Personnel Complaints

Personnel Complaints - Policy 1009

1009.1 Purpose & Scope

  • This policy provides guidelines for the reporting, investigation and disposition of complaints regarding the conduct of members of the Forest Grove Police Department. This policy shall not apply to any questioning, counseling, instruction, informal verbal admonishment or other routine or unplanned contact of a member in the normal course of duty, by a supervisor or any other member, nor shall this policy apply to a criminal investigation.

1009.1.1 Definitions

  • Disciplinary action - An action taken against an employee by the Forest Grove Police Department to punish the employee, including dismissal, demotion, suspension without pay, reduction in salary, written reprimand and transfer (ORS 236.350 (1)).
  • Employee - Any paid member of the Forest Grove Police Department with a property interest in his/her employment at the Forest Grove Police Department.
  • Just cause - A cause reasonably related to the employee's ability to perform required work. The term includes a willful violation of reasonable work rules, regulations or written policies (ORS 236.350 (2)).
  • Personnel complaint - Any allegation of misconduct or improper job performance against any department employee that, if true, would constitute a violation of department policy, federal, state or local law.
  • Inquiries about employee conduct which, even if true, would not qualify as a personnel complaint may be handled informally by a department supervisor and shall not be considered complaints.
  • This policy does not apply when a supervisor questions an employee in the normal course of an informal verbal admonishment or when the supervisor has other routine or unplanned contact with an employee. Nor does this policy apply to an investigation concerned solely with alleged criminal activities.

1009.1.2 Classifying Personnel Complaints

  • Personnel complaints shall be classified in one of the following categories:
    • Informal - A matter in which the complaining party is satisfied that appropriate action has been taken by a department supervisor of rank greater than the accused employee. Informal complaints need not be documented on a personnel complaint form. The responsible supervisor shall have the discretion to handle the complaint in any manner consistent with this policy.
    • Formal - A matter in which the complaining party requests further investigation or when a department supervisor determines that further action is warranted. Such complaints may be investigated by a department supervisor of rank greater than the accused employee or referred to the Internal Affairs Unit depending on the seriousness and complexity of the investigation.
    • Incomplete - A matter in which the complaining party either refuses to cooperate or becomes unavailable after diligent follow-up investigation. At the discretion of the assigned supervisor or the Internal Affairs Unit, such matters need not be documented as personnel complaints, but may be further investigated depending on the seriousness of the complaint and the availability of sufficient information.

1009.2 Policy

  • The Forest Grove Police Department takes seriously all complaints regarding the service provided by the Department and the conduct of its members.
  • The Department will accept and address all complaints of misconduct in accordance with this policy and applicable federal, state and local law, municipal and county rules and the requirements of any collective bargaining agreements.
  • It is also the policy of this department to ensure that the community can report misconduct without concern for reprisal or retaliation.

1009.2.1 Availability of Complaint Forms

  • Personnel complaint forms will be maintained in a clearly visible location in the public lobby. Forms may also be available at other government facilities.

1009.2.2 Source of Complaints

  • A department employee who becomes aware of alleged misconduct shall immediately notify a supervisor.
  • A supervisor receiving a complaint from any source alleging misconduct of an employee which, if true, could result in disciplinary action, should immediately document that complaint and submit it to his/her immediate supervisor.
  • Anonymous complaints and third-party complaints should be accepted and investigated to the extent that sufficient information is provided.

1009.2.3 Acceptance of Complaints

  • A complaint may be filed in person, in writing, or by telephoning the Department. Although it is not required, every effort should be made to have the complainant appear in person. The following should be considered before taking a complaint:
    • Complaints shall not be prepared unless the alleged misconduct or job performance is of a nature which, if true, would normally result in disciplinary action.
    • A complaint need not be taken when the complainant is satisfied with the explanation, given by an uninvolved supervisor or the Patrol Sergeant, of the department policy or the procedures governing the incident and agrees that no further action is required.
    • When the complainant is intoxicated to the point where his/her credibility appears to be unreliable. Identifying information should be obtained and the person should be provided with a personnel complaint form.
    • Depending on the urgency and seriousness of the allegations involved, complaints from juveniles should generally be taken only with the juvenile's parents or guardians present and after the parents or guardians have been informed of the circumstances prompting the complaint.

1009.2.4 Complaint Documentation

  • Formal complaints of alleged misconduct shall be documented by a supervisor on a personnel complaint form. The supervisor shall ensure that the nature of the complaint is defined as clearly as possible.
  • A supervisor may elect to document informal complaints as a supervisor or Patrol Sergeant log entry.
  • When a personnel complaint form is completed in person, the complainant should legibly write a detailed narrative of his/her complaint. If circumstances indicate that this is not feasible, the receiving supervisor should document the complaint based upon information received from the complainant. In an effort to ensure accuracy in any complaint, it is recommended that a recorded statement be obtained from the reporting party. However, a refusal by a party to be recorded shall not alone be grounds to refuse to accept a complaint. In all cases, the complainant's signature should be obtained at the conclusion of the statement. The complainant should be provided with a copy of his/her original complaint.

1009.3 Personnel Complaints

  • Personnel complaints include any allegation of misconduct or improper job performance that, if true, would constitute a violation of department policy or of federal, state or local law, policy or rule. Personnel complaints may be generated internally or by the public.
  • Inquiries about conduct or performance that, if true, would not violate department policy or federal, state or local law, policy or rule may be handled informally by a supervisor and shall not be considered a personnel complaint. Such inquiries generally include clarification regarding policy, procedures or the response to specific incidents by the Department.

1009.4 Assignment to Administrative Leave

  • When a complaint of misconduct is of a serious nature or when the circumstances reasonably dictate an undue risk for the Department, the employee, other employees or the public, a supervisor may assign the accused employee to inactive duty pending completion of the investigation or the filing of administrative charges.

1009.4.1 Complaint Forms

  • Personnel complaint forms will be maintained in a clearly visible location in the public area of the police facility and be accessible through the department website. Forms may also be available at other City facilities.
  • Personnel complaint forms in languages other than English may also be provided, as determined necessary or practicable.

1009.5 Documentation

  • Supervisors shall ensure that all formal and informal complaints are documented on a complaint form. The supervisor shall ensure that the nature of the complaint is defined as clearly as possible.
  • All complaints and inquiries should also be documented in a log that records and tracks complaints. The log shall include the nature of the complaint and the actions taken to address the complaint. On an annual basis, the Department should audit the log and send an audit report to the Chief of Police or the authorized designee.

1009.5.1 Complaints Alleging Profiling

  • Complaints related to profiling should be clearly marked to assist in reporting as required in the Bias-Based Policing Policy (ORS 131.920).

1009.6 Administrative Investigations

  • Allegations of misconduct will be administratively investigated as follows.

1009.6.1 Supervisor Responsibilities

  • In general, the primary responsibility for the investigation of a personnel complaint shall rest with the member's immediate supervisor, unless the supervisor is the complainant, or the supervisor is the ultimate decision-maker regarding disciplinary action or has any personal involvement regarding the alleged misconduct. The Chief of Police or the authorized designee may direct that another supervisor investigate any complaint.
  • A supervisor who becomes aware of alleged misconduct shall take reasonable steps to prevent aggravation of the situation.
  • The responsibilities of supervisors include, but are not limited to:
    • Ensuring that upon receiving or initiating any formal complaint, a complaint form is completed.
      • The original complaint form will be directed to the Patrol Sergeant of the accused member, via the chain of command, who will take appropriate action and/or determine who will have responsibility for the investigation.
      • In circumstances where the integrity of the investigation could be jeopardized by reducing the complaint to writing or where the confidentiality of a complainant is at issue, a supervisor shall orally report the matter to the member's Division Commander or the Chief of Police, who will initiate appropriate action.
    • Responding to all complainants in a courteous and professional manner.
    • Resolving those personnel complaints that can be resolved immediately.
      • Follow-up contact with the complainant should be made within 24 hours of the Department receiving the complaint.
      • If the matter is resolved and no further action is required, the supervisor will note the resolution on a complaint form and forward the form to the Patrol Sergeant.
    • Ensuring that upon receipt of a complaint involving allegations of a potentially serious nature, the Patrol Sergeant and Chief of Police are notified via the chain of command as soon as practicable.
    • Promptly contacting the Department of Human Resources and the Patrol Sergeant for direction regarding the supervisor's role in addressing a complaint that relates to sexual, racial, ethnic or other forms of prohibited harassment or discrimination.
    • Forwarding unresolved personnel complaints to the Patrol Sergeant, who will determine whether to contact the complainant or assign the complaint for investigation.
    • Informing the complainant of the investigator's name and the complaint number within three days after assignment.
    • Investigating a complaint as follows:
      • Making reasonable efforts to obtain names, addresses and telephone numbers of witnesses.
      • When appropriate, ensuring immediate medical attention is provided and photographs of alleged injuries and accessible uninjured areas are taken.
    • Ensuring that the procedural rights of the accused member are followed.
    • Ensuring interviews of the complainant are generally conducted during reasonable hours.
    • Providing the complainant with periodic updates on the status of the investigation, as appropriate.

1009.6.2 Administrative Investigation Procedures

  • Whether conducted by a supervisor or a member of the Internal Affairs Unit, the following applies to employees covered by the provisions of ORS 236.350 through ORS 236.360.
    • Interviews of an accused employee shall be conducted during reasonable (normal waking) hours and preferably when the employee is on-duty, unless the seriousness of the investigation requires otherwise. If the employee is off-duty, he/she shall be compensated.
    • Unless waived by the employee, interviews of an accused employee shall be at the Forest Grove Police Department or other reasonable and appropriate place.
    • No more than two interviewers should ask questions of an accused employee.
    • The interviewers shall inform the employee of their authority to compel a statement and of the identity of the investigators and all persons present during the interview.
    • Prior to any interview, an employee should be informed of the nature of the investigation and of facts reasonably sufficient to inform the employee of the circumstances surrounding the allegations under investigation.
    • All interviews should be for a reasonable period and the employee's personal needs should be accommodated.
    • No employee should be subjected to offensive or threatening language, nor shall any promises, rewards or other inducements be used to obtain answers.
    • Any employee refusing to answer questions directly related to the investigation may be ordered to answer questions administratively and may be subject to discipline for failing to do so.
      • An employee should be given an order to answer questions in an administrative investigation that might incriminate the member in a criminal matter only after the member has been given a Garrity advisement. Administrative investigators should consider the impact that compelling a statement from the employee may have on any related criminal investigation and should take reasonable steps to avoid creating any foreseeable conflicts between the two related investigations. This may include conferring with the person in charge of the criminal investigation (e.g., discussion of processes, timing, implications).
      • No information or evidence administratively coerced from an employee may be provided to anyone involved in conducting the criminal investigation or to any prosecutor.
    • The interviewer should record all interviews of employees and witnesses. The employee may also record the interview. If the employee has been previously interviewed, a copy of that recorded interview, and upon request any existing transcripts of the interview or reports describing the interview, shall be provided to the employee prior to any subsequent interview.
    • All employees subjected to interviews that could result in discipline have the right to have an uninvolved representative present during the interview. However, to maintain the integrity of each individual's statement, involved employees shall not consult or meet with a representative or attorney collectively or in groups prior to being interviewed.
    • In a disciplinary or administrative investigation, the employee's chosen representative cannot be required to disclose, or be subject to disciplinary action for refusing to disclose, statements made by the employee to the representative for purposes of the representation.
    • As soon as it is determined that the employee may be charged with a criminal offense, the employee shall be informed of the employee's right to consult with criminal defense counsel with respect to the criminal charge.
    • All employees shall provide complete and truthful responses to questions posed during interviews.
    • No employee may be compelled to submit to a polygraph examination, nor shall any refusal to submit to such examination be mentioned in any investigation.

1009.6.3 Steps Prior to Disciplinary Action

  • If an investigation discloses misconduct or improper job performance that was not alleged in the original complaint, the investigator shall take appropriate action with regard to any additional allegations.
  • Disciplinary action may not be taken against any employee without just cause (ORS 236.360 (4)). The Chief of Police shall ensure the following before any disciplinary action against an employee is taken:
    • Notification is made to the employee in writing of the charges against the employee and the proposed disciplinary action (ORS 236.360 (5)(a)).
    • The employee is given an opportunity to respond to the charges at an informal hearing, which may be recorded, that is attended by the person or persons having authority to impose the proposed disciplinary action (ORS 236.360 (5)(b)).

1009.6.4 Dispositions

  • Each personnel complaint shall be classified with one of the following dispositions:
    • Unfounded - When the investigation discloses that the alleged acts did not occur or did not involve department members. Complaints that are determined to be frivolous will fall within the classification of unfounded.
    • Exonerated - When the investigation discloses that the alleged act occurred but that the act was justified, lawful and/or proper.
    • Not sustained - When the investigation discloses that there is insufficient evidence to sustain the complaint or fully exonerate the member.
    • Sustained - When the investigation discloses sufficient evidence to establish that the act occurred and that it constituted misconduct.
  • If an investigation discloses misconduct or improper job performance that was not alleged in the original complaint, the investigator shall take appropriate action with regard to any additional allegations.

1009.6.5 Completion of Investigations

  • The Administrative Services Supervisor shall ensure that investigations are completed and peace officers are provided notification of intended discipline no later than six months from the date of the first interview. The Chief of Police or Administrative Services Supervisor may extend the investigation to a maximum of 12 months from the date of the first interview, provided that, before the extended period begins, the Department gives written notice explaining the reason for the extension to the peace officer and the peace officer's chosen representative and union representative, if any (ORS 236.360(6)(a)).
  • The above time limits do not apply when (ORS 236.360(6)(b)):
    • The investigation involves a peace officer who is incapacitated or unavailable.
    • The investigation involves an allegation of workers' compensation or disability fraud by the peace officer.
    • The peace officer, in writing, waives the limit.
    • The investigation requires a reasonable extension of time for coordination with one or more other jurisdictions.
    • The investigation involves more than one peace officer and requires a reasonable extension of time.
    • The alleged misconduct is also the subject of a criminal investigation or criminal prosecution. Time does not run for the period during which the criminal investigation or criminal prosecution is pending.
    • The investigation involves a matter in civil litigation in which the peace officer is a named defendant or the peace officer's actions are alleged to be a basis for liability. Time does not run for the period during which the civil action is pending.
    • The investigation is the result of a complaint by a person charged with a crime. Time does not run for the period during which the criminal matter is pending.

1009.6.6 Notice to Complainant of Investigation Status

  • The member conducting the investigation should provide the complainant with periodic updates on the status of the investigation, as appropriate.

1009.7 Administrative Searches

  • Assigned lockers, storage spaces and other areas, including desks, offices and vehicles, may be searched as part of an administrative investigation upon a reasonable suspicion of misconduct.
  • Such areas may also be searched any time by a supervisor for non-investigative purposes, such as obtaining a needed report, radio or other document or equipment.

1009.8 Administrative Leave

  • When a complaint of misconduct is of a serious nature, or when circumstances indicate that allowing the accused to continue to work would adversely affect the mission of the Department, the Chief of Police or the authorized designee may temporarily assign an accused employee to administrative leave. Any employee placed on administrative leave:
    • May be required to relinquish any department badge, identification, assigned weapons and any other department equipment.
    • Shall be required to continue to comply with all policies and lawful orders of a supervisor.
    • May be temporarily reassigned to a different shift, generally a normal business-hours shift, during the investigation. The employee may be required to remain available for contact at all times during such shift, and will report as ordered.

1009.8.1 Confidentiality of Personnel Files

  • All investigations of personnel complaints shall be considered confidential peace officer personnel files. The contents of such files shall not be revealed to other than the involved employee or authorized personnel, except pursuant to lawful process.
  • In the event that an accused employee (or the representative of such employee) knowingly makes false representations regarding any internal investigation, and such false representations are communicated to any media source, the Department may disclose sufficient information from the employee's personnel file to refute such false representations.
  • Disciplinary action resulting from sustained complaints shall be maintained in the employee's personnel file. Complaints, and any investigative reports shall be maintained by the Human Resources Department apart from the employee's personnel file.

1009.8.2 Annual Review of Personnel Complaints

  • During February of each year, the Division Commander or his/her designee shall provide to the Chief of Police an annual report of personnel complaints from the preceding year. The report will focus on complaint trends as well as training needs and needed policy changes. A copy of the report shall be maintained with each year's completed complaint file. Specific detail, including items such as officer names, case numbers and location of occurrence, is not needed for this purpose and therefore will not be part of this process.