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Why should I make a complaint?

You should make a complaint about police misconduct if you:

  • Are hurt, upset and distressed about what happened to you. If you have been hurt or injured, mistreated, abused or your rights violated as a consequence of unlawful actions of police officers you may have been the victim of a crime and have a right to justice, redress and potentially compensation
  • Believe police acted unlawfully or criminally or dangerously;
  • Believe it is important for public scrutiny and knowledge about the responses of police officers at protests and demonstrations. There have been many cases where police have stopped using a particular tactic after Ombudsman's investigations, and cases where police have been charged and dismissed. Your complaint or report may prevent another activist copping the same treatment in the future;
  • Want to raise public awareness about the incident and ensure that the individual/s and Victoria Police are accountable for their actions. Every individual complaint, every civil action, every public record or report that we make means that police abuse and violence will not go unnoticed and helps in a small way to keep the police accountable. Whatever your analysis of the police and the state, making sure police abuses and police violence is written up on the public record helps other activists;
  • Have been injured, to ensure statistics about police misconduct allegations are accurate;
  • Wish to ensure that similar behaviour does not occur again. Every complaint, every civil proceeding, every action we can take as activists and civil rights lawyers and acts as a deterrence against further abuses of power, use of excessive force or acts which violate our civil, political or human rights;
  • Are unsure how you were injured and who injured you during an incident of police use of force or violence.

Who can I make a complaint to?

  • Any member of the police force at any police station
  • The Professional Standards Command of Victoria Police
  • Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC)

How do I make a complaint?

After you have contacted ESD, the IBAC or the police station by either writing to them, calling them or attending in person, you will be required to make a statement about your complaint. This may be in the form of a typed statement from you about the incident, or you may agree to be interviewed. Keep a copy of any statement you make. If you agree to an interview, make sure you arrange for the interview to be taped and that you obtain a copy of the tape for your records.

Please note: any statement you make, while obtained in confidence, may none-the-less become a public document through subpoena and other court procedures at a later date. Be clear that your statement is as accurate and detailed as possible. If you contradict yourself later, this may have an effect on your credibility and your criminal and civil legal rights.

If you are being signed out from the police station through the Attendance Register the police will ask if you have any complaints. If you do not feel comfortable making a complaint at this time you can still do it later.

Do not sign any statement or record of conversation if you are not 100% sure that it is an accurate account of what you said to the person investigating your complaint.

Ideally, you should make your complaint as soon as possible after the incident. This is when your recollection of the events is clearest. The timing of making a complaint is important. If you have been the victim of police misconduct and there is a prospect you may be charged with a criminal offencearising from the incident, you should seek legal advice before making any statements of complaint. This is because, despite the confidentiality of complaint processes, details of your statement may become known by police officers or others prosecuting you for any offence. In this situation, you should still make your complaint as soon as possible after the incident, but advise that you wish to defer making any statement in relation to the investigation of your complaint until the criminal charges against you have been dealt with.

Will I have to be medically examined?

If you have been injured, you may be required to submit to a medical examination. You do not have to agree to the examination. It is a matter for you to decide. If you agree to an examination, a doctor from the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine usually conducts it. You should make sure that photographs are taken of your injuries. You should arrange for copies of the photographs and a report of the doctor to be provided to you after the appointment.

You should also consider arranging to be medically examined by a private doctor for treatment and as a personal record of your injuries. You may request a medical report from your doctor and/or a copy of the clinical notes taken during the examination. Some doctors may only provide this information on request from a solicitor and with the payment of money for report preparation and copying expenses.

What should I do if I have evidence proving my complaint?

You should ensure that any witnesses to the incident of police misconduct make statements to the investigating officer as soon as practical.

If you believe there to be relevant photographs or video evidence, you should provide this information to the investigating officer.

If the incident occurs in a police station or some other location where there may be security cameras you should notify in writing the investigating officer immediately of the location of the cameras and request that video footage be obtained and not destroyed. This is often urgent as video footage can be taped over or destroyed if it is not secured quickly.

How long will the investigation take?

A small investigation into allegations from one complainant may take somewhere between 6-12 months or longer, depending on the evidence. An investigation with multiple complainants may take several years to be completed.

You should attempt to clarify the time frame in which the investigation will be completed and what steps will occur along the way.

You should expect to receive correspondence from time to time and finally a report detailing the allegations, the investigation and an outcome as to whether the complaint has been found proven or not. If it is found proven, details of the disciplinary charge and penalty should also be communicated to you.

Consider confirming all discussions with the investigating officer in writing. This may be helpful in understanding the development of the investigation and ensuring evidence you want obtained is followed through by the investigating officer.

However, you should note that where your complaint is being investigated at the same time as criminal charges against you, information you give or statements you make in relation to your complaint could impact on the charges against you (see below).

What effect can making a complaint have on any criminal charges I am facing?

Any statement you make, even if it is supposed to be confidential, may, if it is obtained by the prosecution, have an impact on the outcome of any criminal charges. You should seek legal advice from a criminal lawyer about whether you should make a complaint, and if so when and in what form.

Will making a statement affect my right to pursue compensation for injuries incurred as a consequence of police misconduct?

The investigation into a complaint about police misconduct may inform you about the identities of police officers who injured you or others or authorised the use of force at a protest. The investigating officer may also make findings which are critical of the behaviour of the police officer/s involved. This information may be useful in ensuring greater accountability for police violence at protests and to determine whether you have a right to sue for compensation for any significant injuries you sustain.

You should also be careful to ensure that any statements you make to investigating officers are as accurate as possible. You may be cross-examined about statements you made in the past if you have to give evidence about the incident in court.

Who can assist me in making a complaint?

You can get support from a Legal Support Team established to support activists at mass protests or you can contact a community legal centre or Victoria Legal Aid or progressive private lawyers for legal advice, especially if you have been charged with an offence.