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, if possible. 

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 alleged actions are later proven to be true. Allegations might include, for example, excessive use of force, biased policing, or unprofessional behavior. OPA leadership then classifies the complaint - which indicates how it will be processed - as one of the following within 30 days of the complaint being filed:

  • Contact Log: The complaint either does not involve a policy violation by an SPD employee or there is insufficient information to proceed with further inquiry. In these instances, OPA takes no action other than recording the information and sending 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 complaint generally involves a minor policy violation or performance issue that is best addressed through training, communication, or coaching by the employee's supervisor. In these instances, OPA sends a memo requesting that the employee's supervisor take specific, relevant action with the employee. The supervisor has 15 days to complete the action and return the case to OPA for review. 
  • Investigation: The allegation, if true, constitutes a serious policy violation or other category of violation OPA is required by law and policy to investigate. In these instances, OPA conducts a comprehensive investigation, including gathering additional evidence and interviewing involved parties and/or witnesses. An investigation is followed by a recommended finding and can result in formal discipline.
  • Expedited Investigation: The allegation, if true, constitutes a serious policy violation or other category of violation that OPA is required by law and policy to investigate. However, OPA, with the agreement of the OIG, determines that findings can be reached based on the preliminary investigation and no further investigation needs to be conducted. In most cases, OPA will issue a finding without interviewing the involved or witness employee(s). Expedited Investigations often resolve allegations OPA is required by law and policy to investigate, such as excessive force, biased policing, and violations of law.

When appropriate, and based on specific eligibility criteria, some complaints are processed via an alternative dispute resolution method.

Alternative Dispute Resolution Methods:

  • Mediation: The complaint involves a misunderstanding or conflict between an SPD employee and a community member. Mediation is voluntary and can only occur if both parties agree to participate. It is an opportunity for the employee and community member to discuss the conflict with the guidance of a neutral, third-party mediator. If the mediator reports that the employee listened and participated respectfully, the complaint will not appear on the employee's disciplinary record.
  • Rapid AdjudicationThe complaint often involves an allegation of misconduct that the employee recognizes was inconsistent with policy. The employee is willing to accept discipline in place of undergoing a full OPA investigation.

If OPA classifies the complaint for investigation, the complaint is assigned to an OPA investigator for further examination. The investigation generally involves gathering additional evidence and interviewing the employee.

The Office of Inspector General for Public Safety reviews the completed investigation to ensure that OPA completed it in a thorough, objective, and timely manner.

The OPA Director reviews every completed investigation and issues a memorandum to the employee's Chain of Command 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 reached his conclusions. OPA generally issues findings within six months of complaint filing.

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

If the evidence shows that misconduct did not occur, the Director will likely recommend a Not Sustained finding, 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.