Police usually investigate and decide what, if any, consequences their fellow officers should face in cases of police misconduct. Under this system, fewer than 1 in every 12 complaints of police misconduct nationwide results in some kind of disciplinary action against the officer(s) responsible. Communities need an urgent way to ensure police officers are held accountable for police violence.

Policy Solutions


Establish effective civilian oversight structures

Establish an all-civilian oversight structure with discipline power that includes a Police Commission and Civilian Complaints Office with the following powers:

The Police Commission should:

  • determine policy for the police department based on community input and expertise
  • share policy and policy changes in publicly accessible formats
  • discipline and dismiss police officers
  • hold public disciplinary hearings
  • select the candidates for Police Chief, to be hired by the Mayor
  • evaluate and fire the Police Chief, if needed
  • receive full-time, competitive salaries for all members
  • receive regular training on policing and civil rights
  • not have current, former or family of police officers as members
  • select its members from candidates offered by community organizations

The Civilian Complaints Office should:

  • receive, investigate and resolve all civilian complaints against police in 120 days
  • establish multiple in-person and online ways to submit, view and discuss complaints
  • be immediately notified and required to send an investigator to the scene of a police shooting or in-custody death
  • be allowed to interrogate officers less than 48 hours after an incident where deadly force is used
  • access crime scenes, subpoena witnesses and files with penalties for non-compliance
  • make disciplinary and policy recommendations to the Police Chief
  • compel the Police Chief to explain why he/she has not followed a recommendation
  • have the Police Commission decide cases where the Police Chief does not follow recommendations
  • issue public quarterly reports analyzing complaints, demographics of complainants, status and findings of investigations and actions taken as a result
  • be housed in a separate location from the police department
  • be funded at an amount no less than 5% of the total police department budget
  • have at least 1 investigator for every 70 police officers or 4 investigators at all times,whichever is greater
  • have its Director selected from candidates offered by community organizations
  • not have current, former or family of police officers on staff, including the Director

(Ex: San Francisco Charter Policies on Police Commission and Office of Citizen Complaints)

Remove barriers to reporting police misconduct

For all stops by a police officer, require officers to give civilians their name, badge number, reason for the stop and a card with instructions for filing a complaint to the civilian oversight structure.