Five before Midnight

This site is dedicated to the continuous oversight of the Riverside(CA)Police Department, which was formerly overseen by the state attorney general. This blog will hopefully play that role being free of City Hall's micromanagement.
"The horror of that moment," the King went on, "I shall never, never forget." "You will though," the Queen said, "if you don't make a memorandum of it." --Lewis Carroll


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Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Sunday, July 03, 2005

How to utilize the complaint process

Let's say that you wish to file a complaint against an RPD officer and you want to know the procedure. Well, here it is:



The following information is provided by the ACLU:

What to do if police stop you

Identifying the subject officer(s):

Things to help you ID the officer if he or she is not helpful at self-identification or refuses to provide names and badge numbers:

Name tag Not easily read, either at night or in bright sunlight, that is if the officer's even wearing it.

Badge: The number imprinted on it is the officer's identifying number, more easily read than an ID tag.

Physical Description: Race, gender, height, build, hair color(if there's hair), eye color, type and model of sunglasses, facial hair, scars, facial marks, tattoos(triceps, calves, ankles)

Vocal: Tone, Volume, speech impediments, regional or national accents, word usage.

Time/location of incident:The officer is required to give his location to the dispatcher, when on break, making a stop or at a call. However, the more inappropriate the incident, the less likely the officer would have recorded his or her location.

Squad Car: Look for the four digit number, on the rear, and one side of the vehicle. The first digit is always a "3". Also, the license plate, the presense or absense of a siren and whether there is an insigna or writing on the outside that indicates whether it is being driven by a member of the canine unit, or the METRO team.

If you can not get identifying information on officers in cases where multiple officers are involved, then try to focus on the officer who you have the most contact with, and is the subject of your complaint. Also, try to find the identity of the sergeant assigned to supervise the involved officers and whether or not he or she was onscene during the incident, if you do not know this information. This is important to know now, because you may discover that this sergeant has been assigned to do the personnel complaint investigation.


Under departmental policy, all patrol officers and their supervisors are required to carry digital audiorecorders. Under this departmental policy, they are required to activate their recorders at ALL officer-initiated professional contacts whether traffic stops or pedestrian stops. Failure to do so constitutes violation of said policy(wink, wink) but it is unknown whether any officer has ever been disciplined for failure to activate his or her recorder for the duration of the encounter.

There are currently 13 vehicles equipped with digital video recorders. These are activated during pursuits and when the officer leaves the vehicle. They can also provide audio recording for a certain distance away from the officer's vehicle.


As soon as you are able to, write down the details of your experience or dictate them into an audio or video recorder while your memory is fresh. When new information surfaces in your mind, add that information to your detailed account. If you have any injuries, i.e. bruises, red marks from handcuffs, scrapes, etc. document them by taking photographs. Even if the department takes photographs of your injuries, take your own independent photographs when you are able to do so.


You can go to the following locations to pick up a complaint form:

1) CPRC office, Sixth Floor at City Hall, 3900 Main st. (near 10th st.)

2) RPD administrative headquarters, 4102 Orange St. (1 block east of courthouses)

3) Lincoln Field Operations Station, Lincoln st. near Adams(just look for the building without windows)

4) Internal Affairs Division, 3400 Central, adjacent to 91 freeway overpass, 2nd floor

OR you can file a complaint over the phone, call:

1)CPRC office: (951)826-5509

2) Police Russ Leach: (901) 826-5940

OR you can file a complaint online:

online complaint form

You should have little difficulty obtaining a complaint form from any of these locations, as the department is in the final year of its stipulated agreement with the state and eager to make a good impression on those who are auditing their systems including the citizen complaint process. If anyone refuses, obstructs or applies conditions to you regarding access to a complaint form or the process for any reason, then they are in violation of departmental policy and the department could be in violation of state law and this person can be reported to the consultant who is in charge of overseeing the stipulated agreement.

A separate complaint form is required for each officer listed as a subject of the complaint. The form is on carbon paper and makes copies which will be sent to the involved officer(s), the supervisor of the officers and the Internal Affairs Division.

Provide names and contact information of witnesses. File your paperwork at the location which feels most comfortable to you. Ask for a copy to be stamped with the time and date the complaint has been received by either the police department or the CPRC office.

WARNING: the officers who are the subject of the complaint will be able to access your personal information including date of birth, address and contact phone number so think carefully about whether or not you want to include your personal contact information. If you do not, then ask an uninvolved friend or family member to provide that information for your use. The inclusion of the complaintant's personal information on forms accessible by the involved officers has been challenged in policy recommendation form by the Community Police Review Commission but the police department rejected this recommendation, finding no compelling reason to not release this information to these officers.

If you disagree with this decision to continue to release personal information on complainants to involved officers:

Contact: Chief Russ Leach and tell him so, at:

(951) 826-5940 or email him at:

Officers usually do not harass or attempt to contact complainants because most of them want to be on their best behavior while being investigated. Other officers have no interest in harassing complainants. Unfortunately, occasionally there are exceptions. In the past, officers have even taken people who have filed complaints against them to jail as punishment. If an officer does try to harass, intimidate or contact you during the complaint process, initiate a separate complaint against him for this misconduct and go to the civil court and file a restraining order against this officer. It will of course never be granted by a judge in Riverside County Superior Court but it will send a message to the department that you are not to be harassed because you filed a complaint against an officer.



After you file your complaint, you will receive a letter in the mail from the Internal Affairs Division acknowleging that they have received your complaint and have assigned it to be investigated. The letter will start out, with text that states how many contacts the department's officers have had with members of the public and how overwhelmingly, these contacts have been positive. Well, this might be true, but it has nothing to do with what has happened to you. Do not be distracted by this attempt to make it appear as if there must be a problem with you, if the overwhelming number of contacts by police with the public are positive. This is the first of what may be several attempts by the department to dissuade you or discourage you from filing your complaint, but just remained focused in terms of your complaint.

You may be asked to sign paperwork which is optional in relation to the civil or criminal penalties that can be levied against you if you knowingly file a false complaint. No one should ever file a complaint that is false. If you are standing with truth on your side, then you will be fine if you sign these documents.

The complaint will be assigned to a sergeant, who either works in the Internal Affairs Division or more likely, to a field sergeant or watchcommander who works in the Field Operations Division, where the vast majority of complaints arise. The Internal Affairs Division investigates internal investigations initiated by other officers and also performs administrative reviews of incustody use of force incidents, including shootings. Its representatives actually handle very few citizen complaints, even though the department has been strongly encouraged to increase the proportion of its personnel complaints investigated by the Internal Affairs Division. Chief Leach has responded by saying that the department does not have enough sergeants to assign to all the personnel complaints. That may very well be true, but that is not the complainant's problem.

The other option is if the CPRC chose to independently investigate citizen complaints. It has this power according to the city's charter, but statistically, the private investigating firm retained by the CPRC is only assigned to look into about 1% of all complaints.

At any rate, you will be contacted by the investigator to set up an interview most of the time. Your witnesses may or may not be interviewed. According to policy, ALL witnesses listed on a personnel complaint form are to be interviewed, but in actuality this does not occur. The reason why, is because the complaint process is built to help the officer who is being complained about, NOT the person who is filing the complaint. If you remember one thing during the entire process, this needs to be it.

Interview tips

When you set up your interview with the investigator, there are some things that you need to do, and one thing you need to remember. The RPD complaint process is an adversarial system, and you are considered the adversary to all parties involved in the complaint including the investigator.

What you need to do is set up the interview in a location of your choosing Do NOT agree to meet the investigator at the Internal Affairs Division. Agree on a location that feels most familiar to you, and one where you feel comfortable. The investigator should agree to this, but if he does not, then call Lt. John De La Rosa at (951)751-3500 and tell him to set the supervisor straight. There is no policy that states that the investigator has the right to state the location of the complaint interview, but do not be surprised if one will try on your case. Be prepared.

Bring at least one witness to your interview, both to be an independent set of eyes and ears, and to be moral support for you. An investigator is less likely to intimidate you, or try to do so, if there is someone else present. This is especially important if two investigators tag-team your interview, which happens in complaints involving major allegations or those which are politicially sensitive for the department and the city.

Record the interview. The investigator will be recording it, for professional purposes. You need to do like, so that at least one unabridged copy of your interview exists. This protects you.

Request that the investigator conduct the interview in plain-clothes. If you do not do this, he or she will show up in uniform for the interview. According to departmental policy, a uniformed officer is the first level of force used against a civilian. That is usually its purpose during the interview as well.

Always be calm, polite and even-tempered. This won't be easy, because these interviews can be stressful enough, because by relating the officer(s)misconduct, it causes you physiologically and emotionally to relive it. That's normal. If the officer behaves inappropriately and baits you with questions, remarks or asks leading questions, remain polite, and remember you have it on tape. If you feel the investigator behaved inappropriately or exercised bias against you during the interview or defended the officer, then file a separate complaint against him with Internal Affairs, with a copy of the recording as evidence.

If possible, contact your witnesses on the complaint to ensure that they have been contacted by the department for their interviews. Often, the complaint investigators fail to interview all the witnesses on a complaint despite the fact that departmental policy 4.12 requires them to do so. If your witnesses have not been contacted, then call Lt. John De La Rosa at (951)751-3500 and tell him to set the supervisor straight.

After your interview is conducted, you will not hear from the investigator again in most cases. You should however call him or De La Rosa from time to time to check on the progress of your complaint.

Once you have been interviewed, then the witnesses on your side will be interviewed, along with the witnesses on their side(usually other officers) before the final witness is interviewed, which is the officer(s) who are the subject of the complaint. Your statement will be accessible to that officer(s) ONLY if the allegations on the complaint are sustained against him, her or them.

Upon completion of the investigation, the complaint will go up the chain of command within the police department for evaluation and review. The material in the investigation will also go to the CPRC office for processing before it is presented to the CPRC for discussion. The executive director of the CPCR and the commissioners are able to send the complaint back for further investigation or research if they have questions or find problems with the process. After this is done, you will receive a letter from the CPRC giving you a date when your complaint will be discussed in closed sessions which are held the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. This gives you an opportunity to appear before the CPRC to comment on your complaint before the closed session.


The CPRC will meet at least once to decide the findings for the allegations on your complaint. Then those findings will be sent to the City Manager's office, along with the department's findings and the city will make the final decision. If both sides come up with similar findings, which they do about 99% of the time, then the city will usually side with both entities. If there's a split decision which has occurred less than 25 times in four years, then the city will probably choose to side with the department.

Actually, although the CPRC is a process where decisions are made by a civilian body, abeit one that is top-heavy with people coming from law enforcement backgrounds, do not be surprised if you receive a sustained allegation from the city based on what the department decided, rather than what the CPRC decided. Most civilian forms of oversight have sustain rates that are lower than those of the departments they oversee.

When the city makes its decision, they will send you a letter in the mail with the allegations and findings. They will of course, not tell you which officer received which finding on which allegation, if multiple officers are involved. You need to use your own powers of deduction to sort it all out.


Each finding will have one of four dispositions. Here they are, and what they mean, in order of frequency.

Unfounded: The most common finding, unfortunately. It means that after perusing all the evidence, it is determined that the incident did not occur. Remember, you are dealing with two entities, the department and the CPRC, who want to give "good" officers the benefit of the doubt. If two of the officers deny something happened, and both of them failed to turn on their recorders to back them up(oops) then that means it did not happen. According to CPRC Chair Michael Gardner, most of the complaints fall in this category.

This finding will be kept not in an officer's personnel file but a separate storage area for posterity sake.

Exonerated: It happened, but the action was legal, justified and proper. In the words of CPRC Chair, Michael Gardner, it means that the complainant experienced something legally done to them, but just didn't like what is happening. What it also means, but no one tells you, is that although the action might be wrong, the departmental policies are so poorly written that there are none that cover this type of behavior so the officer who does it can not be held accountable for his or her actions.

This finding will be kept not in an officer's personnel file but a separate storage area for posterity sake.

Not sustained: After perusing the evidence, no determination of guilt on an allegation can be made. With the advent of the digital audiorecorders, this finding has increased greatly. This probably means that they are not being used as often as they are required to be.

This finding will be written down and placed in an officer's personnel records for a period of five years in accordance to state law.

Sustained: The officer committed the misconduct. This is the rarest finding and basically only happens if the officer admits the behavior. Of course, there are instances where the officer can admit to the misconduct and still receive a finding of "unfounded" particularly on discourtesy complaints.

This finding will be written down and placed in an officer's personnel records for a period of five years in accordance to state law.

Another possible finding is Misconduct Noted which is given when a policy violation is uncovered which was not originally part of the complaint. It is treated the same as a sustained finding.



if the officer receives a sustained finding, then the chief of police has the option of disciplining that officer. The officer then receives a copy of the entire investigation and prepares for the disciplinary process. He or she can receive the following forms of discipline either individually or in combination:

Written Reprimend This is the most common and consists either of a written memo outlining the misconduct and the reason why the reprimend is written. It can also simply be a fill-in-the-blank sheet with a check list where "written reprimend" is checked off.

Training For some sustained allegations including policy violations, discourtesy or excessive force, the officer might be sent to receive more training. When Chief Leach first came on board, he said that training was the most common form of discipline he handed out. However, statistics did not back him up, showing that he actually handed out very little training, and lots of written reprimends. His reaction was to stop allowing the public to access this statistical data.

suspension Time off from work without pay, from one work-day to three years of work-days as occurred in the case involving disgraced Det. Al Kennedy.

transfer The officer is transferred to another assignment or if in patrol, another location

termination of employment The officer is least for a couple of years before an arbitrator reinstates him. Then he either comes back to work or wins a free retirement.

demotion The officer is demoted as part of his discipline to a lower rank.

And last but not least....

Promotion This may seem contraindicated to most folks who are sane and possess common sense, but certain officers are above being disciplined even if they commit gross misconduct. These officers quite naturally, are promoted instead. It happens. I know.

If you think this process is grossly ineffective or unfair, it just means that you are smart and you are definitely not alone. Fortunately, there are other options...

Additional Tools:

Small Claims Court: People have successfully sued the Riverside Police Department in Small Claims Court, in relation to incidents involving excessive force. In one case involving officer Dave Ruddy, the plaintiff was awarded $500 by the judge who ruled that the officer had used excessive force against him after he had been handcuffed.

Citation:Jerome Burrel v the city of Riverside(MVS136950)

Minute order:

11/24/1999 - 8:00 AM DEPT. 07



Filing in Small Claims Court

for cases of retaliation upon filing a complaint:

civil temporary restraining order forms


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't forget to mention to these fine people, how cops can also do the same to them if there is a false complaint!!!!!!!! $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Monday, November 21, 2005 8:39:00 PM  

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