Public Complaints

Every citizen is entitled to fair and impartial service from the police. The Police Services Act, which governs what we do and how we do it, allows members of the public to file an official complaint against the service or policy of the police service or the conduct of police officers.

In the majority of instances, the concern is resolved by discussing the incident with a supervisor. Police work is complex, and the rules that apply are sometimes confusing for the public. Upon request, we will be pleased to discuss our actions and the laws or procedures that apply, with anyone who believes that additional information is necessary.

The Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) is responsible for receiving, managing and overseeing all public complaints about the police in Ontario. The OIPRD accepts complaints about the conduct of a police officer or the policies and services of a police department. Conduct complaints are about how a police officer behaves. Policies of a police department are the rules and standards that guide an officer in delivering police services. Services are how effectively and efficiently a particular department performs its duties. In addition to processing and investigating public complaints, the OIPRD is responsible for administering the public complaints system.

Public Complaints
Public Complaints are grouped into three categories; Service, Policy or Conduct complaints. A substantive complaint will be thoroughly investigated by our Professional Standards Unit. Conversely, a complaint that is initially recognized as being frivolous, vexatious or made in bad faith will be disposed of at the outset.

Of the investigated occurrences, the determination is summarized in the following table:

2017 2018
Formal Discipline 0 0
Substantiated 3 4
Unsubstantiated 6 8
Informal resolution / CSR / local resolution / EMP
CSR – Customer Service Resolution
EMP – Enhanced Mediation Program
8 16
Withdrawn 6 1
Policy / Service 1 4
Type of Complaint 2017 2018
Policy / Service 1 4
Conduct 23 29
Total complaints not accepted by OIPRD 10 9
Total Complainants 34 42
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
How can a complaint be made?

If you make your complaint against the police to the OIPRD, we are required to forward the details of your complaint to the appropriate authority. In most cases, this will be a professional standards department or police authority of the relevant police department. If another police service is investigating the complaint, they will also receive your complaint information. Many police services have a professional standards department that is responsible for complaints made against the service, officers and staff.

The OIPRD needs your consent before we can look into your complaint. You will be asked to sign the complaint form indicating you have agreed to the complaints process. If you do not sign the complaint form, we are unable to record and proceed with your complaint.

OIPRD Reviews

If you have made a conduct complaint against the police and are not happy with the way it has been handled, you may be able to request a review by the OIPRD. You have 30 days from the day you were notified, to request a review by the OIPRD if:

  • The Chief of Police has determined your complaint is unsubstantiated (there may not be enough evidence)
  • The Chief of Police has determined your complaint is not of a serious nature.
  • You may not appeal a classification or investigation by the OIPRD.
How will you be kept informed?

Whether the OIPRD or the police are investigating your complaint, you have the right to periodic updates. You will be told how your complaint will be dealt with, what action may be taken and how decisions will be made. The OIPRD will provide you with updates: by mail, e-mail or using our secure Internet page. The OIPRD is responsible for recording and classifying all public complaints. They are also responsible for deciding who will investigate the complaint. Your complaint may be investigated by:

  • The OIPRD
  • The same police service the complaint is about, or
  • Another police service.

The majority of complaints will be investigated by the police, with oversight by the OIPRD.

How can I request a review?

If you decide you would like to request an OIPRD review of your conduct complaint, you need to complete a Request for Review form. You can get a copy of the form in a number of ways:

  • In the OIPRD brochure: How to Request a Review
  • Download a PDF of the Request for Review form
  • You can contact the OIPRD and ask us to send you a copy of the Request for Review form. Please fill in the entire form and make sure you attach any reasons or evidence that support your request for a review. Please remember to include your complaint number and sign the form.

With the help of the community, we have developed policies and procedures which ensure that everyone is treated fairly and equitably. The many community policing committees that help us in this regard are kept informed of our efforts to improve our training and to operate within the parameters of our mission statement. This Service will continue to deal with such incidents as it has in the past. In the end, a comprehensive complaint procedure helps to improve service delivery and professionalism within the organization. For additional information, please contact the Officer-in-Charge of Professional Standards, at 725-7025, extension 2908.

Who can be the 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 service. Police cadets are not considered police officers and are not subject to the Independent Police Review Act.

Investigating a complaint

The OIPRD has a set of standards that will be followed when conducting an investigation into a public complaint. They have developed these standards to ensure that there is a consistent approach throughout Ontario. Regardless of who investigates a complaint (the OIPRD or the police), the investigator will tell the complainant:

  • How the complaint will be investigated
  • What cooperation is required from the complainant
  • How a decision will be reached
  • What action will be taken at the end of the investigation.

During a police investigation, the OIRPD will receive the same information as the complainant. If the Director does not agree with the way the investigation is being handled, it is possible to direct the police to take certain action, or the OIPRD may take over the investigation.

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