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Complaints against police

The law about complaints against police in South Australia is found in the Police Complaints and Discipline Act 2016 (SA) and all references in this section are to this Act unless otherwise stated.

Any person may make a complaint about the conduct of a member of the police, or a cadet, or special constable, to another member of the police, cadet, or special constable, or to a police public servant, or the Office for Public Integrity (OPI) [s 10].

Anyone charged with a criminal offence should speak to his or her lawyer promptly. People in custody have a right to make a complaint and police must take all reasonable steps to enable this to happen [s 11].

A police officer, cadet, or special constable, who reasonably suspect that another police officer, cadet, or special constable, has been involved in misconduct, corruption or maladministration in public administration must make a report to the Internal Investigations Section (see below) or the OPI [s 12].

It is an offence for a person to prevent, hinder or obstruct someone from making a complaint or report under the Act [s 41].

Maximum penalty imprisonment for two years or $10 000 fine.

It is an offence to make a complaint or report under the Act knowing that there are no grounds for making the complaint [s 42(b)].

Maximum penalty imprisonment for two years or $10 000 fine.

PLEASE NOTE -

From 4 September 2017 the Office of the Police Ombudsman has closed and the responsibility for the oversight of complaints against the police has transferred to the Office for Public Integrity (OPI). This will have no practical effect on any complaint made before 4 September as those complaints which have not been dealt with and finalised by the Office of the Police Ombudsman will automatically be transferred to the OPI.

The website for the OPI is here: https://opi.sa.gov.au/police-complaints/

Where to complain

Complaints can be made directly to SA Police or the Office for Public Integrity.

The Office for Public Integrity

Telephone: (08) 8207 1777 or 1300 782 489

Online complaints form at: https://opi.sa.gov.au/police-complaints/

Post: The Office for Public Integrity - Reply Paid 85033, Adelaide SA 5001

Email: admin@opi.sa.gov.au

SA Police

Telephone: (08) 7322 3308

Email: SAPOLIIS@police.sa.gov.au

Suggestions for people who may have a police complaint

If a person believes that the police have acted wrongly, they should say so politely. If someone has been injured while in police custody, they should ask for an immediate medical examination and have some photographs taken. Witnesses who can give evidence 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 in their mind. Any complaint should be made as soon as possible. If the complainant has been charged with an offence, they should always get legal advice as soon as possible.

Investigating a complaint

Internal Investigation Section (IIS)

Except in special circumstances of alleged corruption and very serious conduct, complaints are investigated by the Internal Investigation Section, a team of experienced police officers [Police Complaints and Discipline Act 2016 (SA) s 5]. The investigator will usually wish to speak to the complainant, the officer, cadet, or special constable, involved and anyone else able to help with the investigation.

In certain cases such as a where there are allegations of corruption or very serious conduct, the OPI may determine that a complaint should be investigated by the Independent Commission Against Corruption ICAC [s 29]. ICAC may also decide to investigate any complaint or report on its own initiative [s 30(2)].

Cooperating with investigations

It is an offence to knowingly make false or misleading statements in information provided under the Act is an offence [s 42(a)].

Maximum penalty imprisonment for two years or $10 000 fine.

Monitoring of investigations

The OPI monitors the progress of all investigations and can direct the Commissioner of Police, the Internal Investigations Section, or the particular police officer investigating a complaint as it thinks fit [s 27]. The OPI can also reassess certain complaints and reports by the IIS and substitute the assessment. This has to be done within three business days of the IIS assessment and in consultation with the Officer in Charge of the IIS [see further s 28].

Confidentiality

Investigations are carried out in strict confidence. However, if a Court, Tribunal, or Royal Commission calls for the information, then confidentiality may be breached [ss 44 - 46].

Complaints resolved by management resolution

Some complaints are dealt with through a management resolution process [Police Complaints and Discipline Act 2016 (SA) ss 16 - 20].

The matter under this process is referred to a resolution officer who allows the person complained about a chance to respond to the complaint against them, and if the person agrees, and the resolution offer thinks it is appropriate, the resolution officer will attempt to resolve the matter by conciliation [s 18].

During this management resolution process the Commissioner of Police can impose restrictions on the person, provide counselling, issue a reprimand, and if the do so must also provide remedial education and training with a chance for the person to show they have gained the required competencies [see further s 18(4)-(7)].

The resolution officer then has a responsibility to prepare a report on the process [s 19].

The management resolution processes must also be monitored and reviewed [s 20].

Police Disciplinary Tribunal

When the Commissioner of Police presents a notice of allegation about a member of the police, cadet, or special officer, to the Police Disciplinary Tribunal, and they deny it, the charge is heard and determined by the Tribunal [Police Complaints and Discipline Act 2016 (SA) ss 22-25].

If the Tribunal is satisfied on the balance of probabilities that a designated officer committed a breach of discipline, the Tribunal must make a finding as such and send the matter back to the Commissioner of Police who may take a number of actions to sanctions under s 26 of the Act which includes things such as termination or suspension of employment, reduction of rank, counselling, education and training, a fine, reduction in pay, etc [s 25].

Complaints not investigated

Most complaints are informally resolved, conciliated, or investigated. However, the Commissioner of Police may decide that a complaint should not be investigated or further investigated if:

  • the matter raised in the complaint is trivial; or
  • the complaint is frivolous or vexatious or is not made in good faith; or
  • the complaint has already been otherwise dealt with; or
  • having regard to all the circumstances of the case, the investigation or the continuance of the investigation of the matter raised in the complaint, is unnecessary or unjustifiable.

[Police Complaints and Discipline Act 2016 (SA) s 15]

    Complaints against police  :  Last Revised: Mon Sep 4th 2017
    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.