Complaints about The Police
Disclaimer: The material in this factsheet is a general guide only. It is not legal advice. For legal advice about your own particular situation we encourage you to call the Free Legal Helpline on 1300 366 424. The legal information was correct at the time of publishing (January 2018), but may change without notice.
Complaints about The Police
The police have to follow the law. Although police officers may have the power to do certain things, they have rules that they need to follow while doing them. For example, they are not allowed to use unreasonable force or violence against somebody while they are arresting them.
If you think that a police officer has treated you or someone else unfairly, has broken police rules, or has committed a criminal offence then you are able to make a complaint about the police officer.
It’s very important to lodge your complaint as soon as possible after the incident has occurred.
What kinds of things can I complain about?
You might want to complain about a police officer if they:
- intimidated you
- were unreasonable or unfair
- hurt you unreasonably
- damaged your stuff
- asked for a bribe
- made inappropriate comments about your race
- made sexual comments about you
- did something else that was inappropriate or improper
- did any of these things to another person, or
- broke the law.
How do I make a complaint?
You can call the Legal Help Line on 1300 366 424 to get advice about making a complaint.
You can make the actual complaint to the Office for Public Integrity (‘OPI’).
There is more information, as well as an online complaint form, at the OPI/ICAC website www.icac.sa.gov.au. You can call the OPI on 8207 1777 or 1300 782 489 to talk to someone about your complaint.
What should I include in my complaint?
If you want to make a complaint about the police, it’s a good idea to give as much information as possible so that the person looking at your complaint can look into what has happened.
Things you should put in your complaint include:
- Your name and contact details
- Where the incident happened
- What time it was
- The name of the officer who was involved and any other details about the officer you can remember
- The station the officer was from (if you know it)
- Names and details of any witnesses,
- What happened
- Any documents or photos to back you up, and
- What you want from the complaint (e.g. an apology, a reimbursement for damage etc.).
Suggestions for people who have a police complaint
If you believe that the police have acted wrongly, you should say so politely, but it is unwise to struggle or argue the point. If you do you could be charged with further offences.
If someone has been injured while in police custody, they should arrange an immediate medical examination and have some photographs taken. It’s best to write down what happened, who did it, (such as the police officer's I.D. number or nickname) and when and where it all happened while it is still fresh. Any complaint should be made as soon as possible after contact with police.
If you have been charged with an offence, get legal advice. Call the free Legal Help Line on 1300 366 424.
Police and Discrimination
What if a police officer has discriminated against me?
Remember, it is not ok for a police officer to treat you negatively because of opinions they have on your age, sexuality, race, gender identity, religion or other personal characteristic.
If you feel that the police have discriminated against you can make a complaint to the Equal Opportunity Commission of SA or the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Call the free Legal Help Line on 1300 366 424 to find out more about making a discrimination complaint.
The Legal Services Commission gratefully acknowledges the assistance of the Victoria Legal Aid and National Children’s and Youth Legal Centre in allowing the Legal Services Commission to adapt existing content.