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Reporting Police Misconduct in South Australia

Written by Michelle Makela

Michelle Makela is one of our Legal Practice Directors and the National Practice Manager. She holds a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) and a Master’s in Criminology. Michelle has had a varied career, working in commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning. Michelle joined Go To Court Lawyers in 2011. She now supervises a team of over 80 solicitors across Australia.

If a person in South Australia has a complaint about the behaviour of a police officer, they can make a complaint to the Office of Public Integrity (OPI). A complaint about police misconduct in South Australia should be made when a police officer has acted unlawfully or has been seriously inappropriate or negligent.

Prior to September 2017, complaints against police misconduct in South Australia were handled by the Office of the Police Ombudsman. That office has now closed.

The Office of Public Integrity is responsible to the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (ICAC), which is governed by the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Act 2012. Complaints against police are governed by the Police Complaints and Discipline Act 2016.

What can I complain about?

Complaints about police misconduct in South Australia can be made in relation to any of the following conduct:

  • Negligence
  • Lack of honesty and integrity
  • Criminal behaviour
  • Improper behaviour
  • Excessive force
  • Drug and alcohol use
  • Conflicts of interest
  • Misuse of information
  • Relations with the public

The OPI cannot investigate complaints about:

  • The issuing of fines or defect notices
  • Court decisions
  • Conduct of the Australian Federal Police or the police of other states or territories

How do I make a complaint?

A complaint about police conduct in South Australia can be made to the OPI or directly to the South Australian Police (SAPOL). Complaints to the OPI can be made online, by post, by email or in person. Complaints to SAPOL can be made by emailing SAPOLIIS@police.sa.gov.au or by attending a police station and asking a member to take your complaint.

If you complain to the OPI, your complaint will be assessed by the Internal Investigations Section, which will decide to either take no action (if it is trivial, vexatious or unsubstantiated), determine the appropriate action or refer it to the OPI (if it raises issues of corruption that warrant investigation).

You can make a complaint anonymously unless you are complaining in your capacity as a public officer. If you choose to provide your details, you will be advised in writing of the outcome of your complaint.

What happens next?

When you receive an outcome of your complaint, you can contact IIS at SAPOLIIS@police.sa.gov.au if you are unhappy with the outcome or would like to provide further information.

If you suffered a loss, damage or injury as a result of what occurred, you should seek legal advice as to whether a civil action should be initiated.

Confidentiality

It is important to be aware that you must not disclose information you receive in connection with a complaint unless you receive prior authorisation to do so. Unauthorised disclosure is a criminal offence that can attract penalties of up to six months imprisonment or a fine of $2,500. Unauthorised publication of material relating to a police complaint is also a criminal offence, which can attract penalties of up to $150,000 fine for a body corporate or a $30,000 fine for an individual. This includes:

  • Information that suggests that a person is the subject or a complaint or investigation;
  • Information that enables a person who has made a complaint to be identified;
  • The fact that a person has made or is about to make a complaint;
  • Information that enables a person who is giving evidence in an investigation to be identified;
  • The fact that a person has provided information or evidence;

Publication includes publication on the internet, radio, television and newspaper and any other similar means.

However, it is permissible to disclose information surrounding a complaint for the purposes of:

  • A criminal proceeding;
  • Obtaining legal advice; or
  • Obtaining medical or psychological treatment;

Police reporting obligations

Under Section 12 of the Police Complaints and Discipline Act, designated officers have the obligation to report any suspicion that another officer has engaged in conduct that amounts to corruption, misconduct or maladministration in public administration must report that suspicion to the South Australian Police or to the OPI.

If you require legal advice in relation to police misconduct in South Australia or in relation to any other legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.

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