Select Comment #5 on the IACP report

IACP GCPD report: response #5

Since I am fully committed to the proposition that all legal action, both civil and criminal begins with a filed complaint, I was interested to see that matter dealt with in the International Association of Chiefs of Police report. The search function found 104 instances of the use of the word complaint. However, upon closer examination, it turns out that only two or three referred to the formal process of citizens filing a formal complaint about an injury or injustice to validate police department investigation and follow up.

This quote from page 20 about the role of the Crime Victim Liaison is pertinent.

“An effective CVL program provides for the opportunity to contact a large percentage of victims regardless of the actual criminal outcome of the complaint, thereby improving trust, building relationships, and increasing satisfaction in the police. Unfortunately, the CVL program at GCPD appears to have lacked understanding or appreciation by top leadership in recent years. The CVL program has an ambiguous chain-of-command, receives little or no formal training or direction, and leadership has contributed to developing very few, if any, internal relationships between CVL and the broader department to leverage potential contributions to the department’s mission. GCPD does not engage in any types of multi-disciplinary meetings (internally or externally) to support victims’ needs or victim case management.”

Record keeping is apparently not a strong point.

“Interviews with employees and a review of policy and procedures revealed that GCPD may not be collecting comprehensive demographic data on all law enforcement contacts. For example, the GCPD uses ‘warning cards’ to document warnings for traffic offenses as well as verbal (undocumented) warnings. Neither of these consistently document demographic data of the motorist. Documentation of complete and consistent demographic data by police agencies is necessary to provide complete supporting data to assess compliance with laws prohibiting bias based profiling and to address community complaints and concerns.”

Accurate data is also important if cases are to be successfully prosecuted in court. Relying on lengthy pre-trial detentions to extort guilty pleas is not a strategy that results in respect for the law. Records from the jail indicated that of 341 inmates, 259 were there for pretrial detention–in other words, individuals who either had no community support or lacked sufficient resources to get out on bail. This process, if personal experience is a clue, seems to occur without any judicial review.

Considerable attention is paid in the report to the process whereby complaints ABOUT police personnel are to be handled.

“GCPD manual has a series of policies located in Chapter 30 that spells out the process used for receiving and investigating complaints. The policy outlines the investigative and hearing processes in detail, including when the department provides feedback to the complainant and public information release. Glynn County does not use any type of tracking software but rather uses manual systems to track complaint forms issued and received, and complaints investigated. The GCPD does not have a policy concerning the use of an early warning system (EWS).”

The report’s conclusion,

“In the absence of any information to the contrary, the low complaint numbers are a good thing, as they suggest that officers are doing their jobs properly, even in a particularly contentious period in the history of this country.”

does not strike me as valid.
Apparently, the review team also had second thoughts since on p. 84, near the end of the report, they suggest:

“There should be a variety of means to file complaints. A public complaint form, or other means to file a complaint, should be available upon request at all units and patrol stations ordinarily accessible to the public. If an agency has a website, an electronic version of the complaint form should be on the site, capable of being filled out and transmitted electronically. The complaint process should accommodate all languages spoken by a substantial proportion of residents of the region.”

This does not, however, address the officer’s reluctance towards the filing of citizen complaints about injuries or insults that would warrant the issuance of a summons to begin the legal process to justify an arrest. Perhaps too much reliance on officer discretion is a problem that may be aggravated by the fact that officers are poorly trained in the law. If jail records are to be believed, then “obstruction of an officer” seems an all-too-common reason for people landing (and languishing) in jail.

I am not sure what the review team meant by “contentious.”