Complaints may relate to police misconduct, corruption, discrimination, or to administrative matters such as freedom of information. Complaints can be oral or in writing and must be supported with carefully recorded evidence. Complaints are investigated by the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) or by the police. Whether or not to make a complaint, and when, should be carefully considered. Legal advice should be sought before making a complaint, especially if charges are pending or when pressing charges or suing police for damages.

Contributors

Jeremy King

Principal Lawyer, Robinson Gill Lawyers

Nick Boag

Solicitor, Robinson Gill Lawyers

Where can complaints about Victoria Police be lodged?

Last updated

1 July 2021

Complaints about Victoria Police officers can be made to:

  • the station commander of any police station; or
  • the PSC; or
  • IBAC; or
  • the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) or to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), if the complaint relates to discrimination.

For the contact details of these organisations, see ‘Contacts’ at the end of this chapter.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have a complaint about a Victoria Police officer and want to complain directly to Victoria Police also have the option to contact a Police Aboriginal Liaison Officer (see ‘Contacts’ at the end of this chapter).

Where to complain: Service complaints

It is appropriate to lodge minor complaints (e.g. a police officer was rude) at the police station that is nearest to where the incident occurred. Complaints can be made to the police officer in charge of the station (usually a senior sergeant). The police officer should write down the details of your complaint.

Where to complain: Misconduct complaints

Complaints about misconduct by Victoria Police officers should be made to either the PSC or to IBAC (see ‘Contacts’ at the end of this chapter). Lawyers working in this area usually advise their clients to complain to the PSC and not to IBAC, for the reasons outlined below.

Even though IBAC has the power to investigate police misconduct, in reality, IBAC refers the majority of complaints about police misconduct to the Victoria Police for investigation. This includes serious complaints (e.g. assault).

If you lodge a complaint with Victoria Police (either through PSC or at a police station), you can access documents about the investigation using the freedom of information process (see Chapter 12.5: Freedom of information law). However, if you lodge a complaint with IBAC, you may be unable to access these documents through freedom of information, even if IBAC refers your complaint to Victoria Police, and a police officer investigates your complaint.

There are also a significant number of secrecy provisions in the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission Act 2011 (Vic). This means that it is extremely unlikely that you will obtain any documents from IBAC regarding your complaint or about IBAC’s decision regarding your complaint.

IBAC may classify a complaint as being a ‘public interest disclosure’  (previously known as as a ‘protected disclosure’) within the meaning of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (Vic) (previously known as the Protected Disclosure Act 2013 (Vic)). If this occurs, be aware that the information in your complaint becomes highly confidential; if you reveal or disclose this information to a third party, you may be subject to criminal sanctions.

Where to complain: Discrimination complaints

Complaints about Victoria Police officers that involve racism or other forms of discrimination can be made to VEOHRC or AHRC (see ‘Contacts’ at the end of this chapter). However, complaints of discrimination can only be made to VEOHRC or AHRC in some circumstances.

In general, a complaint can be made to VEOHRC when you are alleging that discrimination occurred by police officer(s) when the officers were providing a ‘service’ to the public. For example, police officers are considered to be providing a public service when they attend a scene following a request for assistance, when officers are in the process of preventing or detecting a crime, and when they are handling a situation and ask people to move on or leave an area.

A complaint about discrimination cannot be made to VEOHRC when the discrimination occurred in circumstances where the police officer(s) were not providing a public service. These circumstances include searches, arrests, laying charges and initiating prosecutions.

A complaint can be made to AHRC when you are alleging that discrimination occurred when a police officer(s) dealt with you as a suspect.

Note that complaints to either VEOHRC or AHRC do not ordinarily lead to disciplinary action or criminal charges against the relevant police officer(s). Complaints may lead to changes in Victoria Police policy and practices and/or compensation.

For more information, see Chapter 11.1: Discrimination and human rights.

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