GREATER Manchester Police (GMP) is among three forces criticised by the police watchdog for "poor" handling of discrimination complaints.

The West Midlands, Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire forces are accused of "significant" failings in the way they dealt with allegations of discrimination, an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) report says.

The IPCC said the criticisms applied in particular to discrimination complaints brought by members of the public, which it said were "poorly handled from beginning to end".

Det Ch Supt Paul Rumney, head of GMP’s professional standards branch, said the report was a “clear cause for concern”.

Too many complaints about discrimination from the public were resolved locally — without a formal investigation — when it was not appropriate to do so, the report found.

The quality of the local resolutions was also poorer than that of formal investigations, it added.

Of 170 complaints from the public — out of 202 complaints in total examined by the IPCC alleging discrimination — 94 were investigated and, of those, no discrimination allegations were upheld, it said.

Yet overall, the three forces upheld between 11 per cent and 13 per cent of complaint allegations from the public, the report stated.

By contrast, more than half of the 32 investigations into discrimination allegations studied by the watchdog which had been raised by the police themselves were upheld, the watchdog found.

The IPCC said allegations of discrimination were "serious matters" and local resolution of such complaints was "unlikely" to be appropriate for most cases.

The report found 60 per cent of local resolutions and 44 per cent of investigations did not meet basic standards, and this rose to two-thirds and a half in cases that were handled at local level, rather than by professional standards departments.

A lack of up-to-date training in diversity issues lay behind many of the complaints, the report said.

"The police in these force areas do not appear to have a good understanding of the diverse communities they serve," it said.

A "significant" proportion of the complaints the report sampled were against the roads policing division with street stops generating the next largest category of complaints.

The IPCC said 173, or 78 per cent, of 223 allegations within the 202 cases examined were about race.

Its remit had been to look into the way the three forces dealt with allegations in relation to any kind of discrimination including race, disability, age, gender and sexual orientation.

From the details that were recorded, most complainants were male, Asian, and aged between 26 and 35 years old.

In 48 of the 170 complaints, no ethnicity was recorded and in 46 cases the complainant's age was not noted.

The report will be used to inform a full review of IPCC guidance on dealing with allegations of discriminatory behaviour later this year.

Dame Anne Owers, chairman of the IPCC, said: "Our findings are stark - generally complaints of discrimination made by members of the public are poorly handled from beginning to end — in relation to the way the complaint is investigated, the conclusions drawn and, importantly, the contact with the complainant.

"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 a litmus test of confidence in policing as a whole and of the police's understanding of the communities they serve.”

Det Ch Supt Rumney said: "The IPCC report is a clear cause for concern and I welcome the scrutiny placed on this important issue.

“The current system focuses on whether the behaviour that resulted in the complaint can be proven to have happened, and in a vast majority of cases it simply comes down to one word against another, meaning many cases cannot be substantiated.

"That is why change and improvement must be made and that is why most of the recommendations within the report have already been implemented by Greater Manchester Police and our action plan will be shared with the IPCC.”