The Police Complaints Authority
The Police Complaints Authority Act (“the Act”), proclaimed on January 1, 2007, replaced the Police Complaints Authority Act, 1993 (the former Act), which provided for complaints against police officers to be sent by the then Police Complaints Authority to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, (TTPS) for investigation.
The Act of 2007 distinctively established the Police Complaints Authority as an independent corporate body mandated, among other things, to investigate complaints within its remit without the involvement of the police.
The Police Complaints Authority is given extensive functions namely, to:-
(a) investigate criminal offences involving police officers, police corruption and serious police misconduct;
(b) undertake enquires into, or audits of, any aspect of police activities for the purpose of ascertaining whether there is police corruption or serious police misconduct or circumstances that may be conducive to both;
(c) monitor an investigation conducted by any person or authority in relation to any matter mentioned in paragraph (a) and to undertake all audits of those investigations;
(d) advise the Police Service and other public authorities on ways in which police corruption and serious police conduct may be eliminated;
(e) gather evidence that may be admissible in the prosecution of a person who is not a police officer for a criminal offence in relation to the Police Service and to furnish that evidence to the Director of Public Prosecutions, or where an authority outside the State is concerned, the Attorney General;
(f) gather evidence that may be used in the investigation of serious police misconduct and furnish such evidence to the Commissioner of Police or the Police Service Commission for appropriate action;
(g) gather evidence that may be used in the prosecution of a police officer involved in a criminal offence and furnish such evidence to the Director of Public Prosecutions; or
(h) perform any other functions that may be conferred on it by any other written law.
The PCA is an independent body. Its purpose is to ensure that when a member of the public makes a complaint, it is dealt with thoroughly and fairly.
The PCA cannot and does not employ police officers.
By Section 19 of the Act, the Authority is not subject to the direction or control of any other person in the performance of its functions.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is the difference between the former Authority and the current Police Complaints Authority?
There are two main differences between the former Authority and the current Police Complaints Authority (PCA)?
1. While the former Authority was mandated to deal with ALL complaints concerning police officers, the current PCA is deals ONLY with complaints related to serious police misconduct, police corruption and criminal offences involving police officers.
2. Under the former Authority ALL complaints were submitted to the Police Complaints Division (PCD) of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, for investigation. At the current PCA, investigations are carried out by the PCA’s own independent team of investigators to ensure that police are not investigating police.
When should I make a complaint?
If you think a police officer has committed a criminal offence; is involved in police corruption or has behaved in such a manner as to bring the police service into disrepute, then you have the right to make a complaint.
First, decide what you think the police officer or officers did wrong. For example, is the officer renting his firearm? Were you the victim of police brutality? Is the officer involved in any corrupt practices such as accepting bribes to release persons from custody? In these or other circumstances you are entitled to complain.
Normally, a complaint should not be made later than one (1) year from the date of the alleged matter. However, the PCA can investigate complaints falling outside of this one-year limit where special circumstances exist.
What information should be included in my compalint?
Here is a checklist of things that should be included your complaint:
- The name and rank of the officer(s)/number(s) of vehicle(s) etc.
- The name of the station to which the officer is assigned for duty
- What happened (the incident)
- When it happened (date and time)
- Where it happened (place)
- What was done (after the incident)
- What was said (during the incident)
- Whether there were any witnesses, other than yourself and the
- Contact information for available witnesses (address and/or phone number)
- Evidence of any damage or injury (medical report, photographs)
Note that where your complaint relates to a battery (beating), a report should also be made at a police station and a medical examination done by a duly qualified and registered medical practitioner as soon as possible.
How do I make a complaint?
1. Visit the office of the Police Complaints Authority, 46 Park Street, Port of Spain, where you can make your complaint in person to a Complaints Officer;
2. Complete the electronic complaint form and mail or hand deliver it to the Authority's office; or
3. Call the PCA Hotline 800-2PCA (2722).
What will happen to my complaint?
Upon receipt of the complaint the PCA will determine if the complaint is one which it can investigate. If your matter does not fall within the remit of the PCA, meaning the matter is neither one of a criminal offence involving a police officer, police corruption or serious misconduct, you will be guided accordingly.
If it is determined that your matter falls within the remit of the PCA, your complaint will be investigated by the Authority’s investigators. The PCA can also hold hearings for the purpose of conducting an investigation.
When the investigative process is concluded, the PCA will make an assessment and determination in relation to your complaint. The PCA can then make appropriate recommendations to relevant authorities including the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Police Service Commission and the Commissioner of Police.
Can I take Civil Action?
Making a complaint does not affect your right to take legal action or to take the police to court. However, if the subject matter of your complaint or an investigation is also the subject matter of judicial proceedings, the Authority cannot commence or continue an investigation pending the final outcome of the matter before the Courts.