Research reports

Audit of Victoria Police complaints handling systems at regional level

Police hold significant powers to enable them to enforce the law. These powers include the ability to detain, search, arrest, use force, enter private premises and seize property. One way police can be held accountable for how they exercise these and other powers is through an effective complaints handling system.

A fair, transparent and timely complaints process is important for ensuring the community has faith in how Victoria Police officers exercise their powers. Where complainants lack confidence in the complaints process, they are less likely to report alleged police misconduct. This increases the likelihood that such conduct will not be addressed and limits the opportunities for Victoria Police to identify practices and policies that could be improved.

Most complaints received by Victoria Police are referred to its regions, departments or commands for investigation. Only a minority of complaints – those involving allegations of the most serious misconduct or corruption – are handled centrally by Professional Standards Command (PSC).

Victoria Police has been subject to criticism regarding its complaints management system and processes. Criticisms have included fundamental concerns with police investigating police and associated perceptions of bias, as well as concerns with the way complaints are investigated, the length of time it can take for matters to be investigated, poor communication with complainants, the excess of determinations, and the complex disciplinary process.

Victoria Police acknowledged these concerns in its December 2013 report Equality is not the same and committed to improving the timeliness, accountability and accessibility of its complaint handling process.

In this context and pursuant to its legislative functions to assist the public sector to increase capacity to prevent corrupt conduct and police personnel misconduct, the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) conducted an audit of Victoria Police’s complaints handling processes at the regional level.

IBAC publishes responses to our recommendations in order to inform the community about actions agencies advise they are taking, and to share learnings that may help other agencies improve their systems and practices.