Police are liable to disciplinary, criminal and civil charges. However, most complaints are investigated by police in the first instance, and very few are upheld. Careful attention to the details substantiating the complaint is essential. The external Victorian anti-corruption commission, IBAC, has jurisdiction over police conduct. This includes decisions made, misconduct, and corruption.
It is important that genuine grievances against police officers are reported so they can be properly investigated. This can result in serious disciplinary procedures being brought against members of the police force. Criminal and civil charges can also be laid against them.
However, there are three issues: whether you should complain and, if you do decide to complain, when and where you should lodge your complaint (see “Types of complaints”).
Potential complainants should be aware that the majority of complaints against police officers are investigated by serving members of the police force.
Only between 5–6 per cent of allegations of assault by serving police officers are found to be true. The figure tends to be higher for less serious complaints (e.g. complaints of rudeness, verbal abuse and being uncivil), where about 10 per cent of complaints are found proved to be true.
If you do make a complaint, there are steps that you can take to make it as accurate as possible and thereby more likely to be substantiated (see “Supporting your complaint”).
This chapter divides the kinds of complaints that can be made into categories, sets out the procedure for making a complaint, and provides information to enable you to decide whether to lodge a complaint.
Victoria’s Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) is a statutory authority established under the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission Act 2011 (Vic) (“IBAC Act”). IBAC, as a public authority, is obliged to act in a way that is compatible with human rights. IBAC has jurisdiction over corruption and also police personnel conduct and misconduct.
IBAC – a body external to the police – may monitor the investigative work done by the police. In certain sensitive (and rare) circumstances, IBAC may investigate, or participate actively in, a police investigation. For IBAC’s contact details, see “Contacts”.
Police personnel conduct is defined in the IBAC Act (s 5) to mean:
a an act or decision or the failure or refusal by the police officer to act or decide in the exercise, performance, discharge (within or outside Victoria) of a power, function or duty that the police officer has; or
b conduct that constitutes an offence punishable by imprisonment; or
c conduct that is likely to bring Victoria Police into disrepute or to diminish public confidence in it; or
d disgraceful or improper conduct (whether in the police officer’s official capacity or otherwise).
Police personnel misconduct is defined in the IBAC Act (s 5) to mean:
a conduct that constitutes an offence punishable by imprisonment; or
b conduct that is likely to bring Victoria Police into disrepute or to diminish public confidence in it; or
c disgraceful or improper conduct (whether in the police officer’s official capacity or otherwise).
Corrupt conduct is defined in the IBAC Act (s 4) to mean:
a conduct of any person that adversely affects the honest performance by a public officer or public body of their/its functions as a public officer or public body; or
b conduct of a public officer or public body that constitutes or involves the dishonest performance of their/its functions as a public officer or public body; or
c conduct of a public officer or public body that constitutes, or involves, knowingly or recklessly breaching public trust; or
d conduct of a public officer or a public body that involves the misuse of information or material acquired in the course of the performance of their/its functions as a public officer or public body, whether or not for the benefit of the public officer or public body or any other person; or
e conduct that could constitute a conspiracy or an attempt to engage in any conduct referred to in paragraph (a), (b), (c) or (d) being conduct that would, if the facts were found proved beyond reasonable doubt at a trial, constitute a relevant offence.