Public – FAQ

Who can make a municipal police complaint?

Any member of the public can make a municipal police complaint. If you were directly involved with the officer’s conduct or you directly witnessed the conduct, and you file a complaint, you will be considered a complainant. If you did not witness the conduct or were not directly involved, you can still file a complaint. You will be considered a third-party complainant.

Can I file a complaint about an RCMP officer with the OPCC?

No. The OPCC does not have legal authority over RCMP officers. The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) is the civilian oversight agency for the RCMP. There is more information about filing an RCMP complaint on the CRCC website.

How do I file a complaint about a municipal police officer or department?

There are a number of ways to file a complaint. You can:

  • file a complaint online.
  • mail your completed Complaint Form to the OPCC or municipal police department involved.
  • visit the municipal police department in person to make a complaint.
  • call the OPCC at (250) 356-7458 or 1-877-999-8707 to file over the phone.
  • visit our office at 947 Fort Street, Victoria, 2nd floor.

You do not have to use the Complaint Form, but it ensures we have all the relevant information to process your complaint.

Is there a time limit on filing my complaint?

A Police Complaint must be made within 12 months of the date on which the incident that you are reporting happened. The Police Complaint Commissioner may extend the time limit if they consider there are good reasons and it is in the public interest.

What does ‘allegation of misconduct’ mean for complaints?

The Police Act (Section 77) defines what misconduct means and provides a list of possible forms of misconduct.

There are 13 types of misconduct allegations:

  • Abuse of Authority
  • Accessory to Misconduct
  • Corrupt Practice
  • Damage to Police Property
  • Damage to Property of Others
  • Deceit
  • Discourtesy
  • Discreditable Conduct
  • Improper Disclosure of Information
  • Improper Off-Duty Conduct
  • Improper Use or Care of a Firearm
  • Misuse of Intoxicants
  • Neglect of Duty

Read more about each type of misconduct allegation here in the Police Act. If you are looking for examples, here are past decisions on misconduct allegations recorded in our annual report.

What is a Service or Policy complaint?

This type of complaint is about the general policies, management, or operations of a municipal police department. This can include complaints about the:

  • inadequacy or inappropriateness of the municipal departments staffing or resource allocation.
  • training programs or resources.
  • standing orders or policies.
  • ability to respond to requests for assistance.
  • the department’s internal procedures.

Review the Guidelines for Service and Policy Complaints.

What if I need help filing a complaint?

OPCC Intake staff can connect you with Support Agencies familiar with the complaint process. Please let us know if you need any accomodations to help you file a complaint, including if you need translation or language interpretation assistance. Our Outreach and Accessibility Coordinator can provide you with more information. Contact us at (250) 356-7458 or toll-free at 1-877-999-8707. Also, police officers or a designated person at the municipal police department are required by the Police Act to assist you in making a complaint.

Can I have someone to assist me during the complaint process?

Yes. The OPCC has connections with a wide range of community organizations. We can connect you with an organization that can provide you with assistance through the complaint process. Our Outreach and Accessibility Coordinator will be able to assist you with this. Please call (250) 356-7458 or 1 (877) 999-8707 (toll-free).

Who will look into my complaint?

Once your complaint is determined to be admissible, an investigator with the municipal police department’s Professional Standards Section will be assigned to your complaint. We will provide independent monitoring of the investigation every step of the way. Staff at the OPCC are independent of the police and we actively oversee the investigation from start to finish. We can provide advice and direction to police to make sure your complaint is fairly and thoroughly investigated.

What can I expect to receive after I file a complaint against a police officer?

You will receive a letter from us advising that your complaint has been reviewed and explaining whether it will be investigated. Not all complaints submitted to the OPCC will be investigated.

In order for a complaint to move forward for investigation, it must:

  • meet the definition of police misconduct under the Police Act section 77.
  • not be frivolous or vexatious (for example, be reasonable and made in good faith).
  • be filed within one year of the incident.
If I file a complaint will my information be shared with the police?

Yes. We must share your complaint information with the police department and the police investigating agency. If your complaint moves forward to an investigation, the police officer(s) who is the subject of your complaint will also receive the complaint information, including the details of your complaint and your name. There are protections under the Police Act that make it an offence to harass or intimidate anyone reporting police misconduct or making a complaint.

If I file my complaint with the police department how will it get to the OPCC?

Police departments are required by the Police Act to send a copy of the complaint to us. We use a secure electronic file transfer system.

What is Complaint Resolution?

Complaint Resolution is an alternative dispute resolution process which is different than a Formal Investigation. It is suitable for less serious allegations of misconduct. The main goal of Complaint Resolution is to give you and the police officer(s) an opportunity to share your perspectives, find common ground, and come to an agreement. A trained senior member of the police department will facilitate the resolution process. An OPCC Investigative Analyst will contact you to further explain this process.

Find out more about Complaint Resolution.

What are the benefits of Complaint Resolution?

The Complaint Resolution process provides several benefits, including:

  • the ability to play a more active role in resolving your complaint and having direct input into the outcome.
  • a greater chance to share your perspectives, concerns, and the impact the incident had on you.
  • an opportunity to get answers to questions you may have about the incident.
  • quicker resolution of your complaint.
  • complete confidentiality.
What happens if it is decided the police officer did not commit misconduct?

If you disagree with a Discipline Authority’s decision, you have the right to request the Police Complaint Commissioner appoint a retired judge to review your complaint. This request must be in writing and be made within 10 business days of receiving the Final Investigation Report and the Discipline Authority’s decision. We review all decisions, regardless of whether we receive a request from a complainant. The Police Complaint Commissioner will make the decision on whether to have a retired judge review it.

Does a complaint have to be filed for a police misconduct incident to be looked into?

No. The Police Complaint Commissioner can initiate investigations into a police officer’s conduct or actions even is there is no complaint filed by the public. Police departments can also ask the OPCC to initiate an investigation into the conduct of one of their police officers.

What happens if the municipal police officer I am complaining about retires or leaves their job?

The Police Act applies to both current and former police officers, so the complaint is treated as if they are still employed. The only exception is that once the police officer retires, they are no longer required by the Police Act to cooperate with the investigation. If the former police officer was found to have committed misconduct, their service record will still reflect the discipline imposed.

Can the OPCC recommend the officer face criminal charges?

If the Police Complaint Commissioner considers a criminal offence has been committed by a municipal police officer, the matter can be reported to Crown Counsel for their review and decision.

What if I disagree with the decision made by the OPCC?

You can contact us and we will explain our decision to you and can answer your questions. If you wish to appeal the decision, you must bring an application for a judicial review to the BC Supreme Court.