Area of Law: Criminal Law
Answer Number: 791
How to make a complaint against a police officerRegion: Ontario Answer Number: 791
If you have a complaint against a police officer or a police service about police conduct, policies or services, there are several things you can do. These include: starting a civil lawsuit against the officer, laying a criminal charge, and, filing a complaint.
First, suing a police officer in a civil lawsuit generally involves preparing for a trial and going to court. If you are able to prove your complaint against the officer, the judge may order the officer to pay damages for the injuries you suffered. In most cases, it will be difficult to prove your complaint, and your chances of success will be minimal. In addition, it will be time consuming and very expensive to cover the costs of a formal trial. However, if you decide to pursue this method, make sure you start a civil action against the police officer within six months from when the event happened.
Laying a criminal charge
Second, if you believe a police officer has committed a criminal offence, you can lay a criminal charge against the officer. To lay a criminal charge, you need to meet with a justice of the peace, and swear on oath that a crime has been committed and explain the details of the event. Depending on the type of criminal offence in question, there may be a time-limit for when charges can be laid. You should consult a lawyer for assistance.
Filing a complaint with the Police
Third, you may bring a public complaint against a police officer who is a member of either a municipal police service or the Ontario Provincial Police. The Police Services Act requires that complaints have to be in writing and signed by the complainant. This complaint can be submitted to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD), or to the chief of police of the police service involved. If you file your complaint with the chief of police, he or she will then forward it to the OIPRD. In 2009, the OIPRD replaced the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services for overseeing complaints about police.
Generally, for your complaint to be investigated three criteria must be met:
- You must have been directly affected by the police actions complained of,
- You should have submitted your complaint within six months of the incident, and
- Your complaint must be made in good faith.
Complaints filed prior to October 19, 2009
Complaints filed prior to October 19, 2009 were made to the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services. The Commission will continue to deal with these complaints until they are concluded. Although current complaints will be made to the OIPRD, if you wish to file a complaint for events occurring before October 19, 2009, you must file with the Commission or with the chief of police of the police service involved. If you file with the Commission, it will forward your complaint to the chief of police of the police service involved for review and investigation.
If you have been charged with a criminal offence, you should consult a lawyer.
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