Making a complaint
If you think you have been treated unfairly by the police or the standard of service you received was unacceptable you have the right to make a complaint. There are several ways to make your complaint - but the quickest way is to contact West Yorkshire Police directly for them to resolve your complaint.
Ways to make your complaint
- Complete the online complaint form. Please note there are settings at the top of the website to allow users to change language and to enlarge the print for easy read.
- You can attend a police station in person and give your complaint to a member of staff
- Contact a solicitor or MP who can make a complaint on your behalf
- Telephone 101, the Force non emergency number (15p a call from any landline or mobile)
- Write a letter to West Yorkshire Police, Professional Standards Dept, PO Box 9, WF1 3QP
Please note that under the new complaint legislation, the IOPC will take a much smaller role in the processing of complaints and any complaints sent to them will be forwarded automatically to West Yorkshire Police. It will therefore be more efficient to contact West Yorkshire Police direct.
The IOPC now only consider appeals about:
- the failure of a police force to record a complaint
- the outcome of serious complaints where disciplinary action is likely.
If your complaint is in relation to a decision made by the police not to prosecute a suspect and this decision was made on or after 1st April 2015, you should ask for a Victims' Right to Review. More information on this process and the form to complete is available here : Victims' Right to Review
Who can make a complaint?
You can make a complaint if you:
- have been the victim of behaviour you felt was inappropriate by a police ofﬁcer or member of police staff
- witnessed an incident – for example, you were present when an incident took place or were close enough to see or hear the incident
- have been adversely affected by an incident – this means that the actions of the police have indirectly affected you.
You could be acting on behalf of someone in any of the categories listed above – for example, you could be a member of an organisation that has been given written permission by someone to make a complaint on their behalf.
What can I complain about?
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 and the Code of Ethics. They 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 someone working for the police has not met these standards, you can make a complaint. This will be treated seriously and efforts will be made to rectify the situation or explain why something has happened.
What to expect when you make a complaint
By law all valid complaints against the police must be recorded. Each police force has a Professional Standards Department (PSD), which considers complaints and conduct matters involving police officers and police staff within their force. In the majority of cases, these PSDs are responsible for recording complaints.
Staff at PSD will make an initial assessment of how the complaint will be recorded and who will deal with it. In the vast majority of cases, complaints will usually be passed to the PSD Service Recovery Team to either investigate or locally resolve with the complainant in a timely and proportionate manner.
Complaints can either be :
- locally resolved (informal resolution) or
- investigated (you will receive an investigation report and an outcome letter)
What does subjudice mean and why can't my complaint be investigated?
Where a complaint is to be investigated, the appropriate authority may suspend an investigation (subjudice) if it would would prejudice a criminal investigation or criminal proceedings. The following will be considered - the extent to which the matter raises issues which are the same as, or closely connected with the issues in the ongoing criminal investigation and what particular prejudice would be caused to the ongoing criminal investigation by the investigation into the complaint.
An example of this is a complainant who states that excessive force was used during arrest, but the complainant was charged with assaulting a police officer. The investigation into the complaint would clearly prejudice the criminal investigation so the complaint would be held subjudice until the conclusion of the criminal case.
What happens after your complaint has been investigated
If your complaint is investigated by the police you will be contacted when it is complete with information about what will happen next.
Possible outcomes could include:
- the police force may decide to improve or change its procedures
- the police force may give advice to the ofﬁcer or person you have complained about so that their performance improves
- the police force may refer your case to the Crown Prosecution Service
- 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, the police force or police authority may refer them to misconduct proceedings ie a misconduct meeting or hearing.
- 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 the police force may agree with you that something went wrong, but decide that no other action is appropriate.
Complaints – Frequently Asked Questions
Is there a time limit on making a complaint?
There is no time limit on making a complaint, but it is advisable to do so as quickly as possible after the incident/s occurred. If more than 12 months have passed between the incident (or latest incident) occurring and the date when the complaint is made, then the PSD may disapply your complaint without looking into it.
An exception may be made if you can show good reason for the delay in making your complaint, but only if it can be satisﬁed that this will not cause injustice.
How long will my complaint take to deal with?
There is no limit on the length of an investigation. Any investigation should be proportionate to the nature of the complaint, however the force sets a target of dealing with local resolutions within 15 days and investigations within 30 days. Once a complaint is assigned to an investigator they should be able to indicate how long the investigation is likely to take.
What can I do if I am not satisfied with the outcome of a complaint investigation ?
You will be given a right of appeal in the outcome letter. This will either be to the Force or to the IOPC depending on the seriousness of the allegation. The appeal will be considered and either not upheld or upheld and further work is required.
What are Local Resolutions?
A number of complaints can be handled through a process called Local Resolution. Local resolution is a way of informally resolving complaints which would not result in disciplinary action against the officers concerned. This is where an investigating officer will make contact with you and try to address the concerns you have raised. They will seek your views and opinions and come up with an action plan to resolve your complaint. This may include explaining police procedures to you, apologising on behalf of the Force and seeking an explanation from the officer or police staff member about the actions they have taken. At the end of the process you will be advised that the matter has been finalised. You have a right of appeal against the outcome of a local resolution. All efforts should be made to engage with the person who is making the complaint, but the local resolution can be enforced if it is suitable to do so.
If you are unhappy with the way your complaint has been dealt with you may be able to appeal against the outcome. Please click here to read about appeals.
Checked and Updated August 2018