How complaints are dealt with

PCSO speaking with member of the community

By law all complaints against the police must be recorded.  In the majority of cases complaints are considered and recorded by the Professional Standards Department (PSD) of the police force concerned. In the case of the Metropolitan Police this function is carried out by the Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS).

This means that if you make your complaint via the IPCC, it must forward the complaint to the relevant police force or police authority so that a recording decision can be made.

After your complaint has been recorded

If your complaint is recorded the next step is for the relevant police force or police authority to decide how best to resolve it. Most complaints are dealt with locally by the police force or PSD concerned. Complaints are usually resolved either by Local Resolution or local investigation.

If you have tried to make a complaint about the conduct of a person serving with the police but the police did not record it, you may be able to appeal to the IPCC against this decision.

Local Resolution

Local Resolution is a way of dealing with complaints against the police at a local level – for example, through the involvement of an inspector at a police station or a police staff manager. Local Resolution can only be carried out with the agreement of the person making the complaint.

Local investigations

If your complaint is not suitable for Local Resolution, a local investigation will be carried out by a police investigator. The investigator may either be from the DPS or may also be from your local Borough. You will be informed how your complaint will be investigated, what co-operation is required from you, how a decision will be reached and what action will be taken at the end of the investigation. The type of investigation will depend on the nature and seriousness of your complaint and the likely outcome. An investigation might range from telephone enquiries conducted in a few hours to a more extensive process perhaps taking a number of months. You have a right of appeal to the IPCC following a local investigation.

IPCC investigations

The police must refer the following sorts of complaints or incidents to the IPCC:

  • incidents where someone has died or been seriously injured following some form of direct or indirect contact with the police
  • serious assault by a member of the police service
  • serious sexual assault by a member of the police service
  • serious corruption
  • criminal offences, or any behaviour that could be a disciplinary offence, that is aggravated by discriminatory behaviour
  • any relevant offence, which means any offence for which the sentence is fixed by law and any offence for which a person of 18 years and over (not previously convicted) may be sentenced to imprisonment for seven years or more (excluding any restrictions imposed by section 33 of the Magistrates Court Act 1980).

In the circumstances listed, we may decide to conduct a supervised, managed or independent investigation. Alternatively, we may return the matter to the police force for it to deal with.

Supervised investigations are carried out by police PSDs, under their own direction and control. The IPCC will set out what the investigation should look at (which is referred to as the investigation’s ‘terms of reference’) and receive the investigation report when it is complete. Complainants have a right of appeal to the IPCC following a supervised investigation.

Managed investigations are carried out by police PSDs, under the direction and control of the IPCC.

Independent investigations are carried out by the IPCC’s own investigators and overseen by an IPCC Commissioner. In an independent investigation, IPCC investigators have all the powers of the police themselves.

What happens once your complaint has been investigated?

If your complaint is subject to an investigation by the police or the IPCC, you will be contacted when it is complete with information about what it has decided to do. If something goes wrong, the police complaints system is about trying to put it right. Complaints can help us to improve the way we do things so that we provide a better service in the future.

Possible outcomes could include:

  • we may decide to improve or change our procedures
  • we may give advice to the officer or person you have complained about so that their performance improves
  • we (or the IPCC in managed or independent cases) may refer your case to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The CPS is responsible for deciding if criminal charges should be brought.
  • in cases where it is found that a police officer has a case to answer

for misconduct, we may refer them to misconduct proceedings

  •  in some cases, there may not be enough information to take action over your complaint. If this happens it may just mean there is not enough evidence available.
  •  in some cases we may agree with you that something went wrong, but decide that no other action is appropriate.