The Complaints System
What can you complain about?
You can complain if you are not satisfied with the service you have received from the police.
People who work in the police service should behave appropriately at all times. Expectations about the behaviour of both police officers and members of police staff are set out in their respective Standards of Professional Behaviour. These expectations include requirements to:
- Act with honesty and 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 a police officer or member of police staff has not met these standards, you can make a complaint.
You can also complain about the way a police force is run - this is called a 'direction and control issue. For example, you can complain if you are not happy with operational management decisions, general policing standards, or policing policies.
How can you make a complaint?There are several ways to make a complaint to Cleveland Police:
You can complain in person at your local police station or any other station within Cleveland Police Force. A police officer or a member of police staff will speak to you about your complaint and will explain your options.
You can email us at Professionalstandardsdepartment@cleveland.pnn.police.uk
Write to the following address: Cleveland Police, Professional Standards Department, Police Headquarters, Ladgate Lane, PO Box 70, Middlesbrough, TS8 9EH
Contact the Force via phone on 101
- Contact a Solicitor or your MP and ask them to make a complaint for you (they must have your written consent) ;
- Nominate a person to act on your behalf (they must have your written consent);
- Contact the Independent Police Complaints Commission , who will pass on the details of your complaint:
Independent Police Complaints Commission
PO Box 473
0300 020 0096 (press 2 at prompt - 9am to 5pm)
IPCC Website: [link]
What should your complaint say?
As well as your name, date of birth, address and contact details, the main things that your complaint should cover are:
- What happened;
- When it happened;
- Where it happened
- Who was involved;
- What was said or done;
- Whether there were any witnesses other than yourself and the person serving with the Police;
- Where the witnesses can be contacted, if known;
- Details of any damage or injury which took place as a result of the conduct.
What happens when you make a complaint?
Your complaint will be assessedrecorded by the Professional Standards Department (PSD) of Cleveland Police.
How will your complaint be dealt with?
Whether your complaint is handled by Cleveland Police or by the IPCC, you have the right to be told how it will be dealt with, what action may be taken as a result and how decisions will be made. Cleveland Police or the IPCC will also agree with you how often you will be kept informed and how this will happen. Your complaint will be dealt with by way of Local Resolution or a proportionate investigation.
Local resolution is a way of understanding your complaint and resolving it by explaining, clearing up or settling the matter directly with you. It cannot result in misconduct proceedings being taken against an officer or member of police staff and once the local resolution process is completed, your complaint will be closed.
The decision to locally resolve a complaint is at the discretion of the Force. Your consent is not required, however your co-operation is beneficial to resolving the issues raised satisfactorily.
Some complaints are not suitable for local resolution. This is because they could result in criminal or misconduct proceedings being taken against police officers or police staff if proved. If your complaint is not suitable for local resolution, your complaint will be investigated instead.
If you are not happy with the outcome of the local resolution, you may be able to appeal. The exception to this is when the complaint was about a direction and control issue. In most circumstances, appeals against the outcome of the local resolution process will be handled by the chief officer of the police force.
Please ensure that you send your appeal to the organisation you were told would handle your appeal in order to avoid delays.
A Cleveland Police appeal form can be downloaded via the following link:
Alternatively, if the appeal is for the IPCC to consider, then the appeal documents can be downloaded from their website, which is accessible via the link above.
We must receive your appeal within 28 days of the date of the letter telling you about the outcome of the complaint. This includes the time your appeal spends in the post.
You can appeal if:
- you do not agree with the outcome of the local resolution
- you think that the outcome of the local resolution of your complaint was not a proper one. This means that, for example, you believe the outcome was not appropriate to the complaint, or the outcome did not reflect the evidence available.
If your complaint is not suitable for local resolution, a local investigation will be carried out by a police investigator. The investigator will either be from the Professional Standards Department (PSD), or from another police department.
You will be informed about:
how your complaint will be investigated
what co-operation is required from you
how a decision will be reached
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 following a local investigation.
The police must refer certain serious complaints or incidents to the IPCC. When they receive a referral the IPCC assess all the information and decide how best to deal with the matter. They may decide to investigate using their own investigators or manage or supervise a police investigation into the matter.
Why could your complaint not be dealt with?
In some circumstances the police may record a complaint, but stop the complaint process before it begins. This is called a disapplication.
An example of this is when a complaint is anonymous and it is not possible for the appropriate authority to obtain further details about the complaint. In a case like this, the police cannot carry out an investigation due to lack of information.
The police must apply to the IPCC in situations where they intend to disapply a complaint that involves a very serious issue.
You can appeal against the decision to disapply in relation to your complaint (except when the IPCC has given permission to disapply or the complaint relates to a direction and control matter).
In some circumstances the police may stop an investigation into a complaint while it is in progress. This is called a discontinuance.
An example of this is when the complainant refuses to co-operate and it is not possible for the police to continue with the investigation.
If this applies to the investigation into your complaint, the police will contact you. You can appeal against the decision to discontinue an investigation into your complaint (except when the IPCC has given permission to discontinue the investigation or the complaint relates to a direction and control matter).
The appropriate authority must apply to the IPCC in situations where they intend to discontinue an investigation that involves a very serious issue.
What do you do if you are not happy with the way your complaint was handled?
If you are unhappy with the way your complaint has been dealt with you may be able to appeal.
When the police write to you about the outcome of your complaint, they will also tell you who the relevant appeal body is. This could be either the chief officer of the police force or the IPCC.
The appeal body will consider your appeal and, if appropriate, direct the appropriate authority to change its decision or to take relevant action to deal with your complaint appropriately.
The appropriate authority can be:
The appeal body may consider appeals about:
the failure of a police force to record a complaint.
the outcome of local resolution of a complaint.
the outcome of a local or supervised investigation.
the decision to disapply.
the outcome of a complaint after disapplication.
the decision to discontinue an investigation.
Appealing against the decision to disapply
You cannot appeal if the investigation into your complaint has been managed or carried out independently by the IPCC.
Complaints about chief police officers (usually chief constables) will be handled by the relevant Police and Crime Commissioner. Any subsequent appeals made will be handled by the IPCC.
The role of the Independent Police Complaints Commission
Complaints about the conduct of people serving with the police can be sent to the IPCC, but the IPCC does not have the power to record complaints. If you complain to the IPCC, it must, by law, forward the complaint back to the force involved for consideration. Due to the exceptionally high numbers of complaints made to the IPCC, it can take a number of weeks before a complaint is forwarded to the relevant police force.
The IPCC also investigates the most serious complaints and allegations of misconduct against the police in England and Wales. These complaints are referred to the IPCC by police forces. The IPCC may decide to investigate an incident using its own investigators. Alternatively, it can manage or supervise a police investigation into the matter. The IPCC will only conduct independent investigations into incidents that cause the greatest level of public concern – for example, deaths in or following police custody.