In line with the Police Complaints and Discipline Act 2016, the process to make a complaint about police will change in September 2017. This page will be updated shortly to reflect the new process.
If you wish to report police misconduct in South Australia, you may contact either South Australia Police (SAPOL), the Office of the Police Ombudsman (the Ombudsman), or the Office for Public Integrity.
Reporting Police Misconduct in South Australia to SAPOL
You can report police misconduct in South Australia directly to SAPOL by paying your local police station a visit, or by emailing SAPOL.Enquiries@police.sa.gov.au to have someone contact you. There is a feedback form online, but you will not receive a response if you report your complaint this way.
Alternatively, you may go directly to the Ombudsman.
Reporting Police Misconduct in South Australia to the Ombudsman
The primary role of the Ombudsman is to provide independent oversight of SAPOL and its members and to deal with complaints about police misconduct in South Australia. The Ombudsman is not part of SAPOL and the staff are not police officers.
The investigation processes of the Ombudsman are governed by the Police (Complaints and Disciplinary Proceedings) Act 1985.
Anyone can lodge a complaint. It should be lodged in writing using the Ombudsman’s complaint form. You can download and print the form from the Ombudsman’s website, collect one from your local police station, or request one be sent to you by calling (08) 8226 8677 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Complaints can be made about serving police officers, Police Cadets, Special Constables, Community Constables, Protective Security Officers and public servants. The Ombudsman may also investigate some matters of its own volition.
You should make it very clear what your complaint involves or it might be treated simply as feedback and no action taken. A complaint must relate to actual or purported conduct by the officer concerned while on duty. The ombudsman will not investigate off-duty behaviour unless their actions have an ‘official colour’ to them.
Complaints will be referred for either:
- an informal inquiry
- a preliminary investigation or
- a full investigation.
The informal inquiry process is used to resolve less-serious complaints. The complaint is referred to SAPOL to investigate and decide on an appropriate outcome.
An inquiry officer will contact the complainant to discuss the complaint. They will then collect and review any other evidence. If the inquiry officer decides that there has been a breach of discipline, they will recommend appropriate disciplinary action to be taken.
Once the officer has been disciplined, the file is forwarded to the Ombudsman who assesses whether the complaint has been adequately managed. The complainant will be notified of the outcome and if they are unhappy with the action taken, they are entitled to request that something further be done.
If there appears to be a little more substance to a complaint about police misconduct in South Australia, a preliminary investigation will be undertaken. This involves collecting statements and any relevant documents or other evidence which will help determine whether further action or investigation is necessary.
A division of SAPOL known as the Internal Investigations Section (IIS) is generally responsible for undertaking preliminary investigations. The IIS investigator will usually want to talk with the complainant, the officer/s involved, and anyone else who might be able to help resolve the matter. All investigations are carried out in strict confidence.
Although IIS investigates the complaint, the Ombudsman oversees the process and makes sure it is conducted properly. Once the preliminary investigation has been completed, the Ombudsman will decide whether the complaint is to be:
- finalised at that point;
- referred for further investigation; or
- referred for a full investigation.
A full investigation will be undertaken in cases where the allegations in the complaint are serious, or where a more thorough investigation is warranted to resolve the matter. The investigator will want to discuss the complaint further with the complainant, the officer/s involved, and any other person/s who might be able to aid in the process. The investigation will be much more thorough than in other cases.
After assessing the outcome of the investigation, the Ombudsman may recommend to the Commissioner of Police that:
- no action needs to be taken
- the officer/s be charged for breaching their code of conduct. If charges are laid, the matter will go before the Police Disciplinary Tribunal. If the Tribunal finds a breach of discipline has occurred, an appropriate penalty will be set by the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner of Police.
- the case be sent on to the Director of Public Prosecutions to decide whether to charge the officer/s with a criminal offence, or
- a different type of action be taken, such as amending SAPOL policy or procedure.
Making a complaint
It is an offence to knowingly make a complaint that is false, or to make a false statement to the Ombudsman or investigator. It is also an offence to:
- hinder or prevent somebody else from making a complaint
- hinder, resist or obstruct the Ombudsman from entering premises or inspecting evidence
- not attend for an interview when you are asked to do so
- not provide the information or evidence requested by the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman can decide that it will not investigate a complaint if:
- the complaint is made more than 6 months after the incident
- the complaint is very closely linked with a matter that is before the court, in which case an investigation may only commence once court proceedings are concluded
- the complaint is trivial, frivolous, vexatious or not made in good faith
- the complaint is anonymous and there are no special reasons to investigate
- the complainant does not have a sufficient interest in the complaint raised – this may be the case if the person has only indirect involvement in the incident
- there is a right of action, appeal, or review available elsewhere, or
- the Ombudsman is of the opinion that, in all of the circumstances, an investigation of the complaint is unnecessary or unjustifiable.