Understanding the Public Complaints Process

The Chief of Police or his designate is responsible for:

  • The investigation/resolution of conduct complaints made by a member of the public, through effective communication and sensitivity to citizens’ concerns, in an efficient and timely fashion;
  • The analysis and identification of contributing causes for conduct complaints made by members of the public to facilitate corrective adjustments to procedures and practices; and
  • The analysis and identification of contributing causes for policy and service complaints made by members of the public to facilitate corrective adjustments to procedures and practices.

How to Make a Complaint against a Police Officer
(Occurred after October 19, 2009)

Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD)

The OIPRD’s role is to make sure that public complaints against police in Ontario are dealt with fairly, efficiently and effectively.

About the OIPRD

The Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) opened on October 19, 2009. The OIPRD is an arms-length agency of the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, staffed entirely by civilians. The OIPRD is accountable to the Attorney General, but the Independent Police Review Director is responsible for the day-to-day decisions.

This means their decisions are independent, and are separate from the government, the police and the community.

The OIPRD’s goal is to provide an objective, impartial office to accept, process and oversee the investigation of public complaints against Ontario’s police. In some cases the OIPRD will also investigate a public complaint.

Want to know more about the OIPRD

In addition to processing and investigating public complaints, the OIPRD is responsible for setting up and administering the public complaints system. This includes:

Oversight

The OIPRD’s oversight role begins with the receipt of a public complaint and continues to the end of the investigation. The Chiefs of Police and Commissioner of the OPP are still responsible for discipline of police officers and holding disciplinary hearings.

Systemic Reviews and Audits

The OIPRD will work to identify and offer solutions to systemic or ongoing issues within the police service and will be responsible for performing audits to ensure the complaints system is being administered effectively.

Education and Outreach

Their office is responsible for teaching the public and the police about the complaints system. The OIPRD also needs feedback from the public – both community members and police – who have been involved in the public complaints process.

Oversight Role

The OIPRD’s role is to oversee the handling of all public complaints made against the police – from receiving the initial complaint to the final decision on the case. A very important part of this role is the independence of the OIPRD. This will help them to keep an objective view of the complaint system and allow them to make balanced proposals to keep the system working for everyone.

Overseeing the public complaint system for Ontario means that they make sure every complaint is handled fairly by the police, and in some cases they will carry out their own investigations. They will keep the complainant informed of all major steps in the process and also carry out educational programs to keep the public and the police informed about the complaints process.

The OIPRD also looks at systemic or ongoing issues as they arise and makes recommendations for change, in order to uphold public confidence in policing.

How You Can Make a Complaint against Police

What can I complain about?

  • The police have a code of conduct to follow that includes:
  • To act with honesty and integrity
  • To treat people with respect
  • Not to abuse the extraordinary powers and authority police officers are granted
  • To act in a manner that does not discredit or undermine public confidence in the police service.
  • Police organizations have rules that are called policy and service standards that guide how they operate. Complaints about policies and services of a police organization are screened by the OIPRD but are not investigated by the OIPRD. These complaints are sent to the appropriate police service for investigation, with oversight by the OIPRD.

Who can make a complaint?

A complainant is any member of the public who lodges a complaint about the policies or services of a police department or the conduct of a specific officer(s). You do not have to be a resident of Ontario to lodge a complaint.

You can make a complaint about a police officer if you:

  • Have a concern or were offended by something a police officer(s) said or did to you
  • Were a witness to an incident involving a police officer(s) that concerned or offended you
  • Are concerned or distressed as a result of the way a relative or friend has been treated by a police officer(s)
  • Are acting on behalf of an individual listed above, for example a member of an organization, who has been given written permission to make a complaint on another’s behalf
  • Have a complaint that a police department has not provided proper service
  • Have a complaint about a policy of a police department.

Some people are not allowed to file a complaint with the OIPRD. The following people cannot file a complaint with the OIPRD:

  • The Solicitor General (Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services)
  • An employee of the Office of the Independent Police Review Director
  • A member or employee of the Ontario Civilian Police Commission
  • A member or auxiliary (civilian) member of a police service cannot complain about their own service
  • An employee of the Ontario Provincial Police cannot complain about the OPP
  • A member or employee of a police services board cannot complain about their own service
  • A person selected by the council of a municipality to advise another municipality’s police services board cannot complain about that service
  • A delegate to an OPP community policing advisory committee cannot complain about the detachment they advise.

Who can be the proper subject of a public complaint?

Only police officers as defined in Section 2 of the Police Services Act are subject to the Independent Police Review Act
Section 2 sets out that a police officer includes a Chief of Police, or any other sworn police officer, but does not include a special constable, a First Nations constable, by-law enforcement officer or an auxiliary (civilian) member of a police force

Police cadets are not considered police officers, and are not subject to the Independent Police Review Act.

Although you can file a complaint about the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of the OPP, the OIPRD does not investigate or oversee these complaints. The Solicitor General (Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services) has the sole responsibility for dealing with complaints about the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner.

Read more about about how to make a complaint against police by downloading or printing the OIPRD booklet

Learn More

Visit the OIPRD website at http://www.oiprd.on.ca/ to learn more about the public complaints system.