Suggestions for people who may have a police complaint
If a person believes that the police have acted wrongly, they should say so politely, but it is unwise to struggle or argue the point. If someone has been injured while in police custody, they should arrange an immediate medical examination and have some photographs taken. As well, witnesses who can testify about the complainant's condition before their arrest should be contacted. The complainant should 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 the police. If the complainant has been charged with an offence, they should get legal advice.
Police Ombudsman procedure
A person wishing to make a complaint to the Ombudsman should contact the office of the Ombudsman or put the complaint in writing and post or bring it in. If necessary, an appointment may be made to discuss the complaint or a person may prefer to discuss the matter by telephone first. A complaint form can be sent to any person who contacts the office to make a complaint. In addition, a person may lodge a complaint at any police station which will then be sent to the Ombudsman. It is not appropriate though to make a complaint to the person who is being complained about.
If an appointment is made, an officer from the Ombudsman will discuss the matter with the complainant privately and in confidence. Interpreters are provided if necessary. A decision is then made as to whether or not the matter will be taken further, and the complainant is then advised of the decision.
Sometimes a simple explanation of police practices and procedures is all that is required in order to dispel a person's concerns. At other times a person may genuinely wish to complain about seemingly inappropriate police conduct. If the incident complained about is minor, it may be that the matter can be informally resolved. If the complaint is more serious, then preliminary enquiries or an investigation may take place.
Persons in custody
If a person in custody wishes to complain to the Ombudsman, that person must be provided with facilities to write the complaint out, place it in an envelope and seal it. The envelope must be sent to the Ombudsman promptly and without being opened [Police (Complaints and Disciplinary Proceedings) Act 1985 (SA) s 17].
Offences in connection with making police complaints
When a complaint is made to the Ombudman, it is an offence to knowingly make a false statement. It is also an offence to hinder or prevent a person from making a complaint [Police (Complaints and Disciplinary Proceedings) Act 1985 (SA) ss 25(8a), 28A(c) and 49].
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.