It is important that genuine grievances against police officers are reported so they can be investigated, and police oversight bodies are alerted to systemic issues.
The majority of complaints against police officers are investigated by serving members of the police force. Some complaints are even investigated by police officers working at the same station as the police officer being complained about.
While complaints about police officers can lead to disciplinary action and criminal charges for the officers, less than 10 per cent of complaints about police officers that are investigated by police officers are ‘substantiated’ (i.e. found to be true).
In 2013, less than four per cent of assault complaints made against serving police officers were found to be true. A 2016 audit found that of the police complaint files audited, only nine per cent of investigations came to the conclusion that the complaint was true. For this reason and others, complainants are often dissatisfied with the complaint process and outcomes.
In September 2018, the Victoria Parliament published a report following an inquiry into the external oversight of police corruption and misconduct. This report recommended several changes to the current system that might foster greater accountability for police officers. The report has been well received by politicians, but its recommendations have not yet been adopted by the government (as at 1 July 2021).
The need for a review of external police oversight was also one of the recommendations made by the 2020 Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants. Victoria’s Attorney-General has subsequently publicly stated that they are actively reviewing Victoria’s external police oversight system and has promised to implement all of the Royal Commission’s recommendations.
This chapter sets out the procedure for making a complaint, provides information to enable you to decide whether to lodge a complaint, and briefly outlines the types of court proceedings that can follow police misconduct.