We independently investigate incidents involving policing bodies in Scotland.
Powers and legislation
We provide a free and impartial service and are independent of the police.
The post of the Commissioner was first established in 2007 by the Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2006 which was amended by the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012. This is the same legislation that brought about a single police service in Scotland.
PIRC investigators have the powers of a police officer in Scotland, but only while they are carrying out investigations.
We can investigate
- Serious incidents involving the police. These include deaths in custody and allegations of criminality made about police officers. These requests to investigate are sent to us by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).
- Other incidents involving the police. These include the serious injury of a person in police custody, the death or serious injury of a person following contact with the police or the use of firearms by police officers. These requests to investigate are sent to us by the Chief Constable, Scottish Police Authority (SPA) and other policing bodies operating in Scotland.
- Allegations of misconduct by senior police officers of the rank of Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) and above. These requests to investigate are sent to us by the SPA.
- Relevant police matters which the Commissioner considers would be in the public interest.
We cannot investigate
- Criminal allegations against retired officers.
- Internal staff grievances within policing bodies.
- Reports of criminality against the police, made directly by the public directly to PIRC.
- Misconduct issues involving any officer of the rank chief superintendent and under.
We can be asked to investigate an incident by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), the Chief Constable of Police Scotland, the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) and a number of other policing bodies operating in Scotland.
Our role is to gather all the available evidence in an effort to establish what happened, it is not to apportion blame.
We seek to conduct our investigations in a fair and transparent manner.
At the end of the investigation we report our findings to the organisation who referred the incident to us.
Common questions asked about our investigation process
COPFS may instruct us to investigate deaths in custody, deaths following police contact and allegations of criminality made against police officers and police staff.
The Chief Constable must refer serious incidents involving the police to the Commissioner. 'Serious incidents’ means:
- The death or serious injury of a person who had direct or indirect contact with the police at or before their death or serious injury where there is an indication that the contact may have caused, or contributed to, the death or serious injury.
- Police use of a firearm, which includes the presentation or discharge of a gun and the discharge of a Taser or CS/PAVA spray.
PIRC can only investigate alleged misconduct by a senior officer of Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) rank or above following a referral from the Scottish Police Authority (SPA).
The Commissioner may investigate matters relating to the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) or Police Scotland where she considers that it would be in the public interest to do so.