A relationship of trust and confidence between members of the Montclair Police Department and the community they service is essential to effective law enforcement. Law enforcement officers must be free to exercise their best judgment and to initiate law enforcement action in a reasonable, lawful, and impartial manner. In this regard, enforcers of the law have a special obligation to respect the rights of all persons when conducting such enforcement actions.
The Montclair Police Department acknowledges its responsibility to establish a system of complaint and disciplinary procedures, which not only subjects the officers to corrective action when they conduct themselves improperly, but also will protect them from unwarranted criticism when they discharge their duties properly. It is the purpose of these procedures to provide prompt, just, open, and expeditious resolution of complaints regarding the conduct of officers and employees of the Montclair Police Department.
Who Can File a Complaint
Anyone who is directly involved or witnesses an incident from which a complaint arises may file a complaint. In the case of juveniles, it is desirable, but not necessary, that the parents be present. It is the Police Department's policy, however, to notify the parent(s) of the juvenile whenever a complaint is accepted.
How a Complaint is Filed
A complaint may be filed by personally contacting the Police Department and furnishing complete details of the incident and the names of all witnesses or parties involved. Complaints should be made to the on-duty Watch Commander or Station Commander. The complainant will then be requested to write out a statement in his/her own handwriting and sign the statement. A copy of the complainant's statement will be provided to the complainant.
While personal contact is desirable, initial complaints may be made by telephone or letter. It will, however, be necessary that the complainant be available to the investigator for a personal interview.
Investigation of the Complaint
By law, the Police Department shall require the complainant to read and sign the following advisory contained on the Civilian Complaint Form:
You have the right to make a complaint against a police officer for any improper police conduct. California law requires this agency to have a procedure to investigate civilian's complaints. You have a right to a written description of this procedure. This agency may find after investigation that there is not enough evidence to warrant action on your complaint; Even if that is the case, you have the right to make the complaint and have it investigated if you believe an officer behaved improperly. civilian complaints and any reports or findings related to complaints must be retained by this agency for at least five years. It is against the law to make a complaint that you know to be false. If you make a complaint against an officer knowing that it is false, you can be prosecuted on a misdemeanor charge.
Refusal or failure of the complainant to read and sign this advisory at the time the complaint is taken or during a subsequent interview may be taken into consideration by the Chief of Police. Like with anonymous complaints, the specificity and gravity of the information supplied, as well as the credibility of the complainant, will weigh on the Chief's decision to investigate beyond acceptance of the complaint. Should a decision be made to not further investigate this matter, the complainant (if known) shall be notified of that disposition.
If warranted, the Chief of Police will assign the complaint investigation to an appropriate person. Our objective is to complete a thorough and impartial investigation disclosing the truth. Every effort will be expended to satisfactorily conclude the investigation. This includes referring the complaint to an outside investigative agency, such as the District Attorney's Office, when necessary.
Depending on the circumstances of the allegation, the Chief of Police may delay initiating any investigation until after the conclusion of a pending criminal court proceeding.
The Final Decision
The Chief of Police, after reviewing all the facts, makes the final decision on the validity of the complaint, and if founded, the discipline will be administered. Both the person making the complaint and the officer will be notified, in writing, within 30 days of the disposition of the complaint as to the results of the investigation. You will be informed on whether the Chief's finding is that of unfounded, exonerated, not sustained, or sustained (founded). The law does not allow the Chief of Police to reveal what discipline was administered if the complaint was founded.
What Can Happen to the Officer
If the complaint is founded, the discipline ranges from verbal reprimand to dismissal. If the officer's conduct was criminal in nature, the matter is referred to the District Attorney's Office.
What Can Happen to the Complaining Party
No action can ever be taken against someone who truthfully complains of the misconduct of any police employee.
Dissatisfaction with Results
If you, the complainant, feel that your case has not been thoroughly investigated and justice has not been served, you have several different options. You may contact the Chief of Police, City Manager, or in some cases, the District Attorney's Office. You may, of course, seek legal advice from an attorney.