Disability / Police / Police complaints

How should the police treat us?

How should the police treat us? What are the standards of professional behaviour? How can I complain?

All of us deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. The police must follow the Human Rights Act and the Equality Act. This includes:

Our website has more information about what the police should do in these situations. You can read by clicking the links above.

This page is part of a series developed with Disability Rights UK (DRUK).

You can read a summary of these pages on DRUK’s website here. There are also downloadable versions: a shorter pdf version, as well as small cards that you can print or save on your phone.

Disclaimer: this article is for general information. It’s not intended to be used as legal advice. For information on how to get legal advice, please see our page here.

What are the Standards of Professional Behaviour?

In England, police officers are also expected to meet the Standards of Professional Behaviour. This covers how they should treat everyone. If you are disabled, it can be good to know how these relate to your situation.

There are 10 principles:

1. Honesty and Integrity

This means that police officers should not say things that aren’t true on purpose. They should act honestly and correctly.

For example, the police shouldn’t give false evidence about you.

2. Authority, Respect and Courtesy

This means that police officers should act with self-control. They should treat members of the public with respect, including disabled people. The police should respect the rights of everyone. They should not abuse their power and use their authority to do things they shouldn’t.

The police shouldn’t swear at you, or act aggressively, for example if it’s taking you longer to do something because you’re disabled.

3. Equality and Diversity

The police should act fairly and treat everyone equally. They should not discriminate against people unlawfully.

If the police don’t make reasonable adjustments to how they work, this could be a breach of the equality and diversity standard. Reasonable adjustments mean that the police need to think about how they might adapt their ways of working to accommodate disabled people’s needs. You can read more about reasonable adjustments here.

4. Use of Force

The police should only use force that is

  • necessary: it has to be done in order to achieve a lawful objective
  • proportionate: the force used is only as much as is needed to achieve that aim
  • reasonable in the circumstances: given the situation, the force that the police use is something that could be justified.

For example, the police shouldn’t be putting people in handcuffs when it’s not necessary, especially when this injures someone.

5. Orders and Instructions

Police should only give and follow orders and instructions that are lawful. Police officers should follow police regulations, their police force policies, and orders that are lawful.

If your police force has a policy around how they should treat disabled people, they should follow it. They shouldn’t do anything that is against equality laws, like the Equality Act or the Human Rights Act.

6. Duties and Responsibilities

Police officers should carry out their duties and responsibilities as best they can. They should cooperate during investigations. If they are a witness, they should be professional and open.

7. Confidentiality

Police should treat your personal information with respect. They should only access it or share it if it’s part of their duty to do so.

If the police are sharing your information with other government bodies, like the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), they should only do so in the ways that UK data protection law says that they can.

8. Fitness for Duty

Police officers should make sure they are able to carry out their responsibilities when they are on duty or presenting themselves to go on duty.

9. Discreditable Conduct

Police shouldn’t act in a way that presents the police in a bad light or makes the public less confident in the police. This applies when they are both on and off duty. Police should report if they have been involved in criminal behaviour.

10. Challenging and Reporting Improper Conduct

Police officers should report, challenge and take action against their colleagues if their behaviour has fallen below these standards.

For more information, you can also see the College of Policing’s Code of Ethics.

What if I want to complain about the police or take legal action?

You have the right to complain about police behaviour that you’re unhappy with. In some situations, you can take the police to court.

For more information please see our pages on complaining about the police.

What are my rights on this?

Find out more about your rights and how the Human Rights Act protects them

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