Complaint Process

OPA conducts a thorough, objective and independent investigation of complaints. Experienced Detective Sergeants document all complaints and conduct the investigations.

Steps in the Complaint Process

OPA welcomes all complaints made by the public or an SPD employee. Some complaints are resolved immediately during the conversation with the complainant. The investigators always document the complaints and provide as much information and assistance as possible to resolve the question or complaint. Learn How to File a Complaint.

If the complaint involves potential misconduct by the SPD employee, OPA investigators conduct a preliminary investigation. The investigators create a preliminary investigative file, which is given to the Director and Office of Inspector General (OIG) to review.

Through a process called "Classification", the Director determines whether the complaints and alleged misconduct should be addressed by an employee's Chain of Command ("Supervisor Action"), or whether a full administrative investigation should be conducted.

Supervisor Action
For complaints that are classified as Supervisor Action, the OPA requires that the employee's Supervisor take certain actions to address the issues that were raised in the complaint. For example, the Supervisor may review performance expectations with the employee and contact the complainant to explain the actions that were taken and to address the complainant's concerns.

OPA Investigation
OPA investigators conduct a comprehensive investigation, which includes collecting and reviewing evidence, obtaining copies of police reports related to the incident, conducting in-depth interviews with the complainant and involved officers, and identifying and interviewing independent witnesses. Additional investigative steps are taken as needed.

Each complaint contains one or more allegation(s) of misconduct. Each allegation is associated with a specific Police Department policy which may have been violated.

Once the full investigation is complete, the investigative file is given to the Director and the Office of Inspector General to review. The Director confirms that no further investigation is required, reviews the case, reviews the allegations and determines whether misconduct did occur.

Based upon the evidence found in the case, the Director formally recommends a "finding" for each allegation in the complaint. A finding is one of the following:

  • Sustained: The evidence has shown that the violation did occur
  • Not Sustained (Unfounded): The alleged policy violation did not occur
  • Not Sustained (Lawful and Proper): The actions taken were permissible
  • Not Sustained (Inconclusive): The evidence is inconclusive and neither proves nor disproves the alleged policy violation
  • Not Sustained (Training Referral): While there may have been a violation of policy, it was not a willful violation and/or the violation did not amount to misconduct. The employee's Chain of Command will provide appropriate training, counseling to review SPD policies and address any inadequate training
  • Not Sustained (Management Action): Due to a deficiency in policy or SPD procedures, the employee will not be held accountable for their actions. The OPA Director makes a recommendation to clarify or improve the SPD policy or training. The Chief of Police responds to the recommendation and provides status updates to OPA about the implementation of the recommendation
  • Not Sustained (Timeliness): The policy violation occurred, but because the investigation was not completed within 180 days, the finding cannot be sustained
  • Not Sustained (Grievance Settlement): A sustained finding is modified to reflect the outcome of an appeal or grievance

The OPA Director issues recommended findings for all allegations. For Sustained allegations, the Chief of Police reviews the Director's proposed discipline and determines the final discipline to be imposed. Only the Chief has the authority to impose discipline. 

If the Chief of Police disagrees with the OPA Director's recommended findings, he or she must provide a written statement of the reasons for the decision to the Mayor and City Council.

The person who filed the complaint will be notified of the status throughout the investigation process and of the result of the complaint.

The investigation process generally takes between 60 - 180 days. OPA makes every effort to resolve the complaint as quickly as possible. If you have questions about your complaint, please call OPA at (206) 684-8797 or use the complaint tracker to view the status of the investigation.