Citizen Complaints Curriculum
Presented By
TEXAS REGIONAL COMMUNITY
POLICING INSTITUTE
INTRODUCTIONS
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Instructor
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Participate

name
years on the job
rank and role (years in this role)
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PURPOSE
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.
CURRENT PRACTICES
What single words describe your
departments citizen complaint
process from, both their
perspective and from your
perspective.
Common Word Identifiers
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Open
Valuable
Streamlined
Value driven
Mediation
Credible
Cumbersome
Confusing
Useless
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Incident driven
Documentation
Fair/unfair
Fact finding
Quality control
Accountability
Accepting
Report writing
Senseless
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?
CASE REVIEW
(handout)
RODNEY KING
CASE DISCUSSION
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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?
Sample Complaint Processes

City of Allen, TX

City of Austin, TX
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City of Sacramento, Ca….
(handouts)
RECEIVING A
COMPLAINT
How Can Citizen Complaints be Filed?
Mail
 Phone
 In person
 E-mail
 Media
 Anonymous/ third person (to be discussed

later)…
Locations for Filing Complaints
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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?
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?
Language Barriers
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Are the complaint forms available in
other languages?
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Are there personnel available who can
assist non-English speaking
complainants?
Time Limits
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Are there statutory limits to how
long after an incident occurs that a
complainant can file a complaint?
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Are these limits determined by
agency regulations?
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 complainttaker that they represent the “face” of the
organization when handling these matters?
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?
officers, law suit findings, DA’s office, etc)
(i.e.: courts, other
Notarized or Sworn Statements
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What is your departments policy
regarding this issue?
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Can and should it be changed?
Communication with Citizens and
Police Personnel
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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?
Complaint Forms
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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?
Discouragement of Complaints
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Are there controls in place to ensure
that officers do not discourage citizens
from filing a complaint (at or away from the
department)
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?
Are complaint-takers allowed to handle
complaints “informally” without
documenting their actions?
Acknowledgment and Follow-up
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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?
INTERNAL COMPLAINTS
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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…
Organizational Attitudes
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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
TYPES OF
COMPLAINTS
Complaint Categories
Corruption
 Administrative misconduct
 Malfeasance
 Misfeasance
 Nonfeasance
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Corruption
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)
Corruption
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(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
Administrative Misconduct
An act that violate departmental
administrative rules and
regulations but do not rise to
the level of a criminal act
Administrative Misconduct
(actions)
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Many departments investigate this
type of infraction using line-level
supervisors
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This is generally a type of action that
would result with a referral to the Early
Warning/Identification System
Malfeasance
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
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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Misfeasance
Performance of a duty or act that
one is obligated or permitted to
do in a manner that is improper
or negligent
Misfeasance
(actions)
Improper completion of
paperwork
 Improper search of arrestees
 Unsafe operation of police
vehicle

Nonfeasance
Failure to perform an act which
one is obligated to do either
by law or organizational
directive
Nonfeasance
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(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 reevaluate it’s own policy governing the
issue
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
KEY Points 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……
Stages of the Process
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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
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?
INTERNAL AFFAIRS

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?
Division Commander/Supervisor
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Can this person be objective?
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Will/can a sustained complaint
reflect poorly on the accused
officers supervisor?
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?

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?
CRIMINAL COMPLAINT

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
Administrative Complaint
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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
Types of Dispositions
Exonerated
 Unfounded
 Not Sustained
 Sustained

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
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)
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
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

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
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? …..
Thank You
Terry Lucas, Captain of Operations
 Alvin Police Department
 1500 South Gordon
 Alvin, Texas, 77511
 (281)585-7107
 [email protected]
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