When you think your rights have been violated by a law enforcement officer and or they have mistreated you in some way, you hold the right to file a complaint against him/her with the department in which they work for. Once your complaint is filed, it shall be directed to the department’s Internal Affairs Unit which is then responsible for conducting an investigation to determine if any misconduct was committed or if an officer violated a state law or department policy. Anyone can file a complaint (i.e. a civilian, suspect, arrestee, bystander, etc.) and complaints can range from an officer making an inappropriate statement to an officer applying excessive force.
While each police department does have its own way of handling complaints, they all typically follow somewhat of the same process. To give you an idea of what this looks like, below we have outlined for you how the Houston Police Department handles complaints filed against its officers.
Houston Police Department Complaint Process
- An individual who has witnessed or become the victim of officer misconduct can initiate their complaint in person or can print off the complaint form from the department’s website, notarize it, and mail it in.
- Complaints are processed through the Central Intake Office, reviewed, and the nature of the allegation is determined. The more serious complaints (i.e. those stemming from excessive force, discharge of a firearm, criminal activity, etc.) are investigated by the Internal Affairs Division. Complaints that are less serious in nature (i.e. those stemming from rude behavior or improper procedure) are handled by the individual officer’s division for investigation.
- The person who filed the complaint shall be contacted for additional information when it is needed.
- The Independent Police Oversight Board (IPOB) shall review internal investigations stemming from a complaint that meet the following criteria:
- Excessive force
- Discharge of firearms
- Incidents that resulted in serious bodily injury or death.
- Any type of investigation that requires input from the Chief of Police.
The purpose of the review is to determine “if the investigation was sufficient, the conclusions [are] correct, and that [the] proper discipline [was] issued.” The board is responsible for making “a recommendation on each and every case it reviews to the Chief of Police.”
- The Chief of Police has the final say in all cases.
- The complainant shall be notified of the final disposition of the investigation.
Internal Affairs play a vital role in the complaint process as you can see above. The division can downplay a serious complaint so that it is not addressed accordingly or even dismiss it without having the Chief of Police ever review it as it is the first to intercept it. Therefore, if a police officer mistreated you or abused their authority to violate your rights, it is best that you contact a local police brutality attorney. Not only can they assist you with filing a complaint, but ensure your complaint is properly handled and addressed.
There are qualified police brutality lawyers located all over the U.S. and USAttorneys.com can help you find one that is closest to you.