Information for police
When handled appropriately, complaints can lead to better police practice and services. This benefits local communities and police forces.
On this page you can find all the tools and guidance you need about the complaints system. This is split out into information that is primarily for professional standards departments, and more general information for all police officers and staff.
Information for professional standards departments
Our statutory guidance helps police forces and local policing bodies comply with their legal obligations when handling complaints about police officers and staff. It outlines how to achieve high standards in the handling of complaints, conduct matters and death and serious injury (DSI) matters.
Our guidance sets out the principles underpinning the complaints system, when complaints should be recorded and different ways of handling complaints, including referral to the IOPC and local investigation by the police force. It also covers potential outcomes and how the outcome of a complaint can be reviewed.
This guidance applies to matters that come to the attention of police forces, police and crime commissioners or the IOPC on or after 1 February 2020.
Note: this guidance does not apply to other organisations under our jurisdiction which are governed by different legislation. Where appropriate, these organisations follow the spirit of the guidance when dealing with complaints.
For matters that came to the attention of police forces, police and crime commissioners or the IOPC before 1 February 2020, please refer to our previous statutory guidance and operational advice note.
Information about our statutory guidance prior to 2015 can be found via the National Archive. The documents dated 2012 relate to complaints and appeals received by appropriate authorities between 22 November 2012 to May 2015. The documents dated 2010 relate to complaints and appeals received by appropriate authorities between 1 April 2010 and 22 November 2012.
Our statutory guidance on achieving best evidence in death or serious injury matters helps the police to comply with their duties and responsibilities from the moment a death or serious injury (DSI) matter comes to their attention.
The guidance aims to help us secure best evidence to inform our investigations, to promote public confidence in the integrity of the process and protect the officers involved from accusations of collusion.
For more information, the College of Policing has published guidance on post incident procedures, management, welfare and legal issues.
Guidance on dealing with allegations of discrimination – includes a summary guide with links to more detailed guidance and case examples
This guide outlines the information that should be provided when making a referral to the IOPC - Minimum standards for referrals
This guidance supports the police service to capture accurate and consistent information about complaints which can be used to identify issues and trends, This information can be used to inform development of future policy and practice at local and national levels. It applies to complaints received from 1 February 2020 - Guidance on capturing data about police complaints
This guidance provides complaint handlers with a fair and consistent approach to managing unacceptable or unreasonable behaviour by complainants. It also ensures that we give access to the police complaints system to all - Guidance on managing unacceptable and unreasonable complainant behaviour
This advice note helps police forces to comply with the statutory requirement to provide a report when a local investigation is open for longer than 12 months - Operational advice note on 12 month timeliness reports
For complaints received before 1 February 2020, please see our Guidance on the recording of complaints under the Police Reform Act 2002 (updated December 2017).
Information for police officers and staff
This document sets out key messages for police officers and police staff who are involved in an incident or allegation that is subject to an IOPC investigation - What to expect if you are involved with an IOPC investigation
There is also more detailed guidance for officers with information on what they can expect when asked to provide a witness account; the information that we will provide to them; and how we will reach decisions on the most appropriate way of engaging with the officer.
Our report line exists for police officers and staff to report concerns of wrongdoing that a criminal offence has been committed, or where there is evidence of conduct that would justify disciplinary proceedings. The Home Office provides useful information on reporting concerns (chapter two), while gov.uk has general information about whistleblowing.
The report line can be used to make public interest disclosures to the IOPC in our role as a prescribed person.
Disclosures which are made in the public interest are protected under the Employment Rights Act 1996. The IOPC is a prescribed person under that legislation for the purposes of matters relating to the conduct of a person serving with the police or another law enforcement body under the IOPC’s jurisdiction.
We record reports made to us which meet the criteria of a Public Interest Disclosure using the criteria in the legislation and the Home Office Guidance (Chapter 2).
Our powers to act on public interest disclosures / whistleblowing reports made to us are set by the Police Reform Act.
Please note that whistleblowing matters are handled differently to complaints made by members of the public. Under the Police Reform Act 2002 (PRA), a person serving with the police who wishes to make a complaint would only have the rights of a complainant if they were off duty at the time of the alleged conduct and if the complaint is against a person who, at the time of the alleged conduct, was under the direction and control of a different chief officer.
In addition, matters relating to the direction and control of a police force remain outside of the IOPC’s remit. This generally includes grievance matters such as pensions, promotion and discipline. However, where those issues arise, police officers and staff members have access to an internal grievance scheme which has routes of appeal to more senior staff. We encourage officers to pursue these avenues, where appropriate, and seek legal advice or speak to the Police Federation for further advice in such circumstances. The IOPC cannot provide expert advice to individuals on their rights and we cannot enter into litigation on behalf of an individual.
Further information regarding the report line process is available in our report line FAQs. The IOPC report line is operated and managed by our customer contact centre. Email us or call us on 08458 770061 (lines are open Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm - please leave a voicemail after hours).
Reporting data on Report Line matters
Our Youth Panel created this handy poster based on their research with 800 young people to help police officers when coming into contact with young people.
Information for other bodies under our jurisdiction
Guidance for police and crime panels and the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee to make them aware of their responsibilities in handling complaints and conduct matters (updated November 2022)