COMPLAINTS against police that founder because of a lack of supporting evidence could be easier to prove if changes being considered by an independent watchdog are implemented. The Independent Police Complaints Committee (IPCC) is seeking new ways to get tough with officers believed to have broken force rules but, because of a lack of independent witnesses, often escape punishment. Many of the complaints filed with the IPCC arise from one-on-one situations between officers and the public, making it difficult to find witnesses. Under the present system, these cases often fail because the complainant is unable to prove his case. In these situations the complaint is then registered as 'not proven', meaning the IPCC believes there is substance to the report but not enough to sustain the allegation. The IPCC wants to change the wording of the classification to put greater weight on an individual's complaint - a subtle, but important move designed to make police more accountable. The change is part of a significant overhaul of the police complaints system based on a recent review of current procedures. IPCC chairman Dennis Chang Khen-lee QC said the proposal was still being discussed but any boost to public confidence in the complaints system was worthy of their consideration. 'Obviously, the more serious the allegation, the greater must be the burden of proof. Obviously some charges are so serious that without absolute proof you would never dream of using this new system,' said Mr Chang. He said there had always been tension in cases where it was almost certainly believed that officers were in the wrong, but the complainant did not have the evidence to prove this was so. 'So we still feel these changes would be a good thing.' The proposals are now being circulated to senior police commanders, but there is unlikely to be strong opposition. The IPCC has long pushed for procedural reforms, the bulk of which have been ditched by the Government. These include the appointment of independent observers to the Complaints Against Police Office (CAPO) - the police-run body responsible for initial investigations into police wrongdoing. CAPO has often been accused of bias towards accused officers and the IPCC believes independent observers would help ensure the body was impartial. The IPCC has also pushed for the right to conduct investigations for serious matters. However, Security Branch maintains the changes to CAPO would further erode already poor morale. This year, the IPCC won the right to interview officers in select cases after some success in quizzing witnesses in cases already investigated by CAPO. About 25 per cent of complaints are thought to be avoidable. Last year, claims of misconduct fell from 4,812 to 4,148 but only 70 were substantiated. The latest IPCC annual report concluded that complaints alleging assault, impoliteness and neglect of duty represented 82 per cent of all claims.