A young person's guide to the police complaints system

This quick guide explains what we do, how to complain and what you can expect if you do.

You have a right to complain if you’re not happy with how you’ve been treated by the police. If you’ve got a problem or you’re unhappy about something that happened to you which involved the police, it can usually be sorted out by speaking to the police force. But if they can’t put things right for you, then you can make a complaint.

What do I need to know about making a complaint?

  • We have oversight of police complaints made to 43 police forces across England and Wales. This means we have access to data and can analyse it to look at trends, patterns and issues.
  • We are not the police - we make decisions independently of the police and government.
  • We set the rules that police forces must follow when handling complaints.
  • Police forces handle most complaints locally.
  • We investigate the most serious complaints, like those involving deaths, serious injuries or corruption.

How can I complain about the police?

  • You can contact the police force directly.
  • You can fill in our online complaint form and we will send your complaint to the police force involved.
  • If you want to complain in person at the police station, you can bring someone with you.
  • With your permission, someone can make a complaint on your behalf.

What are the possible outcomes?

  • The police may give you an explanation for what happened.
  • The police may provide you with an apology.
  • The officers involved could be given training and development.
  • The force may change their policy (rules) or procedures (the way they do things).
  • The officers involved could face disciplinary action (such as a written warning, a reduction in rank or dismissal).
  • Read about how we carry out independent investigations.

What can I expect if I complain?

  • The person dealing with the complaint will contact you to get the details. They should ask you what you want to happen.
  • You can expect to be listened to and treated fairly. 
  • You will be kept updated about the progress of your complaint. You must receive an update every 28 days.
  • When your complaint is finalised, you will be contacted about the outcome and any action that will be taken as a result.
  • If you’re not happy with the result, you may be able to request a review or an appeal.

This guide was put together by our Youth Panel. If you think we should add more information or you have any suggestions to make it more helpful, please email us.

A guide to the police complaints system for young people

This quick video explains what we do, how to complain and what you can expect if you do.

Frequently asked questions

Our Youth Panel

Read about our Youth Panel and their work to understand young people’s views of the police complaints system. Our Youth Panel