Complaints On Police Officers

Making A Police Complaint Against A Police Officer

How to Make a Police Complaint On A Police Officer

 Never … ever… walk into a police station to make a complaint against a police officer. Civilian testers have shown that you may be harassed or falsely arrested. Do not email your complaint and never verbally tell an officer what happened. If the complaint is of a serious nature, see an attorney!

 What is Police Misconduct?

 Police misconduct refers to ill-appropriated conduct and or illegal actions taken by police officers in connection with their official duties. Police misconduct can lead to a miscarriage of justice and sometimes involves your constitutional rights, discrimination and or illegal motives of segregation combined as obstruction of justice.

Examples of Police Misconduct:

 * Rudeness

 * Excessive force

 * Soliciting or accepting bribes

 * Drinking on duty

 * Harassment

*  Cannot deprive any person of his/her constitutional rights

* Making a false report (good for alleging in the case of traffic tickets)

* Use of narcotics (on or off duty)

* Discrimination

* Altering information on an official document

* Careless driving (driving rapidly and/or aggressively to a minor call

* Racial or ethnic intimidation

* Malicious threats or assault

* Sexual harassment 

* Unjustified arrests

* Discriminatory traffic stops

* Coercive sexual conduct

* Criminal police misconduct

How to Make a Complaint Against A Police Officer

 Complaints against police officers are allegations of misconduct and you as an American citizen have the right to make a complaint against a police officer. When someone makes a complaint on a police officer an incident report is placed in the officer’s file so as to hopefully keep the officer from continuing to abuse his or her authority. It also makes the officers superiors aware that there might be a problem with that individual police officer that needs to be addressed. Making a police complaint and reporting police misconduct is a step towards ending this abuse of power by police.

1) As soon as possible after the police encounter write down in your own words everything that happened from the very start of the encounter to the end. Don’t worry about sending off your complaint right away. Wait a few days, take your time and go back over your written complaint and see what you might have forgotten the first time you wrote it. Tell only the truth and don’t over exaggerate what happened.

2) There’s no need for “emotions” to be involved when you write your complaint, only the facts. No name calling!

3) The most important thing is to be truthful! If the police catch you in a lie your complaint won’t be credible, nor will any other complaints you send in the future. You could even be charged for making a false report against an officer or deputy and in some states you can be sued by the officer.

The more information in your written complaint the better. Your complaint should include:

Who is the officer you’re filing a complaint against? Name or badge number?

What the officer said or did? Was he rude, abusive or used excessive force?

When did it happen? Date and time.

Where did it occur? Location?

How or why did the incident occur?

Do you have corroborating witnesses whose story doesn’t conflict with yours? If you have witnesses you should ask each of them to write a separate account of the incident and sign it.

Do you have any type of evidence like pictures, audio or a video recording? If you do don’t send the “original” to the police, send only a copy. If it’s of a more serious nature see an attorney.

To make a complaint against a police officer “one of a less serious nature,” you need to mail a written complaint and send it “Certified Mail return receipt requested.” Certified return receipt gives you some type of proof that you actually filed a complaint against an officer. If you don’t send the complaint certified mail the letter sometimes gets lost or misplaced by someone at the police department.

Mail your certified mail return receipt complaint to the agency the officer works at which would either be the police department, sheriff’s office, or other law enforcement agency with whom you are filing the complaint.

The police may try and contact you by phone or mail to do a “follow up” about your complaint. Don’t answer any questions and never go down to the police station for an interview. Tell them everything they need to know is in the letter you sent and then say good bye. Stick to what you said in your complaint and say nothing else!

The complaint will be investigated and you should receive a letter back from the police agency on the status of your complaint in about 30 days. Most police complaints will be in the favor of the police officer, but the good thing is the complaint will stay in the officers file.

The response you will get from the police department will be one of the following:

 SUSTAINED – The investigation disclosed sufficient evidence to clearly prove some or all of the allegations made in the complaint and disciplinary action could result against the officer.(s)

NOT SUSTAINED – The investigation failed to discover sufficient evidence to clearly prove or disprove the allegation(s) made.

 EXONERATED – The investigation reveals that the acts did occur, but the actions taken were justified, lawful and proper.

UNFOUNDED – The investigation indicated that the alleged act(s) did not occur.

EXONERATED – The investigation reveals that the acts did occur, but the actions taken were justified, lawful and proper.

A sustained complaint may result in disciplinary action of one or more of the following:

  1. formal written reprimand
  2. disciplinary probation
  3. time off without pay
  4. reduction of salary rate
  5. demotion
  6. discharge

There is a time limit on how long you have to file a complaint against a police officer. For minor police misconduct you may have only 30-60 days and up to 6 months for more serious allegations.

Making a complaint against an officer will not get a victim compensated for police abuse and police complaints are not lawsuits. If you make a complaint against an officer and with cops clearing themselves as they often do, the only recourse you may have is a civil lawsuit. In a civil lawsuit you may receive compensation if you and your attorney can prove damages or civil rights violations. Contact a competent civil rights attorney about filing a lawsuit for civil rights violations.

You may also contact your State Attorney Generals Office and call the ACLU hot line at 1-877-634-5454.