Making a complaint

Quite simply members of the public who wish to make a complaint about the conduct of a police officer or an organisational issue may do so. This is governed by law i.e. the Police Reform Act 2002.

There are two types of complaint:-

• A conduct complaint which would relate to the actions of individuals.
• A complaint regarding the Force policies is considered to be a Direction and Control complaint which are recorded in a similar way however once recorded there is not a right of appeal regarding the outcome of any investigation into the matter.

All complaints should be directed to the Humberside Police Professional Standards Branch to complete an initial assessment. Certain cases will then be referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (the police oversight body). They may decide to independently investigate or oversee a police investigation. The IPCC also monitor our complaints system.

In the main complaints must be about 'on duty ' conduct however a member of the public can complain about 'off duty' conduct. Complaints about 'off duty' conduct will be investigated if it is felt that the conduct of the officer was such that it would bring the Force as a whole into disrepute.

Complaints can be made either in person at a police station, generally to an Inspector although in exceptional circumstances the details can be taken by any other member of staff, or by way of letter, e-mail, fax, telephone or via an outside agency. 

Guidance issued by the Independent Police Complaints Commission in relation to the making of complaints against the Police say that a complaint should generally be made within 12 months of the incident giving rise to the complaint unless there is a good reason for the delay in doing so. If a complaint is made outside of the 12 month time period the complainant will be asked the reasons for the delay in making the complaint and representations as to why it should still be investigated. The Appropriate Authority will consider those representations and make a decision as to whether the complaint should be dealt with or whether it should be disapplied from the requirements of the Police Reform Act. If it is disapplied the complainant will have a right of appeal.

If you're not sure how to make a complaint or need additional support to make a complaint you can do so by calling 101 and asking to speak to the Professional Standards Branch.

The Professional Standards Branch is able to offer support and offers need adjustments to members of the public so they are able to complain. This includes providing information in a different language or format (like large print or audio) or providing an interpreter. Just let us know and we will see how we can help.

Alternatively, if you wish to make a complaint please complete the online form at the bottom of the page, or follow the link to download a form to send by post.

Once the complaint is passed to the Professional Standards Branch an initial review and assessment of the complaint will be made. A decision will be taken as to whether or not the complaint should be formally recorded in accordance with the requirements of the Police Reform Act 2002. If a decision is taken not to record the complaint the complainant will be given a right of appeal to the Independent Police Complaints Commission with regard to that decision.

What do the Humberside Police Professional Standards Branch do?

The Humberside Police Professional Standards Branch is responsible for the management of all public complaints against Police Officers, police staff, Special Constables and Community Safety Volunteers.  It is separate from the officers and staff that are subject to a complaint. 

The branch records when complaints are received prior to an initial assessment of the complaint. 

The majority of complaints will be managed by the Humberside Police, however serious allegations may be referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) who may decide to supervise, manage or independently investigate a complaint.

The sub-judice rule

Once a decision to record a complaint has been taken it will be established whether or not the complaint should be deemed sub-judice. In other words if the complainant has been arrested for a criminal offence and the investigation is ongoing or has been charged with a criminal offence and the allegation made within the complaint is closely associated to the issue of the criminal matter, an investigation of the complaint will not be carried out until after the case against the complainant is finalised. To do so may result in the complainant having to declare his / her defence which would become disclosable to the Crown Prosecution Service.

An exception to this is where there is evidence that an officer has committed a criminal offence during the course of the conduct alleged and to delay the investigation would cause that offence to become statute barred.

Seeing the complainant

Once a matter is deemed to be 'live' a letter is sent to the complainant informing them who the Investigating officer will be. The complaint file will have been sent to the investigating officer who will either contact the complainant by phone or email to discuss the issues or will arrange to meet them to do so where necessary / possible.

Local Resolution

If the complaint is such that if the allegations made were proven it is unlikely an officer would be formally disciplined or be subject of criminal proceedings the complaint can be locally resolved (LR).

The decision to locally resolve a complaint is at the discretion of the Force and consent from the complainant is not required, however co-operation is beneficial to resolving the issues raised satisfactorily. Organisational issues (Direction and Control complaints) can also be resolved using this method.

The agreement of an officer/staff member to have a complaint Locally Resolved is not required.

Anything said during the local resolution process by either the complainant or the officer cannot be used in any civil, criminal or misconduct proceedings.

The officer dealing with the complaint draws up an agreement with the complainant as to what issues are to be addressed during the local resolution and any other actions to be taken. A response is then sought from the officer(s)/member of staff complained about. 

Local Resolution does not mean that the complainant gets an automatic apology. Quite simply it is a means of enabling the complainant's views to be expressed to the officer and vice versa.

The procedure is completed by the resolving officer sending the complainant a letter outlining how the officer(s)/member of staff have responded to the issues raised. 

Local Resolution may also be achieved through alternative methods such as mediation.

If an apology is proffered by the officer it will be given. If it is felt that an apology is required on behalf of the force then it will be given.  

If there is a need to highlight to a complainant that their behaviour contributed to the situation then that will be said.

If a complaint is deemed unsuitable for the local resolution process then the complaint can still be progressed by way of a proportionate investigation, unless there is insufficient information.  In these circumstances a discontinuance application may be considered.   

This means the Force may request that no investigation is progressed.  The request is made to the IPCC or the Humberside Police Appropriate Authority.

Proportionate Investigation

If the complaint is not suitable for LR then if the investigating officer believes that the matter, if proven, is not likely to result in a misconduct hearing or criminal proceedings then they may carry out a proportionate investigation.

This means

• obtaining accounts from the complainant & witnesses without taking a statement

• collating all evidence

• obtaining a written response from the officer / support staff member subject of the complaint negating the need for an interview

• consider all of the available evidence and give details of that to the Appropriate Authority (Chief Superintendent in charge of the Professional Standards Branch) who will decide if there is a case to answer at misconduct proceedings, criminal proceedings or what, if any, other action may be taken

• a final letter is sent to the complainant confirming the outcome.

Full Investigation

This means that an Investigating Officer (I.O.) usually from the Professional Standards Branch but occasionally other officers (usually a crime investigation) will be appointed. In serious complaints (cases of death or serious injury) the investigation may be investigated independently by the IPCC or supervised/managed by the IPCC.

Full investigation means

• taking a statement from the complainant
• collating all evidence
• seeing any witnesses and taking statements where appropriate
• interviewing the officer/support staff member under recorded conditions (with a federation friend/work place colleague present in the case of misconduct or a solicitor in the case of crime, if the person wishes)
• preparing a file
• consider and if appropriate forward the details to the Crown Prosecution Service for a decision as to whether Criminal proceedings should be instigated against the person(s) subject of the complaint.

• forwarding the file to the Appropriate Authority (Chief Superintendent in charge of the Professional Standards Branch) who will decide if there is a case to answer at misconduct proceedings, criminal proceedings or what, if any, other action may be taken

Findings

The vast majority of complaints that are dealt with are locally resolved. For those subject of a proportionate or full investigation the outcome recommendations available are:-

• not upheld - No further action
• upheld - no misconduct - performance issue
• upheld - no misconduct - management action
• upheld - misconduct - misconduct meeting
• upheld - misconduct - misconduct hearing

If the recommendation is for an officer to be charged under the Standards of Professional Behaviour and the officer is to appear before a misconduct hearing he / she will be afforded legal representation.

In the case of an officer appearing before a misconduct meeting he /she would not be afforded legal representation.

If the case goes to a Misconduct meeting the officer can admit or deny the breach of the Standards of Professional Behaviour. If denied the panel will examine the evidence and determine whether or not the breach is proven. If so proven the sanctions available are:-

• No further action
• Management advice
• Written warning
• Final written warning

In the case of a Misconduct hearing also available is:-

• Dismissal with notice
• Dismissal without notice

An officer can appeal against the findings of a Misconduct meeting by submitting their reasons in writing. An appeal meeting will be conducted by a Police officer or HR personnel of a higher rank / grade to the person who conducted the misconduct meeting.

An officer can appeal against the findings of a Misconduct hearing to the Police Appeals Tribunal.

Appeals by the complainant

The complainant can make various appeals either to the IPCC or the Humberside Police Appeal Body (HPAB) which are as follows:-

• A failure to record their complaint - appeal to the IPCC only.
• An appeal against the outcome of Local Resolution.
• An appeal against the investigation & outcome of a full or proportionate investigation into their complaint.
• An appeal against the decision to disapply a complaint from the requirements of the Police Reform Act. 
• An appeal against the decision to discontinue investigation of a complaint.

As a result of such an appeal being upheld the IPCC or the HPAB can direct the appropriate authority to do anything which it deems to be necessary relating to the investigation & outcome providing that it is also proportionate.

The complainant should be informed by the Force who is the relevant appeal body whenever a final letter is sent to the complainant.