4-8 Citizen Complaints & Administrative Investigations
Policy Type: Local
Approved By: Chief of Police, Virginia Commonwealth University Police Department
Initial Policy Approved: 11/10/2013
Current Revision Approved: 9/9/2021
The purpose of this directive is to establish uniform procedures for receiving and investigating citizen complaints and other administrative matters of concern. In order to fulfill our mission of providing high quality law enforcement services, it is critical that the public views the department as an agency that holds all of its employees accountable and takes appropriate administrative action when policies and/or procedures are violated.
All employees are expected to fully comply with the guidelines and timelines set forth in this written directive. Failure to comply will result in appropriate corrective action. Responsibility rests with the division commander to ensure that any policy violations are investigated and appropriate training, counseling and/or disciplinary action is initiated.
- All complaints, including anonymous complaints, of misconduct or illegal behavior against the department or any of its employees, shall be documented and investigated. It shall be presumed that complaints are submitted in good faith.
- Any complaint alleging improper action or conduct by a VCU Police employee will be subject to an administrative investigation to determine the factual basis of the complainant’s allegations. The administrative investigation will serve as a record that will assist in defending potential future civil or administrative litigation involving the department or its personnel.
- Persons making or involved in a complaint regarding a department member's conduct shall not be hindered or harassed in any manner for their action.
- Complaint procedures are readily accessible to the public and employees on the department’s website. A citizen complaint/commendation form is also available on the department’s website.
- All department members are strictly charged with the responsibility of courteously and willingly receiving any complaint that may be lodged against the department or any employee thereof.
- All employees must fully cooperate with any member of the department conducting an administrative investigation.
- Employees are entitled to a fair investigation and all allegations require substantiation. However, employees do not have a “right to remain silent” in an administrative investigation and are required to fully and truthfully answer all questions relating to the performance of their official duties or their fitness for duty, provided they are advised that information contained in their answers cannot be used against them in a subsequent criminal proceeding. Refusal to cooperate in an administrative investigation is grounds for disciplinary action, up to and including termination.
- Responsibilities of All Employees:
- When any department employee becomes aware that an individual wants to make a complaint about a VCU Police employee, the employee must immediately notify a supervisor.
- All police supervisors will accept any complaint of misconduct against a VCU Police officer/employee, regardless of the circumstances under which the complaint is made, regardless of whether it is made anonymously and regardless of how the information is relayed. Supervisors are not to direct citizens to another location to file a complaint.
- It is the responsibility of all supervisors to ensure that complaints are immediately forwarded via email to the Executive Assistant for the Chief of Police for proper assignment, in addition to the next ranking commander.
- Upon receipt, the Executive Assistant shall review the complaint and the applicable Assistant Chief of Police will assign the complaint to the proper division supervisor for investigation.
- In the event that the selected supervisor is aware of or believes that a potential conflict of interest exists in them completing the assigned administrative investigation, the selected supervisor must immediately notify the applicable Assistant Chief of Police so that the administrative investigation can be reassigned to a more appropriate division supervisor.
- Field supervisors will generally process employee complaints and similar circumstances of a less serious nature that do not require a formal investigation.
- The Investigations Division may investigate formal complaints alleging misconduct, allegations or suspicion of criminal conduct by a member of the department, or any other matter referred by the Chief of Police.
- All complaints alleging bias of any nature shall be referred to the Chief of Police for initial review and assignment.
- Responsibilities of Supervisors:
- The responding on-duty supervisor must be prepared to spend as much time with the citizen as is necessary for the citizen to fully communicate their complaint. This will provide an initial forum for a citizen to resolve what may not actually be a complaint about a department employee, but rather an inquiry or objection to a department policy or procedure, a law, or the handling of an incident they witnessed or were involved in. The on-duty supervisor should record the contact or take notes to ensure the statement can be later recalled and documented should the matter be investigated.
- If the complainant is physically present at headquarters, the on-duty supervisor will facilitate providing the complainant with a hard copy of the VCUPD-7A form to complete. If the complaint is received by phone the information will be taken over the phone.
- When the supervisor determines that a complaint involves a specific allegation of misconduct and warrants an investigation, the supervisor will elevate the complaint through the appropriate channels.
- Generally, supervisors will process officer complaints, tardiness, insubordination, investigations relating to improper action or conduct, and similar circumstances of a less serious nature that do not require a formal investigation.
- Serious, credible complaints against police employees require a thorough investigation. VCU Police will ensure that sufficient resources are devoted to investigating serious and credible complaints of wrongdoing.
- The supervisor shall ensure that the Chief of Police is notified of any serious allegations, and may contact them for advice or assistance as needed.
- Upon being assigned an administrative investigation, the selected supervisor will request that the involved employee(s) submit their responsive statement relating to the incident or allegation via email. The investigating supervisor will review all incident documentation relevant to the complaint as part of the administrative investigation (e.g., IBR, body-worn camera footage, etc.).
- The reviewing supervisor will look at the totality of the circumstances and make a decision based upon all factors. The standard of proof for administrative investigations is the preponderance of the evidence.
- Following the initial investigation, the supervisor will complete all investigatory information and recommend one of the following dispositions for the complaint:
- Founded – The preponderance of the evidence supported that the alleged conduct did occur and the actions of the officer(s) violated department policies, procedures and/or training
- Unfounded – No verifiable factual basis for the complaint
- Not Sustained - The allegations cannot be proven true or untrue by a preponderance of the evidence
- Exonerated - The conduct at issue occurred but is not a violation of department rules
- For complaints assigned to line supervisors, the investigating supervisor shall forward the completed report, through appropriate channels, to the affected commander within 10 business days of receiving the complaint. If the investigation cannot be completed within 10 business days, the assigned investigating supervisor shall send a written request for an extension, including the justification for such request, to the commander of the affected division.
- The complaint documents shall be submitted to the Executive Assistant for the Chief of Police or their designee for tracking. The Chief of Police will review the complaint packet and, if acceptable, sign the disposition letter.
- The Executive Assistant for the Chief of Police will send the disposition letter to the complainant and file the complaint packet accordingly. At minimum, the complaint packet must contain the following the items:
- The initial complaint
- The complainant’s statement
- The involved officer(s) statement
- The assigned supervisor’s summary and recommended findings
- A copy of the final disposition letter provided to the complainant
- The investigating supervisor will notify the involved employee of the final disposition of the complaint within 7 days of receipt of the final disposition from the Chief of Police or their designee.
- VCU POLICE-7A Complainant Statement
- Written Directive 4-9 Internal Affairs
- Administrative Proceeding Rights (Garrity form)
This policy supersedes the following archived policies:
11/10/2013 - Citizen Complaints and Administrative Investigations