Our complaint review process

This section helps you to understand the stages we go through when someone contacts our office with a complaint about the police.

Every case is different so the way we deal with your complaint and the length of time it takes us to complete our review depends on a number of factors, for example, the complexity of your complaint or the volume of the case papers we are given by the police organisation.  We aim to assess complaints as quickly as possible.

Requesting a review

If you have already completed the police organisation's internal complaints procedure we will ask you to fill in a complaint review form to help us to understand your complaint better.  You can complete this form online by clicking here or you can download a form and send it to us by post, email or fax

We will ask you what has happened and what your complaint about the police is.  So that your complaint can be dealt with quickly and efficiently it would be helpful if you could be specific when detailing your complaint in your complaint review form.  By signing the complaint review form you are agreeing that we can ask the police organisation you are complaining about to share with us any information it has about your complaint.

We may also request further information from you to support your complaint.  This might include correspondence to and from the police organisation you are complaining about.  Any original documents will be photocopied and returned to you.  If we need further information to help us to consider your complaint, or if your complaint is unclear, we will let you know what else we need you to submit.  We will be happy to talk to you about your complaint to make sure that we fully understand your concerns. 

Your case will be allocated to a Case Officer who will decide as soon as possible if your complaint is within our powers to review.  If it seems that your complaint is about a matter that we cannot review, we will try and find out which organisation can help you.  For further information on what we can and cannot review, see Your complaint.

Once we receive your complaint review form your Case Officer will update you on their progress in reviewing your complaint at least once every 28 days.  Click here to download our Standards of Service.

Factors the Commissioner considers in deciding whether to conduct a complaint handling review

Once the Commissioner has decided that a complaint and complainer meet the legislative criteria (sections 34(3) and (6)), he then considers whether to exercise his discretion not to conduct a complaint handling review (section 35(1)).  The factors which the Commissioner will take into account in exercising that discretion include the following: 

  • whether the Commissioner considers the complaint to be vexatious in nature;
  • whether the Commissioner considers the complaint to be wholly lacking in foundation;
  • whether there is/was an alternative effective means by which the applicant can seek redress for his/her concerns;
  • whether there is clear evidence that during the policing body's involvement the applicant withdrew his/her complaints or indicated that they were resolved to his/her satisfaction;
  • whether there has been a significant, unjustified delay between the incident giving rise to the complaint and the lodging of the complaint with the policing body; or
  • whether there has been a significant, unjustified delay between the policing body's response to the applicant's complaint and his/her application to the Commissioner.

Reviewing your complaint

If we can accept your complaint we will ask the police organisation you are complaining about for all the information it has about what has happened so far.

We will examine the facts of the case, looking at all the information provided by you and the police organisation.  We will look at how the police organisation reached its conclusions, review the evidence on which the conclusion was based and come to a view on whether the conclusion was reasonable and whether the police organisation has done all it could have to resolve the complaint. 

Your Case Officer will write to you check that we fully understand your complaint and that we are considering everything you feel is important.

We will let you and the police organisation know when we are ready to publish the Commissioner's findings.  These will take the form of a complaint handling review. 

The complaint handling review will outline:

  • your complaint
  • the background to your complaint
  • what the police organisation did to deal with your complaint
  • our consideration of the way the police organisation handled your complaint
  • our conclusions and, where appropriate, any recommendations to the police organisation for action

The Commissioner will write to you and the police organisation involved to let you know his final conclusions.  In the spirit of openess the Commissioner's reports will be usually be published, fully anonymised, on our website.