Citizen Complaint Intake and Investigation Issues

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					Citizen Complaint Intake
and Investigation Issues
     R.C.P.I./ New England

            Section 4
           Participant Outcomes
 Identify the value and need for open citizen complaint intake and
  investigation processes
 Acquire knowledge about citizen complaint acceptance methods
 Discuss a framework designed to help you assess the citizen complaint
  intake process model specific to your department
 Discuss ways to use the sample process as a tool for reviewing and
  strengthening your department’s approach to the citizen complaint
  intake and investigation process.
 Look at the complaint intake and investigation process as a leading
  indicator of your department’s commitment to the highest standards of
  ethics and integrity

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                    Morning                                 Afternoon
Unit 1: Introduction and Overview           Unit 3: Model for Complaint Intake
•Meet each other                            and Investigation, cont.
•Provide an overview and road map of the    •Discuss the key roles of those responsible for
program                                     the process
                                            •Describe the key elements of the process
Unit 2: Citizen Complaints and              Unit 4: Implementing a New or
Organizational Values                       Revised Policy
•Explore the organizational value of a      •Identify common organizational barriers and
proactive citizen complaint intake policy   challenges to changing current complaint
                                            intake and investigation policies and processes
Unit 3: Model for Complaint Intake          •Discuss some strategies for approaching these
and Investigation
                                            •Identify action steps for when you return
•Present a model complaint intake and
investigative process                       Unit 5: Closing and Feedback
                                            •Recap the day’s program
                                            •Ask for feedback and ideas for improving or
                                            strengthening the program

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      Phone                                                                                                                                                Key
                                                  External                                              Internal
      In-person                                    Intake                                                Intake                                     = Events
      By proxy
                                                                                                                                                    = Decision
      E-mail                                                                                                                                          Points
                                                                    Complaint Registered
      Media                                                                                                                                          = Next Action

      Anonymous                                                                                                                                      = Possible Actions
                                                                                Screen                              Documented and
                                                                                (Complaint                              Filed

                                                 Administrative                                            Criminal
C                                                  Complaint                                              Complaint                  R.C.P.I./New England and the Boston
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                  Notification                                                                                       Criminal
I            (case is being investigated)
A                                                                                 Administrative
N                                            Administrative                         Process*

R                                             (Fact Gathering                                      Prosecution                     No Action
E                                              and Reporting)
E                                                                                                                                     *An Administrative
W                                                                                                                                     Investigation follows
          Dispositions                       Administrativ                              Dispositions                                  completion of criminal
        - Exonerated              “Finding        e               Hearing             - Exonerated                                    process in some
        - Unfounded               of Fact”   Adjudication                             - Unfounded
        - Not Sustained                                                               - Not Sustained                                 departments; in others, the
                                                                                      - Sustained                      Departme       administrative investigation
                                                                                                                       nt Action      is a parallel process.

                                               Complainant Notification
                                                 (investigation has concluded
                                                    and outcome specified)

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   Open Citizen Complaint
 Community and agency members have a
  readily accessible process in which they can
  file complaints and that these complaints
  will be given fair and prompt attention.

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An act done with an intent to give some advantage
  inconsistent with official duty and the rights of
  others. The act of an official or fiduciary 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.
Note, that these acts also violate department rules
  and regulations
(Black’s Law Dictionary 5th Ed.)

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Administrative Misconduct

 A transgression of some established and
  definite rule of action, a forbidden act, a
  dereliction from duty, unlawful behavior,
  willful in character improper or wrong
(Black’s Law Dictionary 5th Ed.)

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 Comprehensive term including any wrongful
  conduct that affects, interrupts or interferes with
  the performance of office duties. Malfeasance is a
  wrongful act which the actor has no legal right to
  do, or any wrongful conduct which affects,
  interrupts, or interferes with the performance of
  official duties.
(Black’s Law Dictionary 5th Ed.)

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 The improper performance of some act which a
  many may lawfully do. “Misfeasance P is the
  improper doing of any act which a person might
  lawfully do.
(Black’s Law Dictionary 5th Ed.)

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 Nonperformance of some act which ought to be
  performed, omission to perform a required duty at
  all or total neglect of duty.
(Black’s Law Dictionary 5th Ed.)

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     Critical Organizational
 Important to deal with issues, not sweep them under the
 Hiding issues raised by citizen complaints may be a
  momentary fix.
 There may be an unwillingness to deal with complex
  issues raised.
 Dealing with complaints locally may exacerbate the
 Citizen complaints form an integral part of an Early
  Warning or Early Identification and Intervention System.

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  Complaint Documentation
• Key Points to Keep in Mind
       The greatest failure of police departments’ IA process
        leading to civil litigation and pattern and practice
        lawsuits has been a result of a flawed complaint
        reception process.
       Careful documentation and tracking are needed in case
        of any further issues regarding this complaint.
       Review of the actions of local supervisors by others
        (senior commanders, Internal Affairs officers, etc.) can
        help to assure that the proper action was taken.
       Review of these cases helps organizations identify
        patterns of officer misconduct and/or proper
        supervisory oversight.
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 Sufficient evidence supports the complainant’s allegations
   and the offending officer is subject to administrative
   action. Formal counseling/and or training as opposed
   to discipline might be appropriate in some cases.
 • The officer is then subject to administrative action based
   on department rules and procedures, union bargaining
   agreements, state statutes, etc.
 • Some departments (Baltimore county* for example) use a
   formula or matrix to determine the appropriate punishment
   or response to the officer’s actions.
 • The stand being used is a preponderance of evidence (vs.
   clear and convincing and beyond a reasonable doubt).

                                     *See Resource Section 7
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Action complained of did occur; however, action
  was reasonable, proper and legal.
       Community members may have difficulty understanding the basis
        for this kind of finding.
       In these instances effective and open communication with the
        citizen(s) may prove helpful to building trust.
       It may also be the case that while the officer’s behavior may have
        been legal and even proper, some assistance or coaching of the
        officer might help him/her to see other alternatives to his/her
       The officer might be helped to find ways of carrying out his/her
        actions that cause less difficulty with citizens.
       Some specific training might be helpful.
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Investigation reveals action complained of did not occur.
• Department investigators will need to assure the public that they have
  made a real and sincere effort to investigate the complaint and that
  they are not sweeping things under the rug.
• It is particularly important in these incidents to make every effort to
  locate any witnesses in a timely manner.
• While it may be in the officer’s or the department’s short term interests
  to determine that actions never occurred, the department will lose
  credibility if this occurs without a thorough, complete and timely
• Several recent Department of Justice Patterns and Practices actions
  have been founded in part on determining that police departments
  don’t make sincere efforts to investigate citizen complaints and that a
  large majority are determined to be “unfounded.”
• The key here is that the investigation has proven the allegation is false.
  While 60-70% of cases are not-sustained, only 5% are unfounded on
  national average because it is extremely difficult to prove that the
  allegation is false.
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                        Not Sustained
Investigation failed to prove or disprove
       This is a finding that leaves the situation in a
        kind of limbo
       It may be that there is not enough evidence to
        go forward.
       This is a finding that is often a source of
        conflict between police and community.
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      Questions to Consider
       Are our citizen complaint policies with mission, vision, value
        statements, and stated or enacted community policing approach?
       Is my agency’s organizational culture one which perpetuates an
        “us vs. them”, “police vs. community” attitude?
       Where are the best leverage points – changes that will have the
        biggest impact – make the biggest difference?
              To the community
              To officers in the department
       What are the areas or processes that I can – control, influence or
       What are some “quick wins “ that will get the changes I see as
        necessary off to a positive start?
       What actions can I take that will improve communications –
        internally and externally?
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