Citizen Complaints Curriculum - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Citizen Complaints Curriculum. Presented By TEXAS REGIONAL COMMUNITY POLICING INSTITUTE. INTRODUCTIONS. Instructor Participate name years on the job rank and role (years in this role). PURPOSE.

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Citizen Complaints Curriculum

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Citizen Complaints Curriculum

Presented By



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  • Instructor

  • Participate

  • name

  • years on the job

  • rank and role (years in this role)

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The purpose of this course is to help you understand the importance and need for open citizen complaint intake and investigation processes. And, to use this process as a leading indicator of your departments commitment to the highest standards of ethics and integrity.

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What single words describe your departments citizen complaint process from, both their perspective and from your perspective.

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Value driven






Incident driven



Fact finding

Quality control



Report writing


Common Word Identifiers

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Word Usage

  • What patterns do you see in the words mentioned?

  • What similarities are represented?

  • What differences are represented?

  • In what ways do these words relate to the ethics and integrity of the department?

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CASE REVIEW(handout)


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  • What type of citizen complaint intake process does this scenario illustrate?

  • In what ways did the LAPD’s citizen intake process contribute to the disastrous aftermath of this incident?

  • What were the ramifications for the department?

  • What processes could have been in place that could have assisted Mr. Holliday to successfully making his complaint?

  • What do you think Mr. Holliday thought about the ethics and integrity of the LAPD?

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Sample Complaint Processes(handouts)

  • City of Allen, TX

  • City of Austin, TX

  • City of Sacramento, Ca….

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How Can Citizen Complaints be Filed?

  • Mail

  • Phone

  • In person

  • E-mail

  • Media

  • Anonymous/ third person (to be discussed later)…

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Locations for Filing Complaints

  • Are the locations easily accessible?

  • Is there handicapped access?

  • If more than one complaint location, are there any located near public transportation?

  • Is there a confidential and/or neutral place for the complaint to be made?

  • Is there a private office that can be used?

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Time of Day Complaints Can be Filed

  • Are the time periods limited or unlimited?

  • Have you made it convenient for working people to file complaints?

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Language Barriers

  • Are the complaint forms available in other languages?

  • Are there personnel available who can assist non-English speaking complainants?

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Time Limits

  • Are there statutory limits to how long after an incident occurs that a complainant can file a complaint?

  • Are these limits determined by agency regulations?

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Who Can Take Complaints?

  • Who is authorized to take complaints?

  • Do they have any training in what information to gather?

  • Do they have any training in customer service?

  • What does the attitude of the complaint- taker tend to be?

  • Has the organization assured the complaint-taker that they represent the “face” of the organization when handling these matters?

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Anonymous or Third Person Complaints

  • Are these and/or should these be allowed?

  • Do you explain how to file anonymously?

  • Do you inform the citizens about the difficulties there are when trying to investigate these kinds of complaints?

  • What process is used to take these complaints?

  • How do others initiate a complaint?(i.e.: courts, other officers, law suit findings, DA’s office, etc)

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Notarized or Sworn Statements

  • What is your departments policy regarding this issue?

  • Can and should it be changed?

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Communication with Citizens and Police Personnel

  • What are some of the ways that you let citizens know about the complaint process?

  • How does the type of communication and it’s tone, relay your departments values and behaviors, regarding citizen complaints?

  • Are complainants provided a copy of their complaint?

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Complaint Forms

  • Do the forms gather the key information?

  • Are they clearly written and easy to complete?

  • Do they unnecessarily invoke or suggest causes for a complaint? In other words, does the form give a list of the types of complaints, or does the complainant have to give an account in their own words.

  • Is the complainant charged with identifying the type of complaint they are wanting to file, or simply give an account of what has occurred?

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Discouragement of Complaints

  • Are there controls in place to ensure that officers do not discourage citizens from filing a complaint(at or away from the department)?

  • Are complaint-takers allowed to handle complaints “informally” without documenting their actions?

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Acknowledgment and Follow-up

  • If not filed in person, how does the complainant know that you are in receipt of their complaint?

  • How do you describe the complaint investigation process to the complainant(is this done verbally or in writing)?

  • Is the complainant given a contact person to assist them during the process?

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  • Taking internal complaints are critical to the departments on-going effort to maintain the highest standards of ethics and integrity.

  • There are many issues associated with this process, but they go beyond the scope of this course.

  • In most agencies, the complaint process is generally the same regardless if it is generated from within or outside of the department…

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Organizational Attitudes

  • It is important to deal with the issues and not sweep them under the rug

  • Hiding issues may only be a momentary fix

  • There may be an unwillingness to deal with complex issues

  • Dealing with complaints locally may only exacerbate the problem

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Complaint Categories

  • Corruption

  • Administrative misconduct

  • Malfeasance

  • Misfeasance

  • Nonfeasance

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An act done with the intent to give some advantage inconsistent with official duty and the rights of others. The act of an official person who unlawfully and wrongfully uses his station or character to procure some benefit for himself or for another person, contrary to duty and the rights of others (simply; acts that violate State or Federal statutes that are criminal in nature)

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Corruption (type of actions)

  • Brutality

  • Civil Rights violations

  • Domestic violence assaults

  • Will generally always violate a Departmental policy, as well as a State and/or Federal law

  • Are often the most difficult to investigate

  • Can do great damage to the reputation of the department and it’s members

  • Can damage public trust

  • Generally get significant attention from the media

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Administrative Misconduct

An act that violate departmental administrative rules and regulations but do not rise to the level of a criminal act

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Administrative Misconduct (actions)

  • Many departments investigate this type of infraction using line-level supervisors

  • This is generally a type of action that would result with a referral to the Early Warning/Identification System

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The intentional commission of an act that is prohibited by law or directive or the intentional unjust performance of some act that the officer had no right to do

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Malfeasance (actions)

  • Assault on a person that may not get pursued to the level of a civil rights violation

  • Larceny or other types of property crimes

  • This is a deliberate act or decision to violate the law

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Performance of a duty or act that one is obligated or permitted to do in a manner that is improper or negligent

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Misfeasance (actions)

  • Improper completion of paperwork

  • Improper search of arrestees

  • Unsafe operation of police vehicle

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Failure to perform an act which one is obligated to do either by law or organizational directive

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Nonfeasance (actions)

  • This is a failure to act more on the basis of a mistake of the heart, or ignorance, not a deliberate act as in the case of malfeasance

  • Additional training might be the corrective action for this type of conduct

  • This might require that the department re-evaluate it’s own policy governing the issue

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Other terms Used

  • Police Service Complaints

  • Personnel Complaints

  • Misconduct Complaints

  • Class A Complaint

  • Class B Complaint

  • Internal Complaints

  • External Complaints

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Investigation of the Complaint

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KEYPoints to Think About

  • The greatest failure of departments, that has led a complaint to civil litigation, has been as a result of a flawed complaint reception process

  • Careful documentation and tracking are needed in case of any further issues regarding this complaint

  • Proper oversight of the complaint process by senior officials can assure that sound and proper action was taken

  • Regular review of these cases can help an organization identify patterns of officer misconduct and/or proper supervision……

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Stages of the Process

  • The Complaint is filed

  • The officer gets a copy of the complaint, and (“notice of rights” letter?)

  • Investigator interviews the complainant and any witnesses, gathers evidence, etc.

  • Investigator interviews the officer(s)

  • Investigation is concluded and a recommendation is made

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Who Investigates and Tracks the Complaint(Is the Complaint an Administrative or Criminal, or both)

  • Does it go to your Internal Affairs Division?

  • Does it go to a particular Division Commander or Supervisor?

  • Does it go to a Civilian Review Board?

  • Does it become a part of an Early Warning or Early Identification System/potentially problematic conduct?

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  • How does an officer get assigned to this position. Is he/she forced?

  • What type of person should this individual be?

  • Should police “police themselves”?

  • Should there be time limits to how long an officer should be assigned to this division?

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Division Commander/Supervisor

  • Can this person be objective?

  • Will/can a sustained complaint reflect poorly on the accused officers supervisor?

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Civilian Review Board

  • Can this type of review be objective and fair?

  • Who should serve on this board?

  • Should every complaint be referred to this board?

  • Does this provide for better police accountability?

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Early Warning/Identification

  • Is this type of system useful for developing officers with problematic behavior?

  • Should every officer with a sustained complaint be entered into this system?

  • Should complaints automatically be referred to such a system for investigation/review?

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  • Might require a special investigative unit, or person

  • If both, Admin and Criminal, might want to wait until criminal investigation is over, or run them parallel

  • Garrity vs. New Jersey, officer protection against self-incrimination

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Administrative Complaint

  • The vast majority of complaints

  • Must be properly investigated and proper actions taken

  • The process needs to be and be perceived as fair and impartial by all parties

  • The investigation must be conduct in a timely fashion

  • Proper documentation and storage of complaints (specific files or destruction)

  • Departmental awareness of the complaint disposition

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Types of Dispositions

  • Exonerated

  • Unfounded

  • Not Sustained

  • Sustained

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Exonerated:Action complained of did occur; however, action was justified, proper and legal

  • Community might have difficulty with this type of finding

  • Effective and open communication with the community

  • Some officer coaching might still be needed

  • Some additional training might be needed

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Unfounded:Action complained of did not occur

  • Assure the public that a sincere investigation effort was made

  • Make certain that all witnesses have been contacted

  • Make certain that the investigation has clearly proven that the allegation did not occur (5% unfounded vs. 60-70% not-sustained)

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Not Sustained:Investigation failed to prove or disprove the allegations

  • Leaves the situation in a limbo

  • The department must demonstrate that a solid investigation was done

  • There may not be enough evidence to go forward

  • Often leaves a source of conflict between the community and the police

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Sustained:Investigation reveals that sufficient evidence supports the allegations

  • Officer is subject to departmental sanctions and discipline

  • Formal counseling and/or training might be an alternative to punitive discipline

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Complainant Notification

  • Disposition of the investigation must be made to all parties

  • The complainant and any other citizen must be communicated with directly

  • Use this opportunity to strengthen relationships with citizens, re-establish credibility and trust

  • Consider a feedback form for citizens to fill out after the investigation

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Final Thoughts

  • Are your complaint policies aligned with your Departmental mission, vision and value statements?

  • Is your organizational culture one that perpetuates an us vs. them attitude?

  • What are the areas or processes that you can control, influence or change?

  • How can you improve communications, both internally and externally? …..

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Thank You

  • Terry Lucas, Captain of Operations

  • Alvin Police Department

  • 1500 South Gordon

  • Alvin, Texas, 77511

  • (281)585-7107


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