Can I Make a Complaint About Police?
The police are there to serve and protect members of the public. However, there may be occasions where the police mishandle something, you believe that they have done you a disservice or perhaps you feel that your case was not processed as it should have been. If any of these situations apply, you are within your rights to make a formal complaint.
Making a complaint against the police is not an easy decision. However, the information that you provide in the complaint can be an effective learning tool for the police to improve the way they handle cases and how they can better serve the public. It also ensures that your case is thoroughly reviewed. If a police complaint is upheld, you may be entitled to some compensation.
Making a Complaint About Police
There are many reasons why you may wish to make a complaint against the police. If you believe that they did not act in line with their duty or the level of service you received fell significantly below the standards that you expect in reasonable circumstances you may be able to make a complaint. Acceptable circumstances would include any of the following:
- Inappropriate behaviour – By a member of the police staff, an officer, PCSO or volunteer police officer. Inappropriate behaviour can include many things from rudeness or being too friendly. You can also make a complaint if you witness inappropriate behaviour from any member of the police force.
- Adverse results – The way that you were treated by the police resulted in you suffering from an adverse result. This can also apply to a situation where the police attended an incident but you were not involved but were impacted by the results.
- Operations – You are able to make a complaint about how the police force operates or in relation to policing standards and how they are managed.
The Complaints Process
Provided that you have a valid reason for making a complaint, the first step to take is to contact the police force involved. Each police force will have a department responsible for dealing with complaints, so check the local police force website or call them to find out who to address the complaint to and how to contact the department.
Depending on the nature of the complaint, it may be referred to the Independent Office For Police Conduct. This is where the most serious complaints will be dealt with. That said, you are able to direct your complaint to this office in the first instance without contacting the local force. If the complaint is not a serious one, the office will refer it back to the local police force to deal with.
When it comes to making a complaint against the police, there are no time limits like there are on legal cases. However, you are encouraged to submit your complaint as soon as possible after the event or conduct in question. If too much time elapses between the incident and the complaint, it can cause problems when gathering information, collecting statements and recalling what happened.
A local police force or the Independent Office for Police Conduct may decide to discontinue a complaint if it is made more than 12 months from the incident. If there is a particularly long delay between the incident and submitting your complaint, it is strongly recommended that you provide an explanation in your complaint to indicate why there has been such a delay. This explanation will be considered upon receipt of your complaint and the police will determine whether to continue with investigating your complaint through their agreed complaints process.
When your complaint is submitted to the relevant police complaints department, every police force are expected to take complaints seriously and handle them in a professional manner. The police have a legal obligation to review your complaint and provide a fair and balanced response. The ultimate goal of the complaints process is to right any wrongs.
The complaint that you submit should always be made in writing whether this is by letter delivered by post or by email delivered electronically. Although you can make a verbal complaint at a local police station, this is not recommended. It is much easier and more effective to establish a paper trail of your complaint to ensure that everything is properly documented. When providing information about the nature of your complaint, try to provide as much detail as you can such as times, dates, who was involved, what happened and so on. This will add more weight to the content of your complaint and ensure that it can be properly investigated.
Complaints Process Decision
Once your complaint has been received and reviewed by the police, a decision will be reached as to whether the complaint will be formally recorded and escalated further. It is usual that complaints are answered within 15 working days. If after the review it is decided that the complaint will not be recorded, the police will provide reasons for their decision and options on the appeals process. If the complaint is recorded and upheld the police force will do one of two things. They will either determine whether they will handle the complaint themselves, or they will decide whether to refer it to the IOPC.
If the complaint does not need referring, it can be dealt with through what is called a local resolution. In this instance, the police force will carefully review the complaint and then provide an explanation as to what happened, provide an apology and/or take the necessary action to bring the complaint to a resolution that you are happy with. If the local resolution option is chosen, it is not possible for a case of misconduct to be brought against any police staff or officer. If following receipt of the local resolution, you are able to use the appeals process.
There may be instances where the police force will need to conduct a local investigation into your complaint. If they do, they will usually notify you to let you know this is the course of action they are taking. As the investigation proceeds, you will be kept up to date and the police will provide you with information on when you should hear from them with progress reports. When the investigation is complete, the police will share their findings with you and present your options.
Complaints on Behalf of Another
It is possible to make a complaint about the police on behalf of another individual and you are able to represent them as the complaint is dealt with. You must obtain the individual’s written consent before you can make a complaint. Consent is not required if you are a parent or guardian of a child involved with the complaint.
It is also possible to make a complaint against other agencies using the police complaints system such as the National Crime Agency, the HMRC, Border and Immigration Control, Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, British Transport Police, the MoD police and the Mayors Office for Policing and Crime. makin