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The police

Police complaints

Inappropriate behaviour by members of the police service is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Here's how to complain if you feel you've been badly treated.

If you think you have been a victim of police misconduct, you have the right to make a complaint.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (new window) (IPCC) is an independent organisation that oversees complaints.

Who can make a complaint?

  • victims of alleged misconduct such as rudeness, excessive force, unlawful arrest or abuse of rights by a person serving with the police
  • witnesses of alleged misconduct
  • friends and relatives of victims of alleged police misconduct

How do I make a complaint?

  1. You can go to a police station and ask to see a senior police officer to advise you on how to register a complaint.
  2. You can contact the IPCC and ask it to contact the police force on your behalf. Contact it using the information below:  

    Independent Police Complaints Commission
    90 High Holborn
    London WC1V 6BH

    Tell:      08453 002 002
    Visit:    www.ipcc.gov.uk
  3. For advice and support about the police complaints process, you can also visit your local:

Your role in the complaints process

You will need to provide detailed information so the complaint can be investigated thoroughly. When you contact the IPCC or an alternative organisation to make your complaint, try to describe:

  • what happened and when
  • who was involved – ideally the identity of the victim and the police officer
  • what was said or done
  • the names of any witnesses you recognised
  • evidence of any damage or injury resulting from the misconduct
  • what outcome you are seeking
  • your contact details – name, address, telephone number, email address

Your testimony may be required during the investigation, and you’ll need to co-operate if you want the complaint to be thoroughly looked into.

What happens next?

The complaint will be reviewed by the police force, which will decide whether it should be recorded as an official complaint.

If it is recorded, the police will attempt to resolve it. If the complaint is relatively minor, such as, for example, an allegation that a police officer was rude to you, an official investigation may not be required – an apology or explanation may suffice.

More serious complaints, such as an allegation that somebody's life was endangered, will be reported to the IPCC immediately where it will become subject to a formal investigation by a senior officer; that process could take some time.

The investigation can lead to several outcomes:

  • the Crown Prosecution Service may decide to bring criminal charges against the officer. You may be called as a witness if the case goes to court
  • the officer may face disciplinary hearings
  • the Crown Prosecution Service may decide not to bring criminal charges, and instead issue the officer with a verbal or written warning

You will be kept up-to-date in writing with progress and results of the investigation, and if you aren’t satisfied, you can appeal to the IPCC. You can also appeal to the IPCC if the police decide not to record the complaint officially.

There is no fixed time-frame for complaints processing; ask for an estimate when you register your complaint.

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