WHAT ABOUT MY COMPLAINT AGAINST A POLICE OFFICER?
Presented as a public service by the Whitehouse Police Department
The police officer in every community is an unmistakable symbol, not only of the law, but of the entire community. Because of this, he/she is the obvious target for grievances against any shortcomings of our system of government. The police officer can work toward solving the complex problems of a community only when working in concert with the entire community.
Police officers can and must, however, recognize their responsibility to serve all members of the public to the best of their ability. Fair and impartial law enforcement, which respects the individual dignity and rights of all is essential, and must be accomplished with tact and diplomacy, whenever possible.
As police officers, we must professionally and objectively investigate all citizen complaints as expeditiously and thoroughly as possible. This enables us to arrive at all the facts which will either quickly substantiate the complaint or clear the officer’s name, whichever is appropriate.
The following information addresses some common questions regarding the Whitehouse Police Department policy related to the employee complaint process.
Does that mean the Police Department wants complaints?
Of course not. A complaint means that someone may not have done a good enough job. We do, however, want to know when our service needs to improve or corrected.
Will you listen to my complaint?
Yes. Either an investigator assigned by the Chief/Deputy Chief of Police, or the officer’s supervisor will investigate a complaint against an officer/civilian employee.
Who should I go to first?
You should take a complaint about an officer/employee to his/her supervisor. If he/she is not on duty or available, the Senior Officer on shift will obtain your contact information and forward it to a supervisor. The supervisor will contact you upon his/her return to duty. If the complaint is against a supervisor, contact the Deputy Police Chief as described above.
I want to take this all the way to the top. Will the Chief of Police be notified?
He/she will. The Chief of Police receives copies of all complaints against officers/employees. The officer involved is notified as well, as part of the investigation.
Do I have to make my complaint in person?
No, but normally a complaint must be from a known source to be investigated. A phone call or email can be used in the reporting process. The investigator may need additional information to further investigate your complaint, so complainant contact information is helpful.
Will I have to write out my complaint?
Yes. Normally, for a complaint to be investigated, the complaint must be in writing, signed and dated by the complaining person.
I am under 18. Do I have a right to complain?
Yes. Just bring a parent/guardian with you.
How thoroughly will you really investigate?
Very thoroughly. As a police department, we need the trust of the community to do our job. We want to find out if/where we made our mistake. If the conduct was lawful and proper, then we want to explain that to the complainant. If it wasn’t, we’ll address it with the officer through the progressive disciplinary process per the Village of Whitehouse/Police Department policy, and/or legal action. Additionally, if a person intentionally makes a FALSE compliant, we want to find out and take appropriate legal action.
All complaints against the Police Department, or any of its employees, shall be completely investigated within a reasonable period of time and generally, within sixty (60) days from the date of the filing of the complaint. The Chief of Police may, on a case-by-case basis, grant an extension to this time limit at his/her discretion, based on extenuating circumstances.
Could I get in trouble for complaining?
Not if you’re telling the truth. We are only interested in prosecuting those who make malicious, false allegations about our agency personnel. We would not (and could not) bring charges against a person who has acted in good faith.
What will happen to the officer/employee?
That will depend on what he/she did. If the officer’s or employee’s actions were criminal, he/she will be dealt with like any other citizen. If the actions were improper but not criminal, he/she will be disciplined.
Will I be told how the complaint is resolved?
Yes. You will receive a letter from the Chief of Police telling you the disposition of our investigation.
What about a lie detector?
In certain cases, where we can’t determine the truth any other way, you may be asked to take a polygraph examination. The same is true of our officers.
What if I’m not satisfied with the results of this investigation?
We sincerely hope that would never happen. If it does, you can contact the Mayor, or in some cases, the Village Law Director or County Prosecutor’s Office.
Our goal is that you will never need to use the information listed here. We don’t want to fail in our efforts to provide you the best possible police service.
If you have any additional questions, please contact the Chief of Police at:
Village of Whitehouse Police Department
Administrative Offices (419) 877-9191
Emergencies: CALL 911
Office of the Mayor
Village Law Director
(Note: A “What About my Complaint Against a Police Officer” brochure is available at the Police Department.)