Police misconduct in New South Wales is taken very seriously. Employees of the New South Wales Police Force (NSWPF) are expected to behave professionally and with integrity and to make sure that their authority is exercised responsibly. You have a right to complain if you are dissatisfied or concerned about your dealings with the police.
There are three organisations that deal with complaints of police misconduct in New South Wales. Less serious allegations, such as the use of unreasonable force, traffic offences, failing to provide a satisfactory level of service, and breaches of police rules and procedures are dealt with by the NSWPF Customer Assistance Unit or the NSW Ombudsman’s Office.
The Police Integrity Commission (PIC) investigates allegations of serious misconduct by police officers, civilian employees of the NSWPF, and officers of the NSW Crime Commission. If you wish to speak to someone about any aspect of reporting police misconduct you can ring the PIC on (02) 9321 6700 or 1800 657 079.
If you want to make a formal complaint about less serious police misconduct in New South Wales it must be done by completing this form and sending it to your local police station or the Customer Assistance Unit (PO Box 3427, Tuggerah, NSW 2259) or it can be lodged online.
You should provide as much detail as possible, including:
- your name and contact details
- details of what occurred including date, time and location
- the names of the people involved, including the police officers
- details of anything or anyone that could assist to resolve your complaint
- what you expect to be done about your complaint
- any other information that might be relevant.
Complaints are managed at the police station. This can be done in a number of ways, ranging from discussing the issues with you and the police officers involved to conducting a full criminal investigation.
Once your complaint has been lodged, you can expect the NSWPF to:
- protect your confidentiality
- consult with you on any action they intend taking, and if practicable advise you of the action they take
- advise how your complaint will be managed
- advise you of the progress of your complaint
- check that you are satisfied with the action taken.
The role of the NSW Ombudsman’s Office in the police complaints system includes independently reviewing the way the NSWPF handles complaints about misconduct and investigating police practice if it is in the public interest to do so. They check how police handle complaints, and audit the way the complaint-handling processes are working to make sure they are effective and comply with the law.
The Ombudsman can investigate complaints about the conduct of officers of the NSWPF, the NSW Crime Commission and the PIC. If you are unhappy with the way your complaint is dealt with by the NSWPF you can complain to the Ombudsman.
The PIC was set up to investigate the most serious forms of police misconduct and corruption. It can also investigate misconduct by civilian officers employed by the NSWPF and by officers of the NSW Crime Commission. It is an independent agency, and can decide which cases it investigates.
Anyone can report police misconduct to the PIC and it can be done anonymously. If not done anonymously, the PIC will advise you of what is happening in regard to the complaint.
Complaints can be made online or in writing to GPO Box 3880 Sydney NSW 2001 (Facsimile: (02) 9321 6799). The PIC looks for evidence that police are involved in or may have been involved in:
- accepting or soliciting bribes
- perverting the course of justice
- serious assaults
- releasing confidential information
- interfering in investigations
- improper relationships with criminals
- cultivating, manufacturing, or supplying prohibited drugs
- crimes with a minimum penalty of 5 years imprisonment.
All reports made to the PIC regarding police misconduct in New South Wales are evaluated. If the report is made by a police officer or an employee of the NSWPF it must be assessed to see whether they are protected under the Public Interest Disclosures Act 1994.
If the PIC decides not to investigate information you have provided, you will be contacted to see whether you want the information to be given to the NSWPF and the Ombudsman’s Office for them to deal with.
Information provided to the PIC is usually confidential. However, if it is considered to be in the interests of the community that the information, or part of it, is provided to the NSWPF or another agency, it may be passed on.
It is an offence to knowingly make a complaint about a police officer that is false, or to give false or misleading information about a complaint that is being investigated. This is punishable by up to 12 months in prison.
It is also an offence to falsely accuse a person of a crime, punishable by up to 7 years imprisonment.
This article reflects the state of the law as at 23 November 2015. It is intended to be of a general nature only and does not constitute legal advice. If you require legal assistance, please telephone 1300 636 846 or request a consultation at gotocourt.com.au.