Advice on how to make a complaint against the police

If you feel you have you been mistreated by the police whether verbally, physically or administrively you should ALWAYS make a complaint.

While many people feel there is no point in complaining as little will be done, accurate statistics on police conduct and public concern would provide an important tool to use both politically and in the media to advocate for change.

When only 150 people in London complained about stop-and-search in 2012 it makes it easier for the problem to be dismissed.

Furthermore, 40% of appeals are upheld (found in the complainant's favour) yet only 40% of complainants bother to do so.

So, if you have a legitimate grievance against the police, follow the guidance below, and remember to ALWAYS appeal if you are unhappy with the outcome.


You can make a complaint if you have:

  • Experienced inappropriate behaviour by an officer or member of police staff

  • Witnessed in person an incident where an officer or member of police staff acted inappropriately

  • Been adversely affected by the conduct of a police officer or member of police staff – even if it did not take place in relation to you

You can make a complaint on someone’s behalf if you have their written permission. This does not apply if you are the parent or guardian of a child aged 16 or under.

You can also use the police complaints system to complain about the National Crime Agency, the British Transport Police, the UK Border Agency, Police and Crime Commissioners, the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime in London, and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.


How to complain

In the first instance you should complain to your local police force, which in London is the Metropolitan Police, via its online complaints page.

Alternatively, you can complain via the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) website and they will forward your complaint to the relevant website.

In certain cases, such as a death, serious assault or a serious sexual assault the police force must refer the complaint to the IPCC.

There is no time limit for making a complaint, however, if you make it more than 12 months after an incident you should explain why as the police can choose not to deal with it in the absence of good reason.

According to the IPCC: “Police forces are expected to take all complaints seriously, to listen to you and to act in a fair and balanced way to seek to put things right.”


After you have made the complaint

  1. The police will make a decision and decide whether to record it.

  2. They should then inform you within 15 working days whether they have chosen to record your complaint.

  3. If you do not hear from them in that time you should ALWAYS appeal.

  4. If they inform you that they have chosen not to record your complaint you should ALWAYS appeal if you are unhappy as to their reasons why.


If they decide to record your complaint

  1. The police force will decide if it needs to be referred to the IPCC (see above).

  2. If it is not they will decide whether it should be dealt with by local resolution or local investigation.


Local Resolution

  1. If the police decide to settle your complaint through local resolution no officer will face misconduct proceedings.

  2. The police will instead attempt to explain or justify their actions, apologise for them or satisfy you that action is being taken to address your concerns.

  3. If you are not happy with the fact your complaint is being dealt by local resolution as you feel misconduct proceedings against an officer or member of police staff are more appropriate you can, and should, appeal.

  4. If you feel a local resolution is an appropriate way to deal with your complaint but unhappy with the outcome you should ALWAYS appeal.


Local investigation

  1. If the police decide the complaint justifies a local investigation they should discuss with you how it will be investigated and how a decision will be reached.

  2. They should then keep you informed of the progress.

  3. Once the investigation is complete they should inform you if the complaint has been upheld (found in your favour) and what action is to be taken.

  4. The police should send you a letter explaining what the investigation found and your right to appeal if you are unhappy with the outcome.

  5. You should ALWAYS appeal if you are unhappy with the outcome.

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