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Hot Topics – Police Complaints

Who should I talk to before I make a complaint? 

If you experience harassment, discrimination, or violence by police, talk to a lawyer about what happened. The lawyer can give you advice on your options and help you make a complaint, make an application to the Human Rights Tribunal, sue the police for damages (money), or report the incident as a crime.

If you have suffered serious injury by the police, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) will carry out a criminal investigation. The SIU has the power to lay criminal charges against the offending police officer.


You should immediately get and keep as much information about the incident as possible. Try to get the officer’s badge number and division number, and write down the date, time, and location of the incident. If you are injured, you should get pictures taken of the injuries and get medical attention. Keep going back for medical and counseling appointments if your mental or physical injuries continue.

Even if you are unsure about what options you have or whether you want to take any action, you should record what happened and any ongoing problems related to the incident (e.g., if you had to miss work and/or have continued injuries). Write ‘for my lawyer’ at the top of any documents related to the incident.

For more information, see the Evidence Tips sub-section under the main “Homeless Youth” section.

Law Enforcement Complaints Agency (LECA)

If you would like to complain about an incident involving an Ontario police officer, you can make a complaint directly to the police service where you experienced the incident, or to the Law Enforcement Complaints Agency (LECA).

LECA is responsible for responsible for receiving, managing and overseeing public complaints about misconduct of the following:

  1. All municipal, regional, and provincial (OPP) police officers;
  2. Special Constables employed by the Niagara Parks Commission;
  3. Peace Officers in the Legislative Protective Service; and
  4. First Nations police officers if the police service opts into the Community Safety and Policing Act (CSPA).

On April 1, 2024, LECA replaced the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD). More information about this change is available on the LECA website.

What can you complain about?

Complaints can be made about a police officer’s conduct.

For complaints about a police officer’s conduct, LECA investigates complaints and decides whether disciplinary action should be taken against an officer. If LECA finds police officer misconduct, they can request that the police officer be reprimanded, suspended, or dismissed. The Community Safety and Policing Act outlines activities that are considered police misconduct and attract disciplinary action. Examples include the use of:

  • Excessive force
  • Unlawful searches
  • Profane, abusive, or disrespectful language
  • Discriminatory conduct
  • Neglect of duty
  • Deceit
  • Other discreditable conduct

If the OIPRD finds police misconduct, they can request that the police officer be reprimanded, suspended, or dismissed.

Who can make a complaint?

You are able to make a complaint if you have experienced it yourself, witnessed it, or know a lot of reliable information about the substance of the complaint.


Your complaint must be made within six months of the incident which led to the complaint. However, LECA can permit a complaint to go ahead after the six month time limit expires. If you are beyond the time limit, you should explain why you are late (e.g., your age if you are under 18, if you were sick and/or did not know that LECA existed).

Were you arrested or charged criminally? 

If the incident resulted in you being arrested and/or charged criminally, be careful about making a complaint. Information written in the complaint that mentions you doing any criminal activity can be used against you in court. If you are at risk of, or have been charged with offences related to the incident, ask LECA if you can file your complaint after your criminal proceedings are complete.

How do I make a complaint?

LECA’s website has information about the complaints process and an online complaint form.

If you have questions about filling out the form, you can call LECA at: 1-877-411-4773 or 416-246-7071.

You have the right to get somebody’s help to make a complaint and represent you as your agent through the complaint process.

Your privacy

LECA and staff administering your complaint are bound by strict confidentiality requirements to not share information relating your complaint to anyone except:

  • those helping process your complaint,
  • legal counsel,
  • police for law enforcement purposes, and
  • anyone you consent to sharing the information with.

The officer that you are complaining about will usually be given a copy of the complaint and know that you made a complaint about them. They require this information so that they may defend themselves in any disciplinary proceedings.

It is an offence under the Community Safety and Policing Act for any officer to retaliate against an individual that complains about their conduct.

If you are fearful of your identify being shared with the officer you are complaining about, you may request to have your personal information kept private. The LECA may or may not be able to grant your request. If they refuse to grant your request, you may want to withdraw your complaint.

What will happen to your complaint?

There is a flowchart and a description for each stage on the LECA website about how complaints move through the process.

Depending on the circumstances, complaints made to LECA about a police officer’s conduct will either be:

  • referred to the local chief of police in the region where the complaint originated,
  • referred to the local chief of police outside the region where the complaint
    originated, or
  • kept by LECA for further investigation.

If you wish, you may be offered to participate in an informal resolution of your complaint by meeting with LECA and police officer involved. Informal resolution will only be offered for less serious complaints and will likely not be offered as an option to resolve complaints relating to criminal activities or the use of excessive force.

Your complaint may result in the police officer receiving disciplinary action. There may be a disciplinary hearing that you are asked to attend and give evidence at. You may be cross-examined by the police officer’s counsel about the accuracy of what happened. After a disciplinary hearing, the officer may receive disciplinary action taken against them, such as a reprimand, suspension, or dismissal.

After investigation, if the local police service finds that your complaint is unsubstantiated, you may ask LECA for a review of that decision by completing their Request a Review Form. There is a 30 day time limit to file for review. If LECA finds that your complaint is unsubstantiated, there is no review of the decision; and you can bring an application for a judicial review to the Ontario Divisional Court.

Contact a lawyer if you are unsatisfied with the complaints process or for advice on any further legal steps.

Pros and cons about making a complaint


  • Your complaint is on file and builds on the number of complaints already made. This means that the police force cannot say that they are doing a good job because no one is complaining against them.
  • Steps may be taken. For example, the police officer may be reprimanded, suspended, or dismissed.
  • You have spoken out about the harm you suffered.


  • You may not want to take further time and energy to deal with the harm you have suffered.
  • You and/or your friend and family may be fearful of having your identities known to the police officer that you are complaining about.
  • You may be requested to face the police officer in an adversarial-type of proceeding (a disciplinary hearing). You may feel re-victimized when being questioned on the truthfulness of the accounts of the incident you are complaining about.

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