Police Complaints Links & Resources

Resources for making your own formal complaint about police misconduct

What you can do after an incident with police:

Do I have a right to complain about the police?

Yes. A police officer‘s job is to enforce the law but there are limits on their authority and how they should behave when doing their job. You have a right to be treated fairly.

People under 18 and adults can complain about the police.

When should I make the complaint?

Do this as soon as you can. Talk to a lawyer, especially if the police have charged you with an offence. You can get free legal advice from Victoria Legal Aid or a community legal centre.

What do I put in my complaint?

Write down everything that happened. Include:

  • what happened to you
  • the date and time it happened
  • the names of the police involved, their rank and station. Try to get these details when the incident happens.

If you have been physically hurt:

  • see a doctor straight away
  • get someone to take a photo of your injuries. Photos taken on your phone might not be good enough. Ask your doctor about specialist doctors who can take proper photos
  • write down as much as you can about who hurt you. Include their name, rank and the police station where they work
  • write down what happened, who said what and the names and contact details of any witnesses
  • write down the name of the last person to see you before you were hurt and the first person to see you afterwards. Ask them to write their own notes as soon as they can
  • contact a lawyer who can help you make a complaint. See ‘Where to get help’ on page 38.

Where or how should I make my complaint?

Police Conduct Unit

All complaints about Victorian police can be made to the Police Conduct Unit. This is part of Victoria Police. The unit has a complaint form you can fill out on the Victoria Police website. You can also contact them to discuss your complaint.

Police Conduct Unit

GPO Box 913 Melbourne VIC 3001

Tel: 1300 363 101

Go to the police website (www.police.vic.gov.au) and follow the ‘Compliments and complaints’ link.

You can also complain directly to the officer-in-charge at any police station if you feel comfortable and safe doing so.

Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission

You can complain to the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC). IBAC is not part of Victoria Police.

IBAC investigates serious corruption and police misconduct. They do not investigate everything and will refer most complaints to the Police Conduct Unit. They can also refer complaints to other places.

You can make a complaint by using the online complaint form on the IBAC website. You can also call IBAC and ask them to send you a complaint form.

You can make a complaint without giving your name.

Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission

GPO Box 24234 Melbourne VIC 3001

Tel: 1300 735 135

Go to the IBAC website (www.ibac.vic.gov.au) and follow the ‘How to make a complaint’ link under the ‘Reporting corruption’ header.

Template letters for your complaint

Sample-letter-to-PSC (WORD document)  A sample letter to submit a complaint about police to the Professional Standards Command (PSC) in Victoria.

FOI request letter – VicPolice (WORD document) A sample Freedom of Information Request letter to send to Victoria Police.

FOI request letter – PTV  (WORD document)  Freedom of Information Request letter to send to Public Transport Victoria

Commonwealth Ombudsman

You can make a complaint about the Australian Federal Police through the Commonwealth Ombudsman. They have a complaint form on their website.

Commonwealth Ombudsman

GPO Box 442 Canberra ACT 2601

Tel: 1300 362 072

Email: ombudsman@ombudsman.gov.au

Go to the Commonwealth Ombusdman website (www.ombudsman.gov.au) and follow the ‘Making a complaints’ link.

Can I take the police to court?

You may be able to sue Victoria Police for compensation and damages if you believe you suffered a genuine wrong by the police officer. You will need evidence of your suffering and loss. These cases are usually very serious. Get legal advice as soon as you can after the incident. In general, you must take action within three years of the incident. See: What can I do if police have assaulted me?

 

 

Help making a complaint

Stress and emotional health

A bad experience with a police officer can be stressful and may affect your health and relationships. You can get free support and help to deal with this. See Links for Support

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians

The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS) can help if you want to complain about the police. Contact VALS to get information, support and free legal advice about your options.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and/or intersex (LGBTI)

Contact a Victoria Police LGBTI Liaison Officer (GLLO) if you are worried about dealing with police officers or aren’t happy with how the police handled your complaint. .

 

Racial discrimination

If you believe that a police officer treated you badly because of your race or religious background, you may be able to complain to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission or the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Human rights

You have rights, freedoms and responsibilities under the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006. The Victorian Government and its agencies must consider these rights and freedoms when they make laws and provide services to the public. Victoria Police is part of the Victorian Government.

For more information about the Charter, visit the Human Rights Commission website (www.humanrightscommission.vic.gov.au) or call 1300 292 153 (free call).

If you believe your existing rights have been breached, contact Victoria Legal Aid or a lawyer.

Note: international human rights law requires that an independent body investigates complaints of torture and ill-treatment by police.

 

If you wish to do your own complaint please use these template letters:

Template letters

Sample-letter-to-PSC (WORD document)  A sample letter to submit a complaint about police to the Professional Standards Command (PSC) in Victoria.

FOI request letter – VicPolice (WORD document) A sample Freedom of Information Request letter to send to Victoria Police.

FOI request letter – PTV  (WORD document)  Freedom of Information Request letter to send to Public Transport Victoria

Legal Support

See a solicitor as soon as you can to talk about your complaint and other legal options.  There is a 3 year limitation period on civil litigation.

Criminal Law
If you have been charged by the police and want advice and representation, you should contact a criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible. To find out if you are eligible for legal aid, you can call Victoria Legal Aid on 1300 792 387, Monday to Friday from 8.45 am to 5.15 pm.

Criminal law firms who may be able to assist you (for a fee) include:
• Stary Norton Halphen 8622 8200
• Doogue O’Brien George 9670 5111
• Melinda Walker 9388 2711
• Fitzroy Legal Service 9419 3744
• Armstrong Legal 1300 168 676

Civil Law
If you want legal advice about suing the police for compensation for what happened to you, we recommend that you get advice from a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. There are time limits that apply, and most cases need to be filed in court within 3 years of the incident or the injury. You should seek advice as soon as possible, because you may not be able to start legal proceedings if you leave it too late.

Private lawyers who may be able to assist with (no win/no fee) litigation include:

Robinson Gill Lawyers: Police Misconduct Unit  o3 9890 3321 or 1800 745 342

Adviceline Injury Lawyers 03 9321 9988

 

You are free to contact people on this list, or search elsewhere. These firms are listed because we believe that they undertake quality legal services in this area.

There may be other legal services who could also assist you. You may be able to find them through an internet search or through contacting the Law Institute of Victoria, on 9607 9311.

 

 


 

The Police Accountability Practice is run in partnership with the Melbourne University Law Public Interest Law Program.

Report on first year of operation

.Capture

 Key findings:

1. Of the 51 allegations filed through the clinic as complaints with Victoria Police during 2015, only 1 was substantiated. This is a 2% substantiation rate.

2. The most frequent allegation made was excessive force.

3. Complainants came to the clinic from around the State with the highest concentration in the inner-west.

4. There continue to be allegations of racially biased policing despite Victoria Police’s zero
tolerance towards racial profiling.

5. There is a far higher demand for our service than we can provide.

We were able to provide ongoing casework for 67 people. 55 people seeking criminal defence work for matters linked to their police complaint were turned away. 112 people seeking ongoing casework assistance were turned away

The full report with case studies is available here (PDF).

 

About the Clinic

This clinic is made possible by a partnership with the Melbourne University Law School’s Public Interest Law Clinic in which students support lawyers in public interest law organisations and directly assist in the delivery of legal services to clients.

It aims to give students practical legal experience and provide the community with much needed additional resources for public interest law causes, particularly the provision of legal advice and assistance to disadvantaged clients.

The Police Complaints Advice Clinic will:

1)      Provide an accessible, high-quality legal advice, referral and support service for Victorians alleging human rights abuses or mistreatment by police or PSO’s;

2)      Meet the diverse and complex needs (legal, emotional, systemic and therapeutic) of clients with a focus upon effective remedies, police accountability and human rights outcomes;

3)      Ensure a best practice clinical legal education model for students which promotes a principled and professional, public interest law practice;

4)      Provide an experiential and collaborative learning environment for students with experienced clinical supervision, support and assessment;

5)      Collate and analyze statewide client data, utilise case studies, client stories and key cases for strategic systemic advocacy and law reform for police accountability and human rights.

 

See: From the Classroom to the Clinic.

Media on police internal complaint handling

Corruption watchdog flames Victoria Police over internal investigations, Cameron Houston & Chris Vedelago, The Age,

“Victoria Police officers involved in deaths or serious injuries to the public are not properly investigated by the force due to “clear conflicts of interest” and most cases failed to include evidence from independent witnesses, a damning report has found….”

IBAC ‘concerned’ with Victoria Police handling of serious incidents, Anthony Dowsley, Herald Sun,

“THE state’s anti-corruption watchdog has identified weaknesses in how Victoria Police handles incidents involving its officers that result in deaths or serious injuries to the public….”

Victoria Police ‘deficiencies’ found in IBAC report on internal reviews, Zalika Rizmal and Charlotte King, ABC News, March 27, 2018

“Victoria’s anti-corruption watchdog says there are “concerning deficiencies” in the way Victoria Police reviews serious incidents, including those that kill or injure members of the public….”

Corruption watchdog to probe disgraced integrity cop’s actions on racism complaints, Tammy Mills & Cameron Houston, The Age,

“Victoria’s corruption watchdog has widened its investigation into online trolling by disgraced assistant commissioner Brett Guerin to review the former police ethics boss’ actions on racism complaints….

Victoria’s corruption watchdog recommends major changes to the way complaints are handled against officers, Hamish Fitzsimmons, ABC Lateline, 15 September, 2016

VIDEO and Transcript:  Twenty years ago, police turned up at Corinna Horvath’s home over an unregistered car. They kicked in her door and she was beaten up.

For information about how you can support the work of the Police Accountability Project please see:

Support Our Work