Most people assume that the IOPC (Independent Office for Police Conduct) deal with initial complaints against the police and investigate them. They do not. The IOPC will only investigate appeals concerning complaints that have already been handled by the relevant force. Even then they will only do so under the following conditions:
- The complaint the appeal relates to is about a senior officer
- If proved, the complaint would justify criminal and/or misconduct proceedings
- The complaint involves the infringement of a person’s rights under Article 2 of the Human Rights Act (Right to life: I.E. A death in custody)
Although you can make your complaint via the IOPC’s website, all they will do is forward it directly to the force concerned. They will not read your complaint, oversee it or track its progress. It is therefore quicker and simpler for you to forward it directly to the complaints department of your local force. A full list of those contact email addresses are provided below.
Never use police provided complaint forms
Under the Police Reform Act 2002 and the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 – legislation that sets out rules on how complaints must be handled – complaints made in writing must be officially recorded and dealt with by the formal complaints process. The police know this, hence why they are so keen to speak to complainants on the phone, at their homes or at a police station: speaking to the complainant face-to-face it is an ideal way of getting rid of complaints the moment they are made!
Those that insist they wish to make a complaint in writing will be told they must use a standard form on the force’s website. I urge complainants to NEVER use these forms. Not only do they place limits on the length (and category) of the complaint, they ask for personal details the complainant is under no obligation to give. When making an official complaint against the police you are only required to give your full name. You do not have to provide a date of birth, place of birth or home address. The police must use a form of communication most suited to the complainant. A valid email address is all that should be required.
When the police refuse to record the complaint
If the police refuse to receive your complaint unless you provide them with details other than your name, or they insist you use a form of their choice, you should appeal immediately to the IOPC. You can find a PDF of the appeal form here. The IOPC will then (or at least should) issue the force with a notice compelling them to record the complaint. In most cases this will spur the police to record your complaint within 2 working days, or in some cases right away!
There are some limitations that apply to making a complaint. If you are in doubt then I would recommend you purchase a copy of my Ebook for immediate download Take on the Police and Win! which sets out the complaints process in full detail, as well as providing advice on what you should or shouldn’t do when making a complaint. Although the Ebook has not been updated in a few years, and the IPCC as it then was is now referred to as the IOPC, there are no substantial changes to the complaints process that effect the information contained in this Ebook.
You must be directly involved to make a complaint
To have a complaint officially recorded and investigated, you must have been directly involved in some way. Ordinarily this would mean that you engaged with the police out in public, in your vehicle, at your door or on the phone. You must also ensure your complaint is about one or several officers you had dealings with and is not aimed at the force in general. If you do not know the names or identities of the officers involved you can make your complaint anyway. Just provide a description of the officers and the time and place you encountered them. The force must make reasonable efforts to locate them and provide you with their names as part of your complaint record.
Watching videos on Youtube or as a passerby does not constitute direct involvement. If you wish to make a complaint about something you have seen on a video or read in the news then you should label your complaint as a Direction and Control Complaint. These complaints are not officially recorded and you do not have any right of appeal to the IOPC in respect of them.
Once the police receive your formal complaint in writing they have 15 working days in which to record it and to send you a copy of the complaint record. Note that is 15 days to record the complaint, not to investigate it. It’s not uncommon for the police to take anywhere between 3 – 8 months to investigate a complaint!
For more detailed help please consider purchasing my Ebook Take on the Police and Win!
Avon and Somerset Constabulary:
City of London Police:
Devon & Cornwall Constabulary:
Dyfed Powys Police:
Greater Manchester Police:
North Wales Police:
North Yorkshire Police:
South Wales Police:
South Yorkshire Police:
Thames Valley Police:
West Mercia Police:
West Midlands Police:
West Yorkshire Police: