Steps in the Complaint Process

When a complaint is filed, OPA documents it and responds with a notice of receipt, including a case number. If you are unsure how to file a complaint, please visit the File a Complaint page.

The case is assigned to an OPA investigator for preliminary investigation. This entails gathering evidence, analyzing documentation and video, and interviewing the complainant. 

OPA leadership reviews the preliminary investigation and determines the exact allegations by assessing whether any laws or SPD policies would have been violated if the actions alleged are later proven to be true. Allegations might include, for example, excessive use of force, biased policing, or unprofessional behavior. Based on the review of the preliminary investigation, OPA leadership classifies the complaint as one of the following within 30 days of the complaint being filed:

  • Contact Log: The allegation either does not involve a policy violation by an SPD employee or there is insufficient information to proceed with further inquiry. OPA takes no action other than to record the information and send a closing letter to the complainant, if applicable. Examples of complaints often classified as Contact Logs include slow police response times, parking ticket disputes, issues with officers from other law enforcement agencies, or crime reports.
  • Supervisor Action: The allegation is best addressed through training, communication, or coaching by the employee's supervisor. OPA sends a memo to the employee's supervisor requesting that specific actions be taken. The supervisor has 15 days to complete and return the case to OPA for review. Complaints classified for Supervisor Action generally involve minor policy violations or performance issues.
  • Investigation: The allegation, if true, constitutes a serious policy violation or other category of violation OPA is required by law and policy to investigate. OPA will conduct a comprehensive investigation, which generally includes reviewing evidence and conducting interviews with involved parties and/or witnesses. An investigation is followed by a recommended finding and can result in formal discipline.
  • Expedited Investigation: The allegation is disproved by the totality of the evidence. OPA will issue a finding based solely on the intake investigation, without interviewing the named employee. Expedited Investigations are often used to resolve allegations OPA is required by law and policy to investigate, such as excessive force, biased policing, and violations of law. 

Alternative Dispute Resolution Methods:

  • MediationAn SPD employee and a member of the public confidentially discuss a conflict resulting from a police interaction with the guidance of a neutral third party. Mediation is voluntary and can only occur if both parties agree to participate. If the mediator reports back that the employee participated in good faith, the complaint is dismissed and no discipline results. 
  • Rapid Adjudication: Appropriate when an employee recognizes their conduct was inconsistent with required standards and is willing to accept discipline in place of undergoing a full OPA investigation. Rapid Adjudication is not contemplated for allegations of serious misconduct.

If the complaint is classified for investigation, it will be assigned to an OPA investigator for further examination. This generally involves gathering additional evidence and interviewing the employee.

When the investigation is complete, it is reviewed by the Office of Inspector General for Public Safety. This review is designed to ensure that the investigation was completed in a thorough, objective, and timely manner.

The OPA Director reviews the completed investigation and issues a memorandum to the Chief of Police recommending a finding for each allegation using a preponderance of the evidence standard. The memorandum also provides an analysis of the facts through the application of relevant law and policy to show how the Director's conclusions were reached. This is generally completed within six months of complaint filing.

If the evidence shows that a violation of SPD policy occurred, the Director will likely recommend a sustained finding. For sustained findings, the Chief of Police determines the final discipline to be imposed. Only the Chief has the authority to impose discipline.

If the evidence shows that misconduct did not occur, the recommended finding will likely be not sustained and will be accompanied by one of the following explanations:

  • Unfounded: The evidence indicates the alleged policy violation did not occur as reported or did not occur at all.
  • Lawful and Proper: The evidence indicates the alleged conduct did occur, but that the conduct was justified and consistent with policy.
  • Inconclusive: The evidence neither proves nor disproves the allegation of misconduct.
  • Training Referral: There was a potential, but not willful, violation of policy that does not amount to misconduct. The employee's chain of command will provide appropriate training and counseling.
  • Management Action: The evidence indicates the employee may have acted contrary to policy, but due to a potential deficiency in SPD policy or training, OPA issues a recommendation to the Department to clarify or revise the policy or training.

There are several administrative steps that may take place between the Director's issuance of recommended findings and the closing of the case. Please use our Complaint Tracker to check the status of your case.