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Q299: How do I make a complaint against the police?

If you think you have been treated unfairly by the police or the standard of service you received was unacceptable you have the right to make a complaint.

Who can make a complaint?

  • the victim.
  • persons adversely affected.
  • witnesses.

If you are making a complaint on behalf a person listed above, you will need to have their written permission. However, this does not apply if you are the parent or guardian of a child aged 16 or under and wish to complain on their behalf, or are a solicitor or MP complaining on someone's behalf.

Who can I complain about?

  • police officers.
  • special constables.
  • all police staff, including PCSOs, PEO staff, detention officers, traffic wardens, administrative staff.

What can I complain about?

You can make a complaint if you:

  • experienced inappropriate behaviour from a police officer, staff member, contractor or volunteer. For instance, if you felt they were rude or aggressive in their treatment of you.
  • saw a police officer, staff member, contractor or volunteer acting inappropriately.
  • have been adversely affected by the conduct of a police officer, staff member, contractor or volunteer, even if it did not take place in relation to you.

You can also complain about how a police force is run. For example, you can complain about policing standards or policing policy.

Who do I complain to?

If you want to make a complaint about the way that your case has been handled by the police, or about any policy or procedure then you should contact your local force. Please note that any complaints sent to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) are forwarded automatically to the local police force. The IOPC, which oversees the police complaints system in England and Wales, only investigates the most serious and sensitive incidents and allegations involving the police, for example:

  • allegations of serious corruption or serious assault.
  • where there are indications of police officers or staff committing criminal offences or causing serious injury.
  • where a person's direct or indirect contact with the police may have caused or contributed to their death or injury.

How long do I have to make a complaint?

There is no time limit for making a complaint, although you should try to do it as quickly as possible. This is because when complaints are made a long time after the incident, it can be more difficult to obtain evidence and accurate witness statements. A police force can decide not to deal with a complaint if they receive it more than 12 months after the incident. If you are complaining more than 12 months after an incident, you should explain why your complaint has been delayed. Your police force will need to consider your explanation when they decide whether to deal with the complaint.

How do I make a complaint?

Each force will have its own procedures in place for making complaints; details will be provided on their website. Most police forces will offer the following methods of making a complaint:

  • via their online complaints form;
  • via the 101 non-emergency telephone number;
  • by post to their Professional Standards Department;
  • in person at your local police station;
  • via the IOPC's online contact form (your complaint will be automatically forwarded to the local force); or
  • via a solicitor or MP who can make a complaint on your behalf.

The website for your local force can be found in the following link: Local force contact information

What if I am not happy with the result of my complaint?

When you are informed of the outcome of your complaint, you may be able to appeal. Appeals will be normally be dealt with by the local force, but the IOPC may become involved depending on the seriousness of the matter.

For more information please see the websites in related information. There is also link to the 'Help for Victims' website and a Youtube video guide to the website.

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