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Complaint FAQs

The police complaints process is set out legislation which was introduced by the Home Office on February 1, 2020. The legislation ensures that complaints are dealt with quickly, effectively and proportionately. The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) and Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) are not responsible for handling complaints regarding the conduct of Devon and Cornwall Police and its officers. This is the responsibility of the Professional Standards Department (PSD) within Devon and Cornwall Police.  However, this office is responsible for complaints against the Chief Constable; the complainant must be able to demonstrate how the conduct of the Chief Constable is at fault and not officers under his/her direction and control.

How do I make a complaint against Devon and Cornwall Police and its officers?  

All complaints against officers (excluding the Chief Constable) should be directed to the PSD of Devon and Cornwall Police for their consideration. This can be done by emailing professional.standards@devonandcornwall.pnn.police.uk or via Devon and Cornwall Police’s website https://www.devon-cornwall.police.uk/fo/feedback/complaints/complaints/ 

Complaints that meet the logging criteria will then be recorded and assessed in accordance with Schedule 3 of the Police Reform Act 2002 and the Independent Office for Police Conduct’s (IOPC) Statutory Guidance 2020. 

An initial assessment will be made to determine handling and may result in one of the following: 

Early Intervention Team – where appropriate, PSD will look to make early contact with the complainant to discuss their concerns and resolve the issues to their satisfaction. This will avoid the lengthy process in accordance with the requirements of Schedule 3 of the Police Reform Act 2002. If at the end of the Early Intervention process the complainant remains dissatisfied with the outcome, PSD will deal with deal with their concerns a formal complaint (known as Schedule 3). 

Schedule 3 Recorded – IOPC Statutory Guidance stipulates where complaints must be recorded and those that must be investigated. Complaints which do not require an investigation will be handled in a reasonable and proportionate manner. Further information can be found in the IOPC Statutory Guidance 2020.  

Referral to the IOPC – Some complaints may be referred to the IOPC and they may decide to independently investigate or oversee a police investigation.  

 

How do I obtain an update on a complaint that I have submitted? 

An update on a complaint can be obtained by emailing the Professional Standards Department (professional.standards@devonandcornwall.pnn.police.uk). This office does not have access to the necessary police systems to provide a complainant with an update on their complaint.  

 

What is the OPCC’s role within the complaints process? 

Under the police complaints process, the Police and Crime Commissioner is the ‘appropriate authority’ to review certain police complaints where a complainant is dissatisfied with the outcome. Due to holding this function, it is important to know that the OPCC is unable to comment or deal with complaints against Devon and Cornwall Police or its officers (unless it is the Chief Constable). 

If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of your complaint about the police, and your complaint has been handled under legislation concerning police complaints and police misconduct (the Police Reform Act 2002, Schedule 3), then you may request a review. 

A review of your complaint is not merely a quality check of what has happened, it offers the opportunity to consider whether the complaint outcome is reasonable and proportionate, and if not, to put things right. 

The types of things a review process will consider include: 

  • Whether any findings, determinations or the outcome to the complaint were reasonable and proportionate to the circumstances of the complaint. 
  • Whether any actions proposed were reasonable and proportionate 
  • Whether the process and method used to handle your complaint was reasonable and proportionate 
  • Whether the complainant was provided with sufficient information during the process, and about the outcome of your complaint. 

The appropriate organisation to undertake a review of your complaint will be specified in the complaint outcome letter. 

If the complaint has been considered serious enough to be referred to the IOPC, or the conduct complained about would justify criminal or disciplinary proceedings, the IOPC will undertake the review. There is no right to apply for a review of the outcome of your complaint, if it has been investigated by, or an investigation has been overseen by, the IOPC. 

There are timescales within which a review must be received, the detail of which will be included in the outcome letter. If a request for a review request is out of time, it may still be considered in special circumstances. 

If the request for a review is not valid, we will write to inform you and provide the reasons why it is invalid.  

 

How do I make a complaint against the Chief Constable? 

The PCC holds the Chief Constable to account for how policing services are delivered and is responsible for any complaints against the personal conduct of the Chief Constable including acts, omissions, statements and decisions. 

The way in which complaints about a Chief Constable (or Acting Chief Constable) are dealt with is described in legislation guidance on handling complaints against the police (PDF) and there are different options for handling the complaint depending on its nature.  

Unless the subject matter of the complaint has been, or is already being, dealt with by means of criminal proceedings, the complaint may be determined either by the PCC, or the IOPC.    

We hope to be able to resolve your complaint quickly and to your satisfaction. Complaints handled in this way are likely to be ones where you want an explanation, or for your concerns to be listened to, passed on, and addressed and you agree that these steps are sufficient to remedy the matter to your satisfaction. Complaints that require further investigation are likely to qualify for handling under legislation concerning police complaints and police misconduct (the Police Reform Act 2002, Schedule 3).  

Such complaints will be ‘recorded’, and we are required to notify you when we do this. Recording a complaint means that it has formal status under the Police Reform Act 2002. Recorded complaints will either be handled by us, or by the IOPC, depending on the seriousness of the complaint. The way in which the complaint is handled must be reasonable and proportionate to the matter in question.    

Depending on the circumstances, this may mean: 

  • an investigation of the matter 
  • seeking to resolving your concerns in another way 
  • on occasion, informing you that no further action will be taken. 

It must then be dealt with according to formal rules and guidance. If we do not record your complaint, and you are dissatisfied with our decision, you can appeal to the IOPC. 

We are required to refer all qualifying complaints about the Chief Constable to the IOPC who will decide whether the matter should be investigated. We will notify you when we make such a referral. 

A complaint that will be referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct is likely to be one that: 

Where the conduct alleged, if it were proved 

  • could justify the bringing of criminal or disciplinary proceedings.
  • involved the infringement of a person’s Human Rights or alleges 
  • serious assault, or sexual offence 
  • serious corruption 
  • discriminatory behaviour on the grounds of a person’s status under the Equality, Diversity and Human Rights legislation or 
  • the matter complained about resulted in death or serious injury. 
  • the gravity of the subject matter is considered to warrant referral. 

If we are not the appropriate body to deal with your complaint, we are required to send it to the appropriate body and we are not required to seek your consent to do this. We will inform you that we have done this, the content of what has been sent and the name of the body it has been sent to. For example, this will be the case where a complaint names the Chief Constable but the complaint is about something where the Chief Constable has delegated the responsibility to another officer or staff member within the police force. In this example we will send the complaint to the police force to handle. 

If you wish to make a complaint about the conduct of the Chief Constable, you can do so by: 

  • Completing and returning the complaint form (by email or post) 
  • Writing to the PCC, Andy Hocking House, Alderson Drive, Exeter, EX2 7RP 
  • Emailing opcc@dc-pcc.gov.uk 
  • Phoning 01392 225555 

 

How do I make a complaint against the Police and Crime Commissioner? 

The PCC is directly elected by the public and therefore will be held to account, not only on election day, but every day by local people, groups and communities. 

The Police and Crime Panel ensure that the Panel members (both independent and from Local Authorities) support the PCC, but as a ‘critical friend’. The Police and Crime Panel also scrutinises the PCC’s conduct and work on behalf of the public. 

The PCC is a representative of the community and must conduct themselves in a way that does not discredit their office. The PCC is subject to a Code of Conduct which sets out the expected standards of personal conduct and ethical standards of behaviour. 

If you have a complaint that the PCC has breached their Code of Conduct then the appropriate authority to handle your complaint is the Police and Crime Panel, however initially you should send your complaint to the Chief Executive of the OPCC who will carry out the initial stages of processing your complaint, and will liaise with the Police and Crime Panel as appropriate. We aim to respond to you with a recording decision within 10 working days and to try to resolve the matter to your satisfaction within 20 working days. 

If your complaint alleges a criminal offence then we will refer it to the IOPC to handle. 

Complaints about the Police and Crime Commissioner can be made to the Chief Executive by: 

  • Emailing opcc@dc-pcc.gov.uk 
  • Phoning 01392 225555 
  • Writing to the Chief Executive, Andy Hocking House, Alderson Drive, Exeter, EX2 7RP 

 

Operational policing concerns  

The role of a PCC is to be the voice of the people in policing, and to hold the Chief Constable to account for how he/she discharges their functions. The aim of all PCC’s is to ensure the delivery of an effective and efficient police service within their force area.  

The Chief Constable is expected to lead and make decisions in all aspects of operational policing and therefore, any questions or comments relating to operational policing should be forwarded to his office in the first instance for a response.  

  • This information was published in June 2023 and will be reviewed in June 2024.