Our role in handling complaints and misconduct
In this section we summarise the way complaints about the police are dealt with, and explain HMIC’s role in this process.
We also outline how we are involved if a complaint results in misconduct proceedings being brought against an officer.
Complaints about the police
Complaints about the police should be made to the relevant police force or authority concerned.
The police force and the police authority/Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) are obliged by law to refer certain complaints to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) (external link).
HMIC and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) have a duty to co-operate with each other.
The role of HMIC
HMIC does not have a remit to investigate or resolve individual complaints. However, as part of HMIC’s role in assessing police force efficiency and effectiveness, we have a statutory duty to keep ourselves informed of how police forces handle complaints and misconduct.
In addition, if the police authority (or PCC from November 2012) decides that it is appropriate for a complaint to be investigated by someone from outside the force, it has become customary for them to be able (if they wish) to ask HMIC for assistance in identifying who this should be.
Complaints about the conduct of individual officers
The arrangements for resolving complaints about the conduct of individual police officers are set out in legislation.
Police authorities are responsible for dealing with complaints about the conduct of the Chief Constable and other senior ranks. From November 2012 the PCC will be responsible for monitoring complaints made against officers and staff, whilst having responsibility for complaints against the Chief Constable.
Complaints about the service provided by the police
Complaints about the service provided by the police (referred to as ‘direction and control’ in legislation) are currently to be dealt with accordance with Home Office guidance and each police forces own policy. However, this will change in November 2012, and complaints about direction and control will be dealt with in the same way as complaints about police officer conduct.
Complaints about police governing bodies
Complaints about the police authority or its members should be made to the police authority.
The police authority standards committee has responsibility for the investigation of complaints about the conduct of elected members. From November 2012 these will be replaced by new arrangements for PCCs.
Oversight of the complaints system
The IPCC has a statutory guardianship role for the police complaints system as a whole. The IPCC’s main role is to increase public confidence in the police complaints system in England and Wales.
HMIC’s role in police misconduct proceedings
If the police authority decides to instigate gross misconduct proceedings against a Chief Constable, they must hold a hearing and, in accordance with legislation, an HMI will sit on the panel.
If an officer above the rank of Chief Superintendent decides to appeal against the outcome of the misconduct hearing, the appeal is to the Police Appeals Tribunal where a HMI may sit on the Panel if asked by the Secretary of State.
Arrangements for complaints and misconduct in London
While the arrangements for the Metropolitan Police and the City of London Police are similar to those set out above, there is some local variation.