Screening Complaints

When the OIPRD receives a complaint, our staff ensures the complaint form is complete and signed. If additional information is required before the complaint can be screened, a case coordinator will contact the complainant by phone or email before the complaint can proceed.

Our case coordinators examine each complaint to determine its type – conduct, policy or service .

All complaints are presumed to be screened in, unless there is a reason to screen out the complaint because it does not meet the requirements under Section 60 of the Police Services Act (PSA).

How the OIPRD Screens Complaints About the Police

Complaints Screened Out
A complaint may be screened out for one of these reasons:

Bad faith: Complaints where there is clear evidence that it was made for an improper purpose or motive. For example, a complaint made with the intention of deceiving the OIPRD or police services.

Better dealt with under another act/law: Complaints that are better dealt with by another in another forum or venue. For example, a complaint that takes issue with the speed a person was travelling when they received a traffic ticket is better dealt with in court.

Frivolous: A complaint is frivolous when it does not reveal any allegation of misconduct or breach of the Code of Conduct, or is trivial, lacks substance or an air of reality.

No jurisdiction under section 58: The complaint is not about policy, service or conduct; the police officer the complaint is about does not fall under the jurisdiction of the OIPRD; or the complainant is excluded from filing a complaint.

Not in the public interest: Under section 60(4) of the PSA, the Director can screen out a complaint if “having regard to all the circumstances, dealing with the complaint is not in the public interest.”

When the Director determines what may or may not be in the public interest, a broad range of factors are considered including the nature of the misconduct alleged.

The Director may consider the detail provided by the complainant, whether the action was a proper exercise of police discretion, the circumstances in which the conduct occurred, whether the conduct was connected to an occupational requirement and whether the conduct could bring the police force into disrepute. This list is not exhaustive. For example: an officer standing in a dangerous location, like a busy highway, accused of yelling at the complainant to hurry up would be more likely to be screened out than an allegation of an officer yelling in a complainant’s driveway.

If there is ongoing police or SIU investigation or outstanding criminal charges, and our investigation will interfere with the results of the outstanding investigation or criminal charges. For more information, refer to Guidelines and Directives 001 – Guideline for Reviewing Complaints

Other factors considered when determining whether or not it is in the public interest to investigate a complaint, include:

  • The effect of a decision to investigate or not investigate a complaint on the public’s confidence in the accountability and integrity of the complaints system
  • Whether the issues are of systemic importance or there is a broader public interest at stake
  • If there is an ongoing police investigation and our investigation will interfere with the results of the police investigation

Over six months: Under section 60(2) and (3) of the PSA, the Director may decide not to deal with a complaint if it is made more than six months from the date of the incident cited in the complaint or when the incident was discovered by the complainant. The “six months” is not a time limit. In determining whether to deal with a complaint older than six months, the Director may exercise his discretion and must consider the following criteria outlined in the act:

  • Whether the complainant is a minor or is has a disability within the meaning of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005
  • Whether the complainant is or was subject to criminal proceedings related to the events underlying the complaint
  • Whether, having regard to all the circumstances, it is in the public interest for the complaint to be dealt with

If a complaint is received after six months, the OIPRD may ask the complainant to provide reasons for the delay in filing. The Director will also consider when the complainant first learned of the alleged misconduct. All circumstances, including the reason for delay and the severity of the complaint, are considered.

Prior to proclamation: The OIPRD can only deal with complaints about incidents that happened on or after October 19, 2009.

Third party criteria not met: The complainant is too remote from the incident. A complainant has to fit into one of the categories outlined under section 60(6) of the PSA. (Learn more about who can make a complaint)

Vexatious: A vexatious complaint may be one that was made out of anger or the desire to seek retribution. Vexatious complaints may lack a reasonable purpose or be made with the intention to harass or annoy, and are often repetitive (filing the same complaint numerous times after the previous complaint was screened out, or filing repeated complaints about the same officer).

If your complaint is screened out, you will receive a detailed letter with the following information:

  • The name of the police service that is the subject of your complaint
  • The Director’s decision and an explanation as to why the complaint was screened out
  • Information on how to appeal a screening decision by requesting a judicial review

The police chief or Commissioner may choose to share a redacted copy of your complaint with the respondent police officer. The redacted copy of your complaint would not include your personal information such as date of birth, home address, telephone number, or email address.

The Director’s screening decision is final. To challenge a screening decision, you must bring an application for a judicial review to the Ontario Superior Court.

Complaints that are screened out will not be investigated.

Complaints Screened In

Complaints that are screened in will proceed to an investigation conducted by either a police service or the OIPRD Investigations Unit. As the OIPRD has a small team of investigators, most complaints are referred to back to the police service to be investigated by an officer with the professional standards unit. Professional standards investigators are specially trained to investigate complaints and other incidents of police misconduct.

In some situations, your complaint may be referred to another police service that may be better equipped to handle your complaint investigation.

The OIPRD maintains oversight over all complaint investigations conducted by police services.