Making a Complaint about the Police
This page explains what you can do if you want to make a complaint about Police misconduct.
Who deals with complaints about the Police
How to make a complaint
What happens after a complaint is made
Who Deals with Complaints about the Police
Who can I complain to about police misconduct?
If you believe you’ve been mistreated or treated unfairly by the Police, you’re entitled to complain either to the Police directly, to the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA), to an Ombudsman or to the District Court.
If you complain to an Ombudsman or a District Court, they must forward your complaint to the Independent Police Conduct Authority as soon as practicable.
If you complain to the Police directly, they must also forward your complaint to the IPCA, as soon as practicable and not later than five working days after they received it.
What is the Independent Police Conduct Authority?
This is a supervisory body, separate from and independent of the Police, that investigates and tries to resolve complaints made against the Police.
What does the Independent Police Conduct Authority do?
The Independent Police Conduct Authority:
- receives complaints about misconduct or neglect of duty by Police officers
- receives complaints about Police practices, policies or procedures
- oversees the investigation of complaints made to the IPCA or to the Police
- examines Police investigation reports
- conducts its own investigations where necessary
- resolves complaints by conciliation where possible
- recommends disciplinary or other action.
How to Make a Complaint
How do I complain to the Independent Police Conduct Authority?
You can complain directly to the IPCA, or you can complain to an Ombudsman or a District Court. The Ombudsman or the court must then forward your complaint to the IPCA.
Your complaint doesn’t have to be in writing, but if it’s not in writing you must put it in writing as soon as practicable.
Your complaint should state:
- what happened
- the time and place of the incident, and
- the name or number of the Police officer involved.
Your complaint should also include:
- any witness statements
- doctors’ reports or photographs of any injuries, and
- any other relevant information.
The IPCA website provides information about how to complain.
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What Happens after a Complaint is Made
How will the Independent Police Conduct Authority deal with my complaint?
After the IPCA has received your complaint it will consider whether to investigate it, and what type of investigation to carry out.
Where possible, the IPCA will use an informal process of conciliation to try to resolve a complaint.
The options for investigating a complaint
If the IPCA decides your complaint should be investigated, it can do one of the following things:
- it can investigate the complaint itself, whether or not the Police have already begun an investigation
- it can forward the complaint to the Police for them to investigate, and delay taking any further action until the Police have investigated
- it can oversee a police investigation of the complaint
- if the Police have initiated a criminal or disciplinary investigation in response to the complaint, the IPCA can delay taking any action until the Police report back to it on the results of their investigation.
Although the IPCA has wide powers to investigate a complaint itself, it will often act as a supervisory body over investigations undertaken by the Police. But the IPCA will carry out its own investigations if it’s inappropriate for the Police to do the investigation themselves, for example, when the complaint arises from a fatal police shooting of a member of the public.
IPCA may decide not to investigate in certain cases
The IPCA may decide not to have a complaint investigated if, for example, it thinks the complaint is trivial or vexatious, or the complaint is made more than 12 months after the incident occurred.
What action can the IPCA take after an investigation?
The Independent Police Conduct Authority examines all investigation reports to make sure the complaint has been investigated thoroughly and to consider whether any action should be taken against a police officer.
The IPCA can then make recommendations to the Police Commissioner, including that disciplinary or criminal proceedings should be taken against a police officer. The Police Commissioner then decides what action to take and reports back to the IPCA.
If after a reasonable time the IPCA believes the Commissioner hasn’t taken adequate action, the IPCA must send a copy of its opinion and recommendations to the Attorney-General and the Minister of Police, together with the Commissioner’s comments. The IPCA can also decide to report to Parliament.
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(Updated: March 2011)