Making a complaint against the police (Basic information)


Important advice about recording your dealings with the police


Complaints against the police are usually dealt with by the Professional Standards Department of the force also known as "PSD". Our view from experience is that the department appears to be more concerned with protecting the reputation of the force rather than dealing with your complaint appropriately.


There may come a stage when you may need to complain about how PSD are dealing with your complaint.


We advise that any communication with the PSD is put in writing and any verbal communication with PSD officers are audio recorded. You can do this openly by using a digital recorder on a table and letting the PSD officer know that you are recording meeting.


If you are uncomfortable with this or feel that it would not help the flow of the meeting we would advise that you record covertly (secretly) which is lawful and we can provide more information on this if necessary.


Any conversation that you have with the police if not recorded may be strenuously denied by the police at a later stage or a different account given.


If you have not recorded a meeting, ask for a written summary of what was said at the meeting as soon as possible and ask for it to be amended if you do not think it is accurate or left out relevant points. 


How To Make A Complaint Against Police  

You can make a complaint against the police in any number of ways from dialling 101, going into a police station, sending a letter etc. The IOPC have published an easy read leaflet to help you with the process.


Q: Who can make a complaint?

A: You can make a complaint about the police if any of the following applies:-

  • You have experienced inappropriate or criminal behaviour from a police officer, or a member of police staff;

  • You have witnessed an incident which concerned you;

  • You have been “adversely affected” by an incident.


If you have the written permission of another person, you can make a complaint on their behalf.

Q: What can I complain about?

A: You can complain if you are not satisfied about the service you have received from the police. Police officers and other staff have to act in an appropriate manner at all times and their behaviour is governed by the Standards of Professional Behaviour and Police Code of Ethics.

Specifically, those working within the police service are expected to:-

– act with honesty, integrity, fairness and impartiality
– treat members of the public (and their colleagues) with respect
– not abuse their powers and authority
– act in a manner that does not discredit or undermine public confidence in the police service.

If you feel that someone working for the police service has failed to meet these standards, then you are entitled to make a complaint.

In addition, you can complain about the way in which the police force is run. This would be referred to as a “direction and control” issue, and covers such things as operational management decisions, general policing standards, or policing policies.

Q: Is there a time limit for making a complaint?

A: There is no time limit in which you can make a complaint, but you should try to do this as soon as possible after the incident(s) occurred. If more than 12 months has elapsed since the incident(s), then the authority may not investigate it. They could consider it to be out of time. Therefore, if you are making a complaint more than 12 months after the incident(s), you should explain why there has been a delay. An explanation for the delay does not mean the complaint will still be investigated, however.

Q: What happens to my complaint and how long do the police have to record my complaint?

A: All valid complaints against the police have to be recorded, by law. This means your complaint has a formal status under the Police Reform Act 2002, and that it has to be dealt with according to formal rules and guidance.


You should receive a recording decision within 15 working days. The police have 10 days to make the decision and are allowed an extra 5 days to communicate the decision to you.


If you tried to make a complaint but it was not recorded, you have the right to appeal to the IOPC against this decision – this is called a non-recording appeal.

Q: What happens after my complaint has been recorded?

A: The next step is for the police known as the "appropriate authority" to decide how to deal with your complaint. Usually this means the police will try to resolve it by local resolution without formally investigating the complaint.  If you do not agree with this as you feel it is inappropriate in the circumstances due to the officer's conduct make sure you express your concerns.

You should then receive a copy of a Form CD2 outlining brief details of your complaint with details of the investigating officer. If you are not happy that this truly reflects what your complaint is about ask to have it amended or you can contact us. You then be updated at least once every 28 days.

Q. I am not happy with the investigation can I appeal?


Yes, depending on how your complaint has been worded makes a big difference when it comes to appealing if you are unhappy with how your complaint was dealt with. It can make the difference between the police force being able to deal with an appeal against itself or your complaint being dealt with by the IOPC.  We are happy to review your complaint before it is submitted to ensure that the appropriate authority will be dealing with your appeal.


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