Police – FAQ

How should a police department handle a complaint received at their department?

The OPCC has issued Guidelines to departments that outlines their requirements under the Police Act to receive and handle police complaints. Police departments must provide assistance to those who wish to file a complaint. The OPCC complaint form must be used and all complaints must be sent to the OPCC. Click here to review the Guidelines for receiving and handling of complaints issued by the Police Complaint Commissioner. Click here to review the Guideline for receiving and handling Service and Policy Complaints.

What is the difference between a Police Complaint and a Question or Concern?

If a person does not want to file a complaint against a police officer but has a question or concern about their conduct or the operations of the department and the information provided does not contain an allegation of misconduct, this may be considered a Question/Concern. The OPCC has issued Guidelines to departments that outlines their requirements under the Police Act to process Questions/Concerns.

All Questions/Concerns must be filled out using the OPCC form and submitted to the OPCC within 10 business days. The OPCC reviews all Questions/Concerns to ensure the matter has been appropriately streamed and the department has followed up with the public’s Question/Concern.

Are all complaints made against police officers investigated?

No. The OPCC reviews all complaints to determine whether they meet the threshold of admissibility. In order for a complaint to be admissible, the complaint must:

  • Contain an allegation of conduct, that, if substantiated, would constitute misconduct as defined by the Police Act.
  • Be filed within one year of the occurrence, except in cases where the Commissioner grants an extension (there are good reasons for doing so and the extension is not contrary to the public interest).
  • Not be frivolous or vexatious.
What happens when a police officer has an admissible complaint made against them?

Once the OPCC determines that a complaint is admissible, the Chief Constable of the department is responsible for notifying the police officer that a complaint has been made and specify the nature of the complaint and the name of the complainant.

What is Complaint Resolution?

This is a process that Complainants and Respondent Officers can engage in to resolve the complaint made. This involves coming to a meaningful resolution of the concerns brought forward by the Complainant and input from both parties. Complaint Resolution is not about who is right or wrong but about coming to an understanding of each other’s perspectives. Complaints resolved through Complaint Resolution will not show up on a member’s Service Record of Discipline.

Who determines whether a police officer committed misconduct?

One of the roles of a Discipline Authority is to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to support a finding of misconduct. The Discipline Authority is either the Chief Constable, his/her delegate, or a person on the list of those qualified to be discipline authorities.

The OPCC does not make any findings of misconduct but rather acts in a gatekeeping role. If the OPCC disagrees with the finding of a Discipline Authority, the Police Complaint Commissioner can appoint a retired judge to review the matter who will then be responsible for determining whether there is sufficient evidence to support a finding of misconduct.

At any time after receiving the Final Investigation Report, the Police Complaint Commissioner can arrange a Public Hearing if the Commissioner determines a Public Hearing is necessary in the public interest. 

What are some of the possible outcomes of a Police Act investigation?

Withdrawal: a complainant may withdraw their complaint at any time in the process.

Complaint Resolution: A complaint made by resolved through a resolution that is reached between the complainant and the respondent police officer.

Discontinued: The Police Complaint Commissioner has the discretion to discontinue an investigation it is determined that further investigation is neither necessary nor reasonably practicable, or if it is determined that the complaint is frivolous/vexatious or was made knowing the allegations were false or misleading.

Substantiated: If, following an investigation, the Discipline Authority determines there is sufficient evidence to support a finding a misconduct based on a balance of probabilities the matter will proceed to a Prehearing Conference or a Discipline Proceeding.

Not Substantiated: Following an investigation, the Discipline Authority may determine there is not sufficient evidence to support a finding of misconduct. This decision will be reviewed by the OPCC to determine whether there is a reasonable basis to believe the Discipline Authority’s decision is incorrect. If that is the case, the Police Complaint Commissioner may appoint a retired judge to review the matter and arrive at a decision.

After an investigation under the Police Act is completed, what information is provided to the Respondent Police Officer?

A Respondent Police Officer will receive a copy of the Final Investigation Report (including all the records referenced in the Report) and the Discipline Authority’s decision. The Complainant will also receive the Final Investigation Report and the Discipline Authority’s decision but they will not receive the records reference in the Report).

Can a Respondent Police Officer request further investigation?

Yes. Under the Police Act, respondent officers can request further investigative steps be completed once they have received the Final Investigation Report and Discipline Authority’s decision. This request must be in writing and be made to the Discipline Authority within 10 business days of receiving the Final Investigation Report and Discipline Authority. The Discipline Authority will make the decision whether to approve these additional investigative steps.

Additional investigation can also be requested at the Discipline Proceeding stage.

Who is responsible for determining corrective/disciplinary measures that are imposed on police officers who are found to have committed misconduct?

If a matter goes to a Prehearing Conference, the Prehearing Conference Authority (Chief Constable, Deputy Chief Constable or a senior officer) is responsible for determining appropriate disciplinary/corrective measures to be imposed. The OPCC is responsible for approving the discipline proposed. If the OPCC does not confirm the discipline, the matter will go to a Discipline Proceeding.

If the matter goes to a Discipline Proceeding, the Discipline Authority will determine the appropriate disciplinary/corrective measures. If the OPCC disagrees with the measures proposed, the Police Complaint Commissioner can appoint a retired judge to make a determination on the matter.

Do I have a right to a review by a retired judge?

Respondent members who are facing dismissal or reduction in rank are entitled to a Public Hearing (or a Review on the Record if the Police Complaint Commissioner decides more appropriate).

What is the role of the OPCC if a matter involves death or serious harm?

The OPCC initiates mandatory Police Act investigations whenever death or serious harm results from an incident involving municipal police officers. The IIO effectively conduct investigations to determine whether an officer committed an offence. Investigations under the Police Act are much broader in nature and there are fundamental differences between the two. These investigations will assess all of the circumstances including but not limited to, any training, policy, or misconduct allegations. Officers can also be compelled to provide statements, answer questions and otherwise account for their actions. Police are under a duty to cooperate. Case law in BC has affirmed this duty.