In Ontario, whether you are accused of a crime or not, you can file a complaint against a police officer, policy or service, if you:
- Are concerned or offended by something a police officer(s) said or did to you.
- Are a witness to an incident involving a police officer(s) that concerned or offended you.
- Are distressed or concerned as a result of the way a friend or relative has been treated by a police officer(s).
- Have a complaint about a police department and the level of service you received.
- Had your property damaged by the police.
- Have a complaint about a policy or procedure of a police department.
While there are several ways to have your concerns heard, this post will address the most common method: Filing a complaint.
Ontario’s Police Complaints Agency
The Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) receives, manages and oversees all complaints about police in Ontario.
If you have a minor complaint, the OIPRD suggests going to the local police station to talk through the concern. By working with the police to deal with your complaint, you are using a process called Local Resolution. Matters handled and resolved through Local Resolution are not considered official complaints.
How will you know if your complaint is suitable for Local Resolution? The Office of the Independent Police Review Director suggests that Local Resolution be used to allow the police to “solve, explain, clear up or settle a minor complaint directly with the complainant” that involves:
- Personal property, other than money or a firearm
- Failure to treat or protect a person equally
- The use of profane language
- Contraventions of the act or regulations
- Acting in a disorderly manner
- Neglect of duty
- Failure to work in accordance with orders
- Failure to report a matter
- Omitting to make any necessary entry in a record
- Improper dress or appearance
- Conspiring and abetting the misconduct listed above
For serious complaints, Ontarians are encouraged to submit, in writing, their concerns for review by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD). The OIPRD is responsible for receiving, managing and overseeing all public complaints about municipal, regional and provincial police. As an independent civilian oversight agency, they make sure that public complaints about police are dealt with in a manner that is transparent, effective and fair to both the public and the police.
Each complaint filed with the OIPRD is looked at individually and is handled according to the Police Services Act, the OIPRD’s Rules of Procedure and the Director’s discretion. The OIPRD chart provides an overview of what happens, and when, in the public complaints process.
In order to make a complaint to the OIPRD, you must file within 6 months of the incident and you must use the OIPRD complaint form available in hardcopy, PDF or online. The OIPRD does not accept anonymous complaints.
While you do not need a lawyer to file a complaint, hiring a lawyer to provide advice and assistance can be beneficial.
Once your complaint has been filed and recorded, the OIPRD will make a decision on how to classify and process your complaint. As the complainant, you will receive periodic updates until a final written decision is reached. For a full step-by-step outline of the OIPRD process, we encourage you to download and review the OIPRD “Talk To Us” guide.
If you have been charged with a crime in relation to the incident for which you are taking action against the police, make sure you have retained a good lawyer and let them know of the action you are taking or are considering taking against the police.
If you do not have a lawyer, and want to talk to one before taking action against the police, Ottawa’s Armoured Suits Criminal Defence Lawyers offer a free 30-minute private consultation. Contact us by phone at 613-233-0008 or e-mail at [email protected] to schedule your meeting.