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How to file a complaint against a police officer

The police are tasked to serve and protect the public. However, what happens when members of the public feel police have mistreated them?

All provinces and territories have mechanisms by which you can file a complaint against police officers.

Often an independently established body receives and reviews complaints against police officers.  You would normally direct your formal written complaint to that review body.

Complaints against the RCMP

A complaint at the federal level would be made against the RCMP, as they are the Canadian national police force. However, the RCMP is not limited to being a national policing body. They also serve the public at the provincial and municipal level, so complaints against the RCMP can be made at different levels, too.

Regardless of what level the RCMP officer is serving, if you want to make a complaint against them, then you have to contact the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP.

There are a few ways to do this; you can either call or fax the commission, fill out the online form or complete a complaint form and send it by mail.

You usually have to file a complaint within a certain amount of time from the date of the incident or your complaint may not be accepted.

Complaint against a provincial, regional or municipal police officer

The province, territory or city that you reside in will dictate the process you have to follow in order to file a complaint.

Formal complaints almost always have to be made in written form in order to be considered. However, informally, a complainant can usually go to a police station to talk about the issue or the question to see if it can be resolved without filing a formal complaint.

Furthermore, there is usually a specific form that you have to fill out when you make a formal complaint. Those forms can be found with the body that you would direct your complaint to. For example, in British Columbia, you would direct your complaint against an officer to the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner. In Ontario, the office is the Office of the Independent Police Review Director.

Again, most complaints are time-sensitive. You have to file them within a certain time or they will not be considered. To find out what the time limit is for your complaint to be considered, you should consult the website of the station or the provincial/municipal website for the police of your province or territory or city. You can also give the station a call and find out what kind of deadline you are looking at.

What should be included in the complaint?

You need to be specific about the details of the incident. Your complaint should include:

  • Which officer you are making the complaint against;
  • Where the incident happened – the more specific the better;
  • What date and time the incident happened;
  • The details of what happened in the incident in question.

If you need help with filing a complaint, you should consult the website of the police commissioner of your province or territory. If it concerns a complaint against the RCMP, you can consult the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP website. You could also consult with a lawyer about how to properly file a complaint.

Read more:

Complaints against Municipal Police

Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner British Columbia