Civilian Complaints

California Penal Code 832.5(a)(1)
Each department or agency in this state that employs peace officers shall establish a procedure to investigate complaints by members of the public against the personnel of these departments or agencies, and shall make a written description of the procedure available to the public.

A relationship of trust and confidence between members of the San Bernardino Police Department is essential for effective law enforcement. Officers must be free to exercise their best judgement and to initiate law enforcement action in a reasonable, lawful, and impartial manner, without fear of reprisal. Enforcers of the law also have a special obligation, under the constitution of the United States to respect the rights of all persons. The San Bernardino Police Department acknowledges its responsibility to establish a system of complaint and disciplinary procedures, which not only subject the officers to corrective action when they conduct themselves improperly, but also protects them from unwarranted criticism when they discharge their duties properly. It is the purpose of these procedures to provide a prompt, just, open, and expeditious disposition of complaints regarding the conduct of members and employees of the police department. The San Bernardino Police Department welcomes constructive criticism of the department and valid complaints against its members or procedures. We hope you will never need to make a complaint about police services in San Bernardino. However, should this become necessary, you can be assured your complaint will be given full and complete consideration.

Who can file a complaint?
Any person who feels that a San Bernardino Police Department employee has engaged in misconduct.

How do you file a complaint?
You can file a complaint by submitting the attached form, or at the Police Department, in person, by telephone, or in writing. A Citizen Complaint form can be mailed to you if requested.

How is a complaint handled?
Normally the Watch Commander or Field Supervisor will receive a complaint. The first thing they will do is conduct a recorded interview with the complainant to ensure there is a good understanding of what the complaint is about and who is involved.

After the information is obtained, an investigation into the complaint will be conducted. Depending on the complexity of the complaint it may be handled by the Watch Commander or Field Supervisor. If the complaint cannot be thoroughly investigated at that level, it will be forwarded to the Professional Standards Bureau for further investigation.

Once the complaint has been investigated and the appropriate action taken, the complainant will receive a letter notifying them of the results. California law prohibits the department from disclosing details of personnel investigations and any disciplinary action taken. The following is a list of dispositions given to complaints:

Sustained - the allegations are supported by the evidence.

Not Sustained - there is insufficient evidence to prove or disprove the allegation.

Unfounded - the allegation is not supported by the evidence.

Exonerated - the incident occurred and was lawful and proper.

False Complaints
You should be aware that a Peace Officer, under provision 47.5 of the California Civil Code, may bring civil action against an individual who knowingly makes a false personnel complaint against a Peace Officer.