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Complaining about Police Conduct

Complaining about Police Conduct

Generally, the police are there to make sure that people are safe and keep law and order for the public. But there might be times when you think the police have not acted properly or have used their power in the wrong way, this section is about how you can complain about unreasonable police conduct.

I’m not happy with how I was dealt with by the police, can I make a complaint?

If you aren’t happy with how the police have treated you or dealt with your case, and think they had acted unreasonably, then you can make a complaint.
The first thing to do is to complain directly to the police. If you’re not happy with the result of the complaint, you can then complain to the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA).

What sort of police conduct can I complain about?

Generally, the types of police conduct you can complain about, including at the IPCA is:

  • Police misconduct (for example using too much force, acting dishonestly, threatening or harassing behaviour);
  • Police who don’t carry out their duties properly;
  • Problems with police practice, policy or procedures.

What’s the first step in making a complaint about the police?

You might complain to the police directly in the first instance if you aren’t happy with the service they have given you or how they handled your case. You can go to the police station that had managed your case and talk to a senior sergeant at the branch. Otherwise, you can also complain to another senior sergeant at a nearby police branch.

Another way is to send them a letter of complaint. If you have access to the internet, you can also complain online on the New Zealand Police website.

How do I complain to the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA)?

If you’re not satisfied with the result of the complaint to the police, the next step is to make a complaint at the IPCA. The IPCA is an independent organisation (separate from the police) that investigates police conduct.

There are lots of different ways you can complain to the IPCA. One of the easiest ways is to complain through the IPCA website or you can call toll-free on 0800 503 728.
Once you have made a complaint to the IPCA, the IPCA will confirm it has received the complaint. It will keep in touch with you and tell you how their investigation is going and what they find. After investigating, they will report on whether the police acted unlawfully and can make recommendations.

If you need help filling out the complaint, contact YouthLaw or your local community law centre.

Can I sue the police?

Beyond going through the IPCA, it is sometimes possible to sue the police. Sometimes you may sue the police for wrongful arrest or wrongful imprisonment. If you were searched wrongly, then you could also sue for assault. But this is quite a complicated process and can take quite a lot of time and money. If you win, you may be entitled to damages (i.e. money) from the Police – but you usually wouldn’t get very much.

If you decide to sue, you will need to see a lawyer. You may be able to get legal aid for your lawyer’s fees. If you’re thinking about suing the police, you should first speak to your local Community Law Centre, YouthLaw or a private lawyer.

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