How to Make a Complaint About the Police

If you have been treated unfairly by the police, or if a police officer has acted inappropriately towards you, you will probably be thinking about making a complaint.

You could complain about:

  • Wrongful arrest
  • A police officer being rude or insulting towards you
  • Being injured or hurt by the police

You must make your police complaint within one year, as strict time limits apply.

You may be able to achieve the following through making a complaint:

  • Find out more about what happened to you and why
  • Get an apology
  • The officers involved may be disciplined

Making a complaint can also be a useful way of drawing an important issue to the police force's attention. For example, when people recently taking part in Sheffield Pride felt that officers at South Yorkshire Police had failed to take reports of hate speech and discrimination seriously, they used the complaints process to register their concerns (as reported here).

You will not be able to get compensation through the complaints process; this is achieved by making a civil claim (or 'suing' the police).

You can make your complaint in a number of different ways:

  • To the relevant police force directly;
  • To the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC); or
  • To your MP.

It will usually be most efficient to contact the police force concerned directly. Your complaint does not have to be made in writing; you can call the police force or attend a police station. The contact details and/or a complaint form will usually be available on the force's website. You may wish to use this useful tool, which will direct you to the appropriate details.

However, if you are concerned that contacting the police force directly might cause harm to you or someone else, you should contact the IPCC, setting out the details of your complaint and why you are worried about contacting the police force directly.

Your complaint will usually be dealt with by the police force. However, if it is very serious (for example, if it involves the death of a loved one following police contact) the IPCC will be involved in, or carry out, the investigation.

It can be difficult to explain what has happened and how you have been affected, and to make sure that your complaint is taken seriously and dealt with properly. Some people are sceptical about the independence of the police complaints process, as it will often involve the police investigating themselves. A solicitor that specialises in police misconduct will be able to help you prepare a complaint and to look out for your interests throughout the process.

Whether you are instructing a solicitor or not, you should make sure that your complaint includes details of when the incident happened, what happened, which police officers were involved, and whether you were injured. If you make a complaint in writing, you should try and remember to keep a copy for your records.

Once you have submitted a complaint, it should usually be formally recorded. A decision will then be made on what process will be used to deal with your complaint. This could be local resolution, local investigation, an IPCC supervised investigation, an IPCC managed investigation, or an independent IPCC investigation. It is very important that the appropriate method of investigation is used.

Saunders Law - Protecting & Enforcing Our Clients' Rights

Our renowned police actions and human rights solicitors are acknowledged experts in this complex field of law. The team routinely works on high-profile and newsworthy matters, including advising members of the Hillsborough Family Support Group following the Hillsborough Disaster and advising Michael Mansfield QC in relation to the Pitchford Inquiry into unlawful undercover policing.

The expert team of solicitors is always happy to offer an initial, free, no-obligation telephone discussion and can advise you on how a complaint can be funded either privately or through Legal Aid.

For a free, no-obligation, initial discussion of how we may be able to help, including possible funding options, please contact us today.

Call us on 02076324300 or make an enquiry online.


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