West Yorkshire Police have been criticised by the police watchdog for “poor” handling of discrimination complaints.

The force was one of three – along with West Midlands and Greater Manchester – accused of “significant” failings in the way it dealt with allegations of discrimination, in an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) report.

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”.

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

In West Yorkshire’s case, the report suggests the force’s officers are not reporting discriminatory behaviour to the same extent as West Midlands and Greater Manchester, which is described as a “cause for concern”.

The report also claimed that there were fewer instances of the force’s officers reporting colleagues for discriminatory behaviour or words.

Deputy Chief Constable Dee Collins rejected the report’s claim that the force did not have a good understanding of the communities it serves.

She said: “What matters most to us is that people who complain have the confidence to contact us, knowing we will deal with matters fairly and professionally.

“While we accept there are always areas for improvement and we really welcome the independent scrutiny of bodies like the IPCC, our current complaints system is undergoing significant improvement incorporating previous observations from the Crawford report as well as other feedback.

“We are very disappointed with the suggestion that we are ‘failing at every stage’.

“Furthermore, we refute the report's assertion that we ‘do not have a good understanding of the communities (we) serve’.

“It is not our experience, or what we hear from the communities where our Neighbourhood Policing Teams are firmly embedded and have an excellent relationship and a real focus on local issues.”

Mark Burns Williamson, the Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire, said: “The findings of this report are a cause for real concern and reflect some of the issues that have been raised with me when I have been out and about in our communities such as training, stop and search, hate crime and data integrity.

“I will be working with all our communities to make sure we get it right here in West Yorkshire and will seek assurances from the Chief Constable that everything is being done to address the issues that have been highlighted, to ensure that West Yorkshire Police give the best possible service to all our communities and to learn from the feedback they receive to make sure all our communities are safer and feel safer.”