Complaints

The IPCC oversees the police complaints system. 

All complaints against the police must be recorded by the relevant police force. We have provided links to the complaints section of each police force website in ‘making a complaint’.

Police forces must refer certain types of complaint to the IPCC – for example, those involving death, serious assault or a serious sexual offence. We've provided more detailed information about the type of complaints that will be referred elsewhere on this site.

You can use the complaints system to complain about both police officers and members of staff working for a police force.

We have produced a guide to the police complaints system PDF. This tells you how to make a complaint, what happens after you make a complaint and how to appeal about the way the police handled your complaint. We have also produced information about how to make a complaint in an easy read PDF.

You can make a complaint if you have: 

  • experienced inappropriate behaviour from a police officer or member of police staff. For instance, if you felt they were rude or aggressive in their treatment of you
  • witnessed in person an incident where a police officer or member of police staff acted inappropriately
  • been adversely affected by the conduct of a police officer or member of police staff, even if it did not take place in relation to you

If you are representing someone affected by any of the categories listed above, and wish to make a complaint on their behalf, you will need to have their written permission. 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.

You can also complain about how a police force is run. This is known as ‘direction and control’. So, for example, you can complain about policing standards, or policing policy.

As well as police forces, you can use the complaints system to make a complaint about the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the British Transport Police and the Ministry of Defence Police.

The police complaints system also extends to a small number of organisations that have police-like powers, but are not police forces. This includes the UK Border Agency and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. Select the appropriate organisation in the ‘making a complaint’ section for more information.

Contact the relevant police force. The ‘make a complaint’ section below includes links to the complaints section of each police force website in England and Wales. Alternatively, you can use our online complaint form, which will be forwarded automatically to the relevant police force.
 
In certain situations, police forces must refer complaints to the IPCC – for example, those involving death, serious assault or a serious sexual offence. You can find out more about when and why the IPCC may become involved in a complaint on our ‘referrals’ page.
 
There is no time limit for making a complaint, although you should try to do it as quickly as possible. The police can decide not to deal with a complaint if it is received 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. The police will need to consider your explanation when they decide whether to deal with the complaint.
 
Police forces are expected to take all complaints seriously, to listen to you and to act in a fair and balanced way to seek to put things right. The sections below explain how to make a complaint and what happens next. There is also a link to detailed information if you need it.
 
 

A list of all police forces is included below. Selecting the appropriate force will take you directly to the complaints section of the force’s website. Select ‘other’ to complain about the:

  • Serious Organised Crime Agency
  • the British Transport Police
  • the Ministry of Defence Police
  • UK Border Agency and
  • Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs

You can, of course, use the IPCC’s online complaint form. But please note that if you complete our form it is automatically sent to the relevant police force and we will not log the details. You can also complete the word or pdf version of our form.

Local Police

Other

Select the relevant police force using the drop down menu to the left, and select ‘complain directly’ to go directly to that police force’s complaints form.

Complete the IPCC’s complaints form. Please note that the form will go directly to the relevant police force.

Other – use this to select an organisation outside of the police service, but covered by the police complaints process, eg. UK Borders Agency.

The police force will consider your complaint and make a decision about whether to record it. You can expect to hear within 15 working days whether they have recorded your complaint and, if not, the reasons why. If the police do not write to you, or write to you to say your complaint has not been recorded, you can find out more about your right of appeal in the relevant section of this website.

If your complaint is recorded the police force will consider whether it needs to be referred to the IPCC. Find out more about the types of complaint that should be referred to us. If your complaint is not referred it will be dealt with by either local resolution or local investigation.

 

Local resolution

Complaints that do not require IPCC involvement can be resolved in one of a number of ways. In many cases this will be through ‘local resolution’. This may involve the police force explaining, apologising, or otherwise satisfying you that appropriate action is being taken. Please note that local resolution cannot result in misconduct proceedings being taken against an officer or member of police staff.

You will receive a letter from the police force explaining what the local resolution is, and information about your right to appeal if you are unhappy with the outcome. Our appeals section explains more about the grounds for appeal.

 

Local investigation

In some cases a police force needs to carry out a ‘local investigation’. If so, the force will discuss with you how the complaint will be investigated and how a decision will be reached. The police force should keep you informed of progress, and once the investigation is complete you will be told if the investigation has found in your favour, and what action is being taken. There may be action even if the investigation does not find in your favour.

You will receive a letter from the police force explaining what the local investigation found, and information about your right to appeal if you are unhappy with the outcome. Our appeals section explains more about the grounds for appeal.


 

Read the IPCC’s guide to the police complaints system. For more detailed information please refer to our statutory guidance document.