How to File a Complaint Against an Officer

If you ever found yourself in a situation where you experienced any form of police misconduct and wanted to file a complaint, it’s possible that you learned the hard way that you can’t simply walk into the station and do it. When investigating the way police misconduct complaints were handled, several civilian testers were sent to different stations to try to file a complaint. The results were devastating – in most cases, the testers were harassed and sometimes even arrested on false accusations. To avoid any kind of problems, follow these useful tips when dealing with a complaint:

  • When filing a “one of a less serious nature” report, the best way is to mail it to Internal Affairs as certified mail with return receipt. This way you’ll have proof of actually sending a report and make it harder for the police to “misplace” it.
  • As soon as possible, write down all details about the incident. You need to answer the five questions – who, what, when, where and how.
  • Provide the name and/or badge number of the officer, explain the nature of misconduct (drinking on duty, harassment, racial discrimination, accepting bribe etc.) and the exact time and place the incident had occurred.
  • Finally, explain in detail how everything happened. Never lie in a complaint. If the police proves you were lying, they will dismiss this and all your future complaints and possibly even charge you with providing a false report. Wait for a couple of days to see if you remember any more details about the incident, then mail the report. The time limit for minor misconduct is 60 days and up to 6 months for serious ones, so a few days won’t make a big difference.

After they’ve received your complaint, the police might contact you via phone or e-mail and ask you to come to the station for further clarification. Never go down to the police station for an interview and don’t answer any questions. Tell them everything there is to know is in the report and stick to it.

If you have a more serious complaint, make sure you hire an attorney instead of addressing to a police agency. Pick an attorney who is not from your hometown or county because locals work with police officers an judges and might not get the best deal for you. You can also contact the Department of Justice or your State Attorney General.

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