Guidance for dealing with unacceptable behaviour by those using the police complaint framework

Guidance to consider what amounts to unacceptable behaviour by those using the Police complaints framework and how Cheshire Police responds to such behaviour.


  • Ensure that concerns raised by members of the public and formal complaints against Cheshire Police are dealt with fairly, honestly, impartially and proportionately under the Police Reform Act 2002.
  • Adhere to Statutory Guidance on the handling of complaints.
  • To determine what amounts to unacceptable behaviour by those engaging with the Police complaints framework and consider how Cheshire Police will respond to this behaviour.
  • To comply with our duty as a reasonable employer to ensure our staff are not subjected to behaviour which may affect their wellbeing and performance.

What actions could be considered as unacceptable (see below):

People may act out of character at times due to difficult circumstances or undue pressure.

We do not view behaviour as unacceptable just because a person is forceful or determined. We recognise that in some circumstances a person who believes their concerns have not been dealt with appropriately may be frustrated and seek to repeat their issues.

Aggressive, disrespectful or abusive behaviour:

Aggressive or abusive behaviour is not restricted to acts of aggression that may result in physical harm.  It also includes behaviour or language (whether oral or written) that may cause our staff to feel afraid, threatened or abused.

Our staff are expected to treat members of the public with respect and courtesy. They therefore should be treated in the same manner.

Examples of aggressive or abusive behaviour:

  • Foul language
  • Personal verbal abuse/derogatory remarks
  • Continually shouting
  • Threats
  • Not allowing the staff member to engage – continuous or over talking
  • Bullying

Unreasonable demanding behaviour:

What amounts to unreasonable demands will always depend on the seriousness of the issues raised by the complainant. Demands are considered unacceptable if they start to impact substantially on the Professional Standards Department and its ability to provide an effective service to other members of the public.  Communication is an important part of resolving complaints; however it should be done in a manner that does not cause staff to feel harassed or distressed and is not disproportionate.

Examples are:

  • When complainants are not engaging in a reasonable and meaningful manner with an aim to finding a resolution or an outcome to their complaint.
  • Creating situations to make contact over frivolous or unsubstantiated matters.
  • Persistent and unnecessary contact.
  • An insistence on pursing matters that have already been considered.
  • Making unreasonable or unrealistic demands.
  • Submitting an excessive volume of correspondence/calls to the force that is unmanageable and disproportionate.
  • Making contact with different departments or individuals over the same matters.

How we will deal with unacceptable behaviour by complainants:

  • Staff will end a phone call (or other means of communication) if they consider the person to be aggressive, abusive or offensive. The staff member has the authority to make this decision. They will tell the person their behaviour is unacceptable and the reason why and inform them that if they do not desist the call will be terminated. If the unacceptable behaviour continues the call will be ended with no further warnings.
  • Any threats of violence, malicious communications or personal harassment will be reported for consideration of criminal investigation.
  • Complainants who fail to adhere to guidance on how to conduct themselves and /or engage with Cheshire Police will be formally advised in writing by the head of the Professional Standards Department on how to communicate with Professional Standards in the future. This may include restrictions and advice to ensure matters are dealt with fairly, proportionately and in accordance with Statutory Guidance.

Whilst we acknowledge members of the public may wish to record conversations with staff from the Professional Standards Department staff do not consent to recordings being put in the public domain (e.g. posted on social media sites) and action may be taken where necessary.