Investigation of complaints

Police investigate most complaints including those lodged at IBAC. Minor complaints may be dealt with informally. Lengthy interviews and months of investigations are usual for serious complaints. They may result in discipline, caution or counselling, at police discretion. The PSC can review investigations and consider systemic issues. Some information can be obtained under FoI. Aboriginal liaison officers can also assist. IBAC hears some complaints but generally has a broader role.

The role of the police

Regardless of where you lodge your complaint (i.e. with the police or with IBAC), in almost all circumstances, it will be the police who investigate your complaint. A complaint made directly to the police will be handled according to how serious the PSC considers your allegations to be. A complaint of serious misconduct (e.g. the alleged conduct amounts to a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment, or is disgraceful, or is likely to damage the reputation of the police force) is required to be investigated formally.

Police have the discretion not to investigate less serious complaints, but to deal with them as “customer service issues”. These complaints (e.g. allegations of rudeness, or failure to investigate the report of a crime) are usually handled quickly and informally at a local or district police management level. Police also have the discretion to dismiss trivial complaints. If you think the PSC has wrongly characterised your complaint as trivial and wrongly dismissed your complaint, you should complain to IBAC.

Police investigations usually include one or several long interviews between the police officer assigned to investigate the complaint and the person making the complaint. The length of the interview depends on the seriousness of the complaint, the clarity of the complainant, and the complexity of the scenario into which an investigation is being undertaken. Subsequently, police will interview witnesses and undertake various avenues of investigative inquiry. On occasions, legal and scientific advice is obtained. Most of the police members who investigate complaints are experienced. Many of them are detectives.

Once an investigation is completed (this typically takes several months), the results of the investigation are referred to the officer in charge of the PSC, who decides whether or not the investigation has substantiated the complaint (i.e. proved that the complaint is true).

If the complaint is found to be substantiated – or if the investigation uncovers matters not raised by the complainant that indicate impropriety on the part of a police member – the police decide whether or not to discipline, caution or counsel the police member. The complainant is advised of the outcome of their specific complaint, but is not usually informed of other issues the investigation may have uncovered.

Also, the PSC can review investigations. As well as ensuring complaints are handled properly, reviews of police investigations allow PSC to identify broader systemic issues that may need to be investigated.

If you have any doubt about how your complaint might be handled, it is best to first contact the PSC, which will be able to provide you with advice and your options, in confidence.

Freedom of information

You can gain access to a substantial part of your PSC file by requesting (in writing) a copy of your file under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic). Your letter should be addressed to:

Victoria Police Freedom of Information Officer

Freedom of Information Office

Victoria Police Centre

GPO Box 913, Melbourne Vic 3001

However, you may not be able to access some statements. Also, the police may oppose you accessing your file. Further information can be found on the Victoria Police website at www.police.vic.gov.au (click on “Our Services”, then “Freedom of Information”). See also Freedom of information law.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders

People of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent who have a complaint about the police can contact one of the Police Aboriginal Liaison Officers.

Victoria Police Aboriginal Liaison Officers

Aboriginal Policy and Research Unit

Victoria Police Centre

637 Flinders Street, Docklands Vic 3008

Tel: 9247 5245

Email: aboriginaladvisoryunit-ops-occc-mgr@police.vic.gov.au

Web: www.police.vic.gov.au

The role of IBAC

The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission Act 2011 (Vic) (“IBAC Act”) sets out IBAC’s functions and powers. These include:

conducting investigations into police corruption and serious misconduct;

analysing Victoria Police’s systems to prevent police corruption and serious misconduct;

publicly exposing police corruption and serious misconduct.

While, in almost all circumstances, it will be the police who investigate your complaint, IBAC may conduct the investigation into a complaint from the beginning when:

the complaint is against a very senior police officer;

the complaint relates to serious problems with police practices or procedures;

IBAC considers it is in the public interest for it to investigate the complaint.

The IBAC Act’s objectives (s 8) are to:

a provide or the identification, investigation and exposure of:

iserious corrupt conduct; and

iipolice personnel misconduct;

b assist in the prevention of:

icorrupt conduct; and

iipolice personnel misconduct;

c facilitate the education of the public sector and the community about the detrimental effects of corrupt conduct and police personnel misconduct on public administration and the community, and the ways in which corrupt conduct and police personnel misconduct can be prevented;

d assist in improving the capacity of the public sector to prevent corrupt conduct and police personnel misconduct;

e provide for IBAC to assess police personnel conduct.

IBAC has a number of investigative powers to assist its investigations, including powers to:

summons any person to give evidence on oath and/or to produce documents;

conduct examinations (generally in private);

enter, inspect, copy and/or seize documents and other items at the premises of public authorities including Victoria Police premises, without a warrant; and

obtain search warrants to enter, search, inspect, copy and/or seize documents or things relevant to an investigation.

If you are unhappy with an IBAC decision, you can request an internal review of its decision. An IBAC staff member who is independent of the original decision-maker must conduct this review.