Complaints FAQs

Q. What is a complaint?

A. Complaints generally have to do with police misconduct that affected you personally or that you witnessed. Most complaints are about police actions that may affect public trust.

Your complaint must be made no more than 12 months after the incident occurred.

Your right to make a complaint against the Vancouver Police Department is set out in the B.C. Police Act. This law affects all municipal police in British Columbia.

Q. Where can I make a complaint?

A. You can make your complaint to the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner directly or to the Vancouver Police Department.

The VPD is committed to ensuring that your complaint will be thoroughly investigated, and that your rights and the rights of the police officers concerned are protected.

Q. How can you make a complaint?

A. When making your complaint, it is helpful to have a clear account of what happened, such as all the dates, times, people and places involved.

The person receiving the complaint has a duty to:

  • help you make your complaint
  • offer you any other information or assistance as required under the Act, such as helping you write down what happened

We can give you information about support and services that may be available to you, including translation. For more information, see Compliments & Complaints.

Q. Can I resolve a complaint informally?

A. Public complaints provide police with important feedback and give them the opportunity to respond to concerns in their communities.

You may try to resolve your complaint informally. This can be done through face-to-face discussions or with the assistance of a professional mediator.

If you try complaint resolution, you can have someone with you to provide support.

A complaint process that allows for an apology or complaint resolution strengthens community-based policing.

Q. What is the difference between a complaint resolution and a formal investgiation?

A. Complaint Resolution can take place at any point in the investigation, and will provide you and the officer(s) involved an opportunity to share perspectives on the circumstances of your complaint. This gives everyone the chance to have their voice heard and, if relevant, get answers to any questions they might have.

Complainants often report feeling satisfied just by taking part in this process. Officers often benefit as well, as it provides an opportunity to share reasons for their actions, and to reflect and consider if there was a different approach that may have been more appropriate. Overall, this process can lead to learning opportunities for both parties, and a greater understanding of both perspectives.

At the beginning of the Complaint Resolution process, you will meet with a Professional Standards Section investigator to talk about what you want to achieve from the process. They will look after any communication between you and the officer, including a face-to-face meeting if you both agree.

The information shared in these conversations is strictly confidential and cannot be used for any other process, such as civil legal action. A “Consent to Complaint Resolution Agreement” form will be completed, outlining all the information. When you and the officer agree to the content of the document, you will each sign it to agree that an Informal Resolution has been reached. If one or both parties do not agree, the complaint will then be dealt with on a Formal Investigative basis.

The second process is a Formal Investigation. A Professional Standards investigator will obtain statements from you, witnesses, and the officers involved.

The first report about the progress of your complaint will be given to you within 30 days after the start of the investigation, followed by updates every 20 days.

Once the investigation is completed, the investigator will submit a “Final Investigation Report,” outlining the investigative steps they took, as well as an assessment of the evidence and information collected. The evidence obtained in the investigation cannot be used for any other process, such as civil legal action.

Under the Police Act, the investigator has six months to complete the investigation and submit the report to both the Office of the Police Complaints Commission (OPCC) and the discipline authority, the police chief or his designate. The discipline authority will make a decision as to whether the complaint is substantiated or not, which will be reviewed by the OPCC

If the OPCC agrees with the discipline authority, the file will be concluded and closed. If the OPCC disagrees, then under section 117 of the Police Act they can appoint a retired judge to review the matter.

Complaint Resolutions and Formal Investigations are governed under the Police Act.

You will find information on resolving complaints using Alternative Dispute Resolution in Division 4 of the Act.

If You Have a Complaint

See Filing a Compliment or Complaint for information on submitting a complaint regarding a VPD officer.

Other FAQs

See the VPD's list of general frequently asked questions (FAQs).