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Legal Factsheet: Making a Police Complaint

Complaints against the police

If you are unhappy with a decision of or the actions of Suffolk Constabulary, then it may be possible to make a formal complaint.

The law describes a complaint as an expression of dissatisfaction with a police force that is expressed by or on behalf of a member of the public.

What can I complain about?

You can make a complaint about a police officer, or about a police force. Below are examples of police complaints:

  • Improper behaviour – for example, if you felt an officer was rude or aggressive to you.
  • Inappropriate treatment – for example, if you felt an officer acted inappropriately towards you, or you had suffered degrading or humiliating treatment from an officer.
  • Excessive use of force – If an officer assaulted you or was heavy-handed with you or acted outside his or her powers.
  • Unprofessional conduct – Unprofessional behaviour.
  • Failure in duty or neglect – If you felt the officer or the police force failed to take your allegation seriously or failed to investigate a crime properly.
  • Discriminatory behaviour – Police Officers must act with fairness and impartiality. They must not discriminate unlawfully or unfairly.

This list is not exhaustive.

Time limits

There is no time limit for making a complaint against the police, however, it should be done as quickly as possible after the incident happened. The police force has a discretion not to investigate a complaint if you make it more than 12 months after the incident.

How can a complaint be made?

There are a number of ways that you can make a complaint:

  • Online – by accessing the relevant police force online complaints procedure – for Suffolk Constabulary complaints it is www.suffolk.police-uk/contact-us/compliments-complaints
  • In-person – you can visit any police station that you wish to make a formal complaint.
  • Telephone – You can telephone your local police station to make a complaint.
  • Letter – You can write a letter of complaint and send it to the relevant police forces Professional Standards Department. For Suffolk Police the address is Jubilee House, Falconers Chase, Wymondham NR18 0WW

What happens when I make a complaint?

The force must consider the complaint and log it. Certain complaints must be formally recorded. The force considers whether the complaint should be referred to the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC).

The force will contact the complainant to explain how the matter will be handled.

If the police force has recorded my complaint, what happens next?

If the complaint is recorded, a decision is made about how best to resolve the matter. The severity of the complaint will determine how it is resolved. Each police force has a Professional Standards Department (PSD) which deals with complaints. The PSD will assess your complaint and often offers an explanation or an apology. For some complaints, often the more serious complaint, the force may carry out an investigation into your complaint – this is called a directed investigation. You will be told how your complaint will be investigated and how a decision will be reached. The most serious and sensitive incidents are investigated by the IOPC.

Once a decision or investigation has been concluded, the force will write to you to tell you the outcome and to explain the appeals/review process.

Possible outcomes of a less serious complaint

  • No further action is needed, an explanation will be given.
  • A review of policy, process or procedure will occur.
  • The force may offer an apology.
  • An Officer may be given training or words of advice.

Can I appeal the decision of my complaint?

On 1st February 2020, new laws took effect replacing the former right of appeal with a new right of review. If you are unhappy with the way your complaint was handled, or with the final outcome, you can apply for a review.

It is important to understand that the relevant review body cannot re-investigate your complaint, it can only assess whether the handling of your complaint was reasonable and proportionate.

Where should I send my application for a review?

The force should have sent you a letter with the outcome of your complaint. In this letter are details of how to request a review. You have 28 days from receiving this letter to request a review.

How can I get help with my police complaint?

If you would like to discuss your police complaint, help is available from Suffolk Law Centre. You can telephone Suffolk Law Centre on 01473 408111, or you can email julie@suffolklawcentre.org.uk.

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