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What happens to your complaint?

Complaints may be investigated and resolved by the Authority’s investigators or by the Police under the Authority’s oversight.

The Authority independently investigates very serious cases, such as those involving fatality or an allegation of serious misconduct.

The Authority may also independently investigate incidents in which there is a significant public interest in having an independent investigation – for example, an allegation against a senior Police officer.

Other complaints – the majority – are referred to the Police for investigation and resolution under the Authority’s oversight.

Depending on the nature of the complaint, the Authority may also choose to:

  • defer action (for example, while Police complete a criminal or disciplinary investigation), or
  • take no action (for example, if the complaint is very minor, or is outside our jurisdiction, or there is another remedy available).

Why are some complaints referred to the Police?

The Authority’s decision on how to handle a complaint is based on several factors, including:

  • How serious the complaint is – the Authority has five investigators and receives about 2000 complaints each year; it is appropriate to focus investigative resources towards the most serious cases.
  • How the complaint can best be resolved – many complaints are more appropriately dealt with by the Police district concerned.
  • Whether the complaint involves an alleged crime – if the complaint may lead to criminal charges, the Police must investigate. The Police can lay charges, whereas the Authority cannot.

If a complaint is referred to the Police, the Authority may maintain independent oversight. This can include conducting a parallel investigation, overseeing or directing the Police investigation, or reviewing or auditing the Police investigation once it is completed.

If you have made a complaint and are not happy with the way Police have handled it, contact the Authority’s Complaints Management Team on 0800 503 728 or to discuss your options.

How long does it take?

Some complaints are resolved within days or weeks; others that are serious and require investigation can take many months, or longer. The time taken can depend on matters outside our control, such as Court cases.


Under the Independent Police Conduct Authority Act 1988, the Authority must inform the Police about any complaints it receives. The Authority may also ask Police for a report on your complaint, and may disclose information about the complaint in order to carry out an investigation or fulfil other functions or requirements of the Act.

The Authority can issue public reports on its investigations if it believes that is in the public interest.

In all other respects, your complaint will be treated confidentially.

Staying in touch

If you make a complaint to the Authority, we will contact you to confirm we have received the complaint and to inform you about the approach we are taking.

If the Authority is independently investigating, one of the Authority’s investigators will get in touch with you to discuss your complaint and find out more information.

If Police are investigating, Police staff will get in touch with you to discuss your complaint. The Authority may also contact you.

Once a complaint has been laid, the Authority takes steps to keep the complainant informed about progress.
If you have made a complaint and want information about progress, you can contact our Complaints Management Team on 0800 503 728 or



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Download a complaint form (PDF, 207KB)

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