Disability / Police / Police complaints

How to complain about the police: disabled people’s rights

What can I complain about? How can I make a complaint?

Our page on police complaints has information about

  • how to make your complaint, and
  • what happens after you make your complaint.

This page is part of a series on Disabled people’s rights, developed with Disability Rights UK (DRUK). You can read a summary of this page on DRUK’s website here.

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

This page is correct for complaints made on or after 1 February 2020. For information about a police complaint made before 1 February 2020, please see this guidance here.

What can I complain about?

The police complaints system lets us to complain about how the police behave. The police will look at complaints, and sometimes investigate them. The complaints system is a way for us to hold the police to account. It also gives the Government an idea about how many people complain about different police forces.

Anyone can complain about police misconduct, which is when the police act in ways they shouldn’t. If you’ve been treated badly by the police, you can complain.

You can complain about things like:

  • police not treating you with respect
  • police discriminating against you
  • police not taking your requests for adjustments seriously
  • police not taking into account the fact that you’re disabled
  • inappropriate touching
  • using more force than necessary.

You don’t need a lawyer to make a complaint about the police.

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What if the police don’t investigate a crime?

You can complain to the police if you don’t like how the police handled a case you reported to them.

Unfortunately, there is no general law that means the police have to investigate crime. In certain circumstances, the police not investigating serious crimes may be a breach of the Human Rights Act. However, this is a high bar to pass. It’s best to get legal advice. Information on how to get legal advice is below.

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Who can complain?

  • The victim
  • Someone who has been negatively impacted by the police behaviour,  or who saw the behaviour

You can also complain for someone else.

If someone is making a complaint for you, you must say in writing that you are fine with that person complaining for you.  The police will then communicate with that person.

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Tips on making a complaint

Our article on police complaints has a section on general things all police complaints should include.

Some other useful tips are below:

1. Discrimination

Make it clear in complaint if you feel the police were discriminating against you because you are disabled. There are separate procedures that the police must follow if discrimination is brought up. See our pages on discrimination for more information.

2. What do you want the police to do?

Maybe the police followed their procedures – but you think the procedures are wrong or unfair. If so, you should say this in your complaint. You can say that you would like there to be some extra training or improvements to police policy.

3. Say which professional standards you think have been violated.

Not all the professional standards will be relevant in every case. You should say which you think have been broken in your case, and how. You can read more about these professional standards here.

4. Ask your MP

You can ask your MP for help making the complaint, or to make the complaint for you. This is free. However, it can take MPs some time to respond because of how busy they are. You can find your MP by using this website here.

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Police complaints and accessibility

As we explain in our article on police complaints, you can complain to:

  • The police force you are complaining about
  • The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC for short)

You should let the police force know if you need them to make reasonable adjustments for you to complain. The police force’s website should have an accessibility statement. This should tell you how to let them know that something on their website isn’t accessible.

If you want to send your complaint to the IOPC, and you have difficulties using the forms, you should let them know using the following contact information:

  • Telephone: 0300 020 0096
  • Email: enquiries@policeconduct.gov.uk

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What if I want to bring a legal case against the police?

You might think that the police’s actions are so serious that you might be able to bring a legal case against them. If so, you should get legal advice as soon as you can. You should search for a lawyer who specialises in ‘Actions Against the Police’. You can also search for a solicitor specialising in ‘Civil Liberties and Human Rights’.

You can search for a solicitor at the following websites.

  • The Law Society. Search for lawyers with legal aid contracts by selecting “Accepts Legal Aid” within the advanced search function. Telephone: 020 7320 5650 (Monday-Friday 9am-5pm)
  • Chambers and Partners
  • The Legal 500. Search for solicitors specialising in ‘Civil Liberties and Human Rights’.
  • Contact Civil Legal Advice to find out if you are eligible for legal aid. Legal Aid is when the Government helps pay some of your legal costs, like paying for a lawyer. Telephone: 0345 345 4 345

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What are my rights on this?

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

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