One of the ways in which the Commissioner seeks to raise standards is to issue guidance to policing bodies on handling complaints. 

The Commissioner's statutory guidance was originally issued in 2011. Without being prescriptive, it set out minimum standards for the way that policing bodies should respond to complaints from the public. In April 2013 the statutory guidance was updated in light of the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012.

In March 2021, the PIRC published comprehensive new statutory guidance for handling complaints about the police in Scotland, bringing greater transparency, accountability and an increased focus on improvement.

The new statutory guidance reflects a concerted effort by the PIRC and policing bodies to develop a more positive attitude to complaints. The aim is to promote and support a culture of continuous improvement through learning and development, resulting in more consistency in the handling of complaints by policing bodies in Scotland.

A key focus of the new guidance is effective frontline resolution, an approach which now accounts for almost 40% of how all Police Scotland complaints are dealt with. In practice, this means police dealing with and resolving straightforward and minor complaints within very short timescales.

The guidance also provides clarity around complaints about off-duty police officers; how to appropriately deal with anonymous complaints; and greater flexibility around low-level complaints.

Download the Commissioner's Statutory Guidance on the handling of complaints about the police in Scotland.