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Complaints about police

I don't think the Queensland police did the right thing. What can I do?

You can make a complaint.

The Queensland Police Service (QPS) has a Client Service Charter. This sets out the standards it expects of it's police officers. For example, the Charter says that Queensland police officers are expected to treat everyone with dignity and respect, even people who have been arrested.

That depends on whether the police behaviour you complain about amounts to:

  • a breach of discipline; or
  • an act of police misconduct; or
  • an act of official misconduct.

This is because you complain to a different organisation depending on how serious you think the police officer's act was. There are also different results and penalties for a police officer who is guilty of a discipline breach, police misconduct or official misconduct.

What is a breach of discipline by a police officer?

Examples of breaches of discipline are if an officer was biased, unethical or unprofessional.

What is police misconduct?

Police misconduct is any behaviour (apart from official misconduct) that is disgraceful, improper or inappropriate by a police officer, or shows they are not fit to be a police officer. Basically, police misconduct has to be below the standard of conduct the community reasonably expects of a police officer. It can even cover off-duty behaviour.

What is official misconduct by a police officer?

Official misconduct relates to misconduct by any public official (not just police) in performing their job. A state organisation (like the QPS) or a state official (like a police officer) might be guilty of official misconduct if they were:

  • dishonest
  • breached trust placed in them; or
  • misused officially obtained information.

To amount to official misconduct, the behaviour must also be a criminal offence or serious enough to sack the official. It does not include a police officer who was rude or inefficient.

Who do I complain to if I think a police officer breached discipline?

Complain to the officer-in-charge of the police station where the police officer works. If that doesn't settle the problem, complain to Queensland Police Service Headquarters.

The QPS has a structure to deal with complaints about how it operates, or about individual police officers. The Ethical Standards Command oversees complaints which are handled internally by the QPS.

There are several units under the Ethical Standards Command, including the Internal Investigation Branch (IIB). This unit manages the discipline process.

Who do I complain to if I think the officer is guilty of police misconduct?

Complain to the officer-in-charge of the police station where the police officer works. If that doesn't settle the problem, you can complain to Queensland Police Service Headquarters or the Crime and Corruption Commission.

The QPS is legally obliged to notify the CCC of all complaints of serious misconduct. The CCC has extensive powers to investigate the most serious cases of misconduct and can monitor QPS's internal complaints process to make sure the complaint is dealt with properly. The CCC can take over the investigation, if necessary.

How do I make the complaint about a discipline breach or police misconduct?

You can make your complaint in person, in writing or by telephone. You should include details like:

  • what exactly happened
  • when did it happen
  • where did it happen
  • what was said
  • was it was seen by someone other than yourself and the police
  • contact details for anyone who did see the incident
  • whether you have proof of damage, injury or any other useful evidence (e.g. photographs, telephone messages)
  • whether you have reported the matter to any other agency.

What happens after I make my complaint?

That depends on how serious the alleged discipline breach or police misconduct is.

For less serious matters like breaches of discipline, there might be:

  • informal resolution - conducted by a specially trained senior police officer who will discuss the complaint with you and the police officer involved. This may lead to an apology or an explanation for the police officer's conduct and no further action is taken.
  • mediation - where you and the police officer meet with two trained civilian mediators from the Dispute Resolution Centre to resolve things.

Who do I complain to if I think the officer is guilty of official misconduct?

You complain to the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC), because investigating official misconduct is one of their specific jobs. Even if you have already complained to the QPS about the alleged official misconduct, the police commissioner has a duty to pass on the complaint to the CCC.

The CCC only investigates and makes recommendations about what should happen to the QPS or police officer. It cannot find a state organisation or a public servant guilty of a crime. Only a court does that. CCC cannot discipline anyone for misconduct either.

The CCC can recommend:

  • that the police officer be prosecuted for a crime
  • that the QPS discipline the police officer (this can range from a caution to sacking)
  • that the QPS change it's processes.

Anyone who knowingly makes a false complaint to the Crime and Corruption Commission or the Queensland Police Service may be prosecuted. False complaints are treated seriously because they waste public money and unfairly damage reputations.

Can I make an anonymous complaint?

You may make an anonymous complaint. However, complaints are more difficult to investigate without detailed information. If you want to remain anonymous, you should supply a contact point so that you can be contacted by the investigating agency if necessary.

Do I need legal advice?

You do not need to speak to a lawyer before making a complaint about police.

You may need legal advice if you have been charged with an offence and are going to court.

Where can I get legal advice

Legal Aid Queensland may give legal advice about some police matters.

Legal Aid Queensland cannot provide you with a lawyer to attend a police interview, and we cannot give advice about participating in a Crime and Misconduct Commission interview about official misconduct.

The following organisations may also be able to provide you with legal advice.

Community legal centres may give free preliminary legal advice and information on some criminal law matters. Most CLCs do not provide legal representation. Check with your closest CLC whether they can assist with your matter.

Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private solicitor who can provide advice and representation.

Who else can help?

These organisations may also be able to help with your matter. They do not provide legal advice.

Queensland Police Service Headquarters investigate complaints about police misconduct and breaches of discipline. Internal complaints process is monitored by the Crime and Corruption Commission.

Crime and Corruption Commission investigates complaints about corrupt conduct and police misconduct, even where the original complaint has been made to Queensland Police. Monitors police internal complaints process and can take over investigations if necessary.

Queensland Ombudsman investigates complaints about the actions and decisions of Queensland public agencies, including the Queensland Police.

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