influence training and standards, and monitor outcomes.
IPCC Chair Dame Anne Owers said: "Our findings are stark.
"It is vital that police forces deal effectively with allegations of discrimination.
“For particular sections of the community, likely to be more distrustful of the police, or more vulnerable - or both, they are litmus test of confidence in policing as a whole and of the police’s understanding of the communities they serve.
"While we welcome the fact that officers are prepared to report and challenge their colleagues when it comes to discriminatory behaviour, allegations made by members of the public need to be handled equally seriously and dealt with effectively.”
The report makes a series of recommendations for improving the quality of investigations into discrimination allegations, on training for both frontline and complaint-handling police personnel, and on ensuring meaningful contact with complainants.
As well as reviewing case files, the IPCC will use the study to inform a review of its own guidance to all police forces in England and Wales on dealing with allegations of discriminatory behaviour later this year.