THE number of complaints made against Cumbria Police has risen by more than 31 per cent in a year.

Allegations made by members of the public have gone up by 31.4 per cent over the 12 months to November 2013, with the main issue being ‘unprofessional conduct’.

“I think there’s an element of people being encouraged to speak out,” said Police and Crime Commissioner Richard Rhodes, whose office put together the report.

“But the constabulary accepts that if it doesn’t interact well with the public, then it’s going to make crime difficult to police by concensus.”

Throughout 2013 there were 397 allegations made against the force, compared to 302 the year before. These included 169 of ‘unprofessional conduct’, 67 of ‘oppressive behaviour’ and 62 of ‘incivility’.

The figures also reveal there have been two allegations of racially- discriminatory behaviour by the police. One was not upheld, and one remains under investigation.

In the south of the county, there were 96 alleged incidents, including 38 of ‘unprofessional conduct’, 18 of ‘oppressive behaviour’ and 18 of ‘incivility’.

Mr Rhodes admitted the incivility ‘concerned’ him, but said: “We should also be clear these are allegations and not proven cases.” The number of incidents spiked in March and again in July, although the cause is not made clear in the report.

Following its release, South Lakes MP Tim Farron said: “The Independent Police Complaints Commission has encouraged forces to record more complaints, and I hope that is what lies behind these figures,” he said. “I will be asking urgently if that is the case, or if there is a worrying underlying trend.”

However, he praised the force, adding: “The overwhelming number of people serving in our police service are dedicated and committed public servants. I cannot praise them enough, but when a complaint is made it’s vital it is looked into.”