Frequently Asked Questions

About OPA

OPA is responsible for investigating complaints of Seattle Police Department (SPD) employee misconduct. We also engage with the community about police oversight, recommend SPD policy revisions, and monitor serious uses of force.

OPA is staffed by a mix of civilian employees and SPD sergeants. Please visit the Staff & Organizational Structure page for more information.

OPA is physically and operationally outside of SPD but within it administratively. This ensures complete and immediate access to all SPD-controlled data, evidence, and personnel necessary for thorough and timely complaint handling.

OPA publishes an annual report each April that includes data and information on complaints filed with our office the previous year. Please visit the Reports page to view past annual reports.

Please contact our Deputy Director of Public Affairs Anne Bettesworth at anne.bettesworth@seattle.gov.

During investigations, OPA sometimes identifies issues with SPD policies that have implications beyond the case at hand. To address them, OPA can issue a Management Action Recommendation (MAR), which identifies specific issues and recommends changes. SPD is not required to implement these suggestions, but they do actively collaborate and attempt to find solutions as much as possible. Please visit the Management Action Recommendations page for more information on MARs.

Filing a Complaint

Filing a complaint is completely safe. Department policies strictly prohibit retaliation against anyone who files a complaint. Filing a complaint will not affect future interactions you may have with SPD.

There are many policies officers must follow, and it is not necessary for you to be familiar with them. Our office will make that determination after reviewing the facts of the incident.

While this is helpful information, you do not need to know the officer's name or badge number to file a complaint. Our investigators will make every attempt to identify the employee in your complaint. 

You may thank an employee here. If you have accidentally thanked an employee through our complaint form, we will forward your commendation to SPD so that the employee receives your compliment.

Filing a complaint with OPA will not affect your immigration status. OPA accepts complaints from anyone, regardless of immigration status, and will never ask you about your immigration status.

Investigations

If your case proceeds to a full investigation, an OPA investigator will conduct the investigation. Currently all OPA investigators are SPD sergeants. The case will then be reviewed by OPA's civilian leadership and the Office of Inspector General.

OPA makes every effort to complete investigations within 180 days, or six months. Occasionally, there are circumstances beyond our control that require an extension of this time limit.

A Closed Case Summary is the final document in an OPA investigation that is posted online once all administrative aspects of a case are complete. The document includes a summary of the incident and alleged misconduct, as well as the OPA Director's response to each allegation of misconduct. If discipline is imposed, the type and severity of discipline are also included. Closed Case Summaries do not list employee or complainant names.

Contact us and we will do our best to track down your case number.

Mediation

Mediation is an opportunity to discuss conflict and share perspectives. You are not required to admit wrongdoing or reach a resolution. The only requirement is that you actively listen and engage in the discussion.

Mediation can work even with challenging dynamics and difficult conversations. Mediators are trained to guide people in addressing conflict in constructive ways.

Either participant can choose to leave or end mediation at any time. Mediators may decide to separate the participants to work with them individually or terminate the mediation, if necessary.

All mediation participants sign a legally binding confidentiality agreement. The contents of a mediation session are not subject to subpoena or discovery, and courts have upheld the mediator-client privilege. The only exception is a mandatory reporting requirement for admissions of criminal acts.

After your mediation session concludes, the case will be closed. OPA will not pursue any further resolution or disciplinary action.

Community Outreach

Part of OPA's mandate is to educate the public about our work, including how to file a complaint. Our community engagement specialists create programming and events to deliver on this mandate, in addition to attending existing community events. Please visit our Community Outreach page to learn more about this work.

If you are interested in having OPA meet with your community, group, or organization, please complete this form and email it to opa@seattle.gov.