The Police Reform Act established the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) in 2004. The IPCC is an independent body that oversees and investigates complaints about the police. Only the courts may overturn any decisions it makes.
Making a complaint
The behaviour of police officers and staff is governed by a set of rules laid out in the police code of conduct. This includes acting with honesty and integrity, only using reasonable force and treating members of public with respect. Any individual can make a complaint alleging misconduct by the police and such complaints should be made in the first instance to the local police force concerned. Complaints have to be made within the year that the incident complained about occurred, unless there is good reason for any delay.
Many complaints can be dealt with through local resolution with the police force concerned. However, if complainants remain dissatisfied following their complaint to the police; if the local police force refuses to record the complaint; or if the local police do not comply with the agreed local resolution procedure, then complainants can appeal to the IPCC. The local police should inform complainants within ten days whether they have recorded their complaint.
The police must refer certain serious complaints and allegations of misconduct to the IPCC. These categories of complaint are those involving:
- a death or serious injury;
- allegations of corruption;
- allegations against senior officers;
- allegations involving racism;
- allegations of perverting the course or justice.
The IPCC may investigate these issues even if a complaint has not been made, and the IPCC may deal with the complaint in one of the following ways:
- it may conduct an independent investigation into the complaint, which will not have any police involvement;
- in less serious cases, it may arrange for a ‘managed investigation’ to be carried out by the police themselves, which the IPCC will manage;
- the IPCC may direct that a ‘supervised investigation’ is carried out by the police , with the IPCC in a supervisory role;
- the police may be required to carry out a ‘local investigation’ with no IPCC involvement. Complainants then have the right of appeal to the IPCC.
The IPCC are required to immediately commence an independent investigation into the most serious cases, such as the death or serious injury of a member of the public. An example of this is the shooting of Mark Duggan in Tottenham on 4 August 2011, which has prompted the IPCC to declare an independent investigation into the incident.
A report will be prepared following an investigation carried out by either the police or by the police under the management of the IPCC. If a serious complaint is upheld, it could result in disciplinary proceedings being taken against individual police officers.
In some cases, the IPCC may also recommend to the CPS that criminal proceedings be commenced against the relevant officer(s). However, the IPCC does not have the power to award compensation to individuals; this can only be obtained through a claim in civil proceedings.