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.
The legislation in relation to police complaints has changed from 1 February 2020 with the implementation of the Police (Complaints and Misconduct) Regulations 2020. This allows for police complaints to be dealt with in a reasonable and proportionate manner and at the appropriate level. This supports both the efficiency and fairness of the complaints system.
The changes allow for certain types of complaints to be resolved outside of the Regulations, while those that are recorded are dealt with and resolved appropriately and in a prompt manner. This allows the police to quickly learn from and make improvements based on, the complaints they handle.
Did you know? The Police Complaints process has no means by which to deal with financial claims for compensation against the Force. Money cannot be awarded via the complaints procedure, regardless of the outcome.
Did you know? The police complaints system is designed to address areas where individual officers and staff have not provided the service to the public that should be expected under the circumstances, and to explore feedback from the public for the purposes of Force improvement. The majority of complaints where mistakes are identified are resolved with learning and development after the complainant’s feedback has been taken on board. This is even more important under the new complaint legislation and the introduction of the Reflective Practice Review Process.
Did you know? Simple complaints are usually resolved within 2-4 weeks, with more complicated complaints taking longer in line with the seriousness of the allegation made.
Did you know? 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
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.
- Contact the IOPC and complete their complaint form (these will be passed back to West Yorkshire Police to deal)
- 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
- Write a letter to West Yorkshire Police, Professional Standards Dept, PO Box 9, WF1 3QP
Under the new complaint legislation there will no longer be appeals against the outcome of a local resolution or the outcome of an investigation, there will now be a Right to Review to either the IOPC (Independent Office of Police Conduct) or the Mayors Office (West Yorkshire Combined Authority).
The IOPC will still consider reviews about the outcomes of serious complaints, however any other recorded complaints where disciplinary action is unlikely will have a Right of Review to the Mayors Office.
As all complaints will now be logged or recorded, there will no longer be an appeal right against the non recording of a complaint (previously this was to the IOPC).
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, special constable, member of police staff or designated volunteer.
- witnessed an incident – for example, you were present when an incident took place or were close enough to see or hear the incident (you cannot claim to have witnessed an incident if you have seen it on television or social media)
- have been adversely affected by an incident – this means that the actions of the police have indirectly affected you. (ie you have suffered any form of loss, damage, distress or inconvenience as a result of the matter complained about).
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. It is important to note that complaints do not have to be about a specific person serving with the Force – they can be about the Force as a whole (ie force wide crime initiatives, organisation of force resources and general policing standards)
Persons serving with the police force cannot make a complaint about incidents and officers in their own Force. This does not mean they are unable to raise concerns, there are other ways to do this such as internal conduct investigations and the staff resolution process. This just means that they will not have the statutory rights of a complainant.
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 logged or 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 logging and recording complaints.
Staff at PSD will make an initial assessment of how the complaint will be dealt with. In the vast majority of cases, complaints will usually be passed to the PSD Service Review Team to deal with in a reasonable and proportionate manner.
Under the old complaint legislation complaints could either be locally resolved (informal resolution) or investigated with a right of appeal at the end of the case.
Under the new complaint legislation from 1 February 2020 complaints will no longer be locally resolved, all complaints will be dealt with in a reasonable and proportionate way based on the seriousness of the allegation. The aim is to try and resolve the issues raised and restore public confidence and create an environment for learning where people learn from mistakes made.
The complainant should be contacted ASAP by one of our complaint handlers to discuss their complaint, how it will be dealt with and what outcome they expect. The ultimate aim is to resolve the complaint to the satisfaction of the complainant, however this is not always possible.
Possible outcomes could include providing information or an explanation as to why something has happened, organising the return of property, considering a policy review or signposting to other agencies. On occasions this could include taking no further action ie where the complaint relates to the off duty behaviour of a person serving with the police, not enough information is provided to deal with the matter or the complaint has been made previously.
If the complaint is serious enough to warrant disciplinary action then it will be investigated and an investigator will be appointed.
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 a considerable amount of time has passed between the incident (or latest incident) occurring and the date when the complaint is made, then the PSD may record your complaint but take no further action in relation to it. Again this depends on the seriousness of the allegation and how much information is available.
How long will my complaint take to deal with?
There is no limit for dealing with a complaint as long as enquiries made are reasonable and proportionate to the allegation. Once a complaint is assigned to a Complaint Handler they should be able to indicate how long the case is likely to take. Complainants should expect to receive a meaningful update every 28 days to let them know how their complaint is progressing.
What can I do if I am not satisfied with the outcome of a complaint investigation ?
You will be given a right of review in the outcome letter. This will either be to the Mayors Office or to the IOPC depending on the seriousness of the allegation. Lower level complaints dealt with outside of complaint legislation do not have a right of review, however you can insist on a complaint being formally recorded then a right of review will follow.
Right of Review
If you are unhappy with the way your complaint has been dealt with you may be able to seek a Right of Review (under the new complaint legislation). Please click here to read about Right of Review.
Page last updated March 2022