Investigations of police services

What happens after you file a complaint about police officers or policies.

After you file a complaint

When you file a complaint: 

  1. We gather the information we need. We will:
    • Request documents about the complaint (like an incident report)
    • Mail or email a letter to the person who made the complaint (complainant) 
    • Check whether the complaint is eligible for mediation
  2. We investigate. We will: 
    • Interview the person who made the complaint (complainant), the officers, and witnesses
    • Collect evidence like documents and video
  3. We complete the investigation and recommend Findings.
  4. An investigative team reviews the case and the Finding to:
    • Confirm that the investigation was accurate and complete
    • Ensure that the Finding meets Police Commission standards 
  5. If the Finding is Improper Conduct. We recommend Discipline to:
    • The San Francisco Police Chief when the recommended discipline is less than 10 days
    • The San Francisco Police Commission when the recommended discipline is more than 10 days
  6. We mail or email Finding Letters to the complainant and named officers.
  7. We publish Findings in reports. These reports do not include any names. 

Result of your investigation

Investigation results are confidential. You will receive limited information about the results of our investigation. 

Our job is to investigate complaints fairly. All complaints help us recommend policy changes.

About investigators

The Department of Police Accountability (DPA) investigates complaints about police services and policy. We are separate from the police department. We are not police officers. 

We take every complaint made by a member of the public when:

  • The complaint is about alleged police misconduct or improper performance 
  • The complaint involves one or more SF Police Department officers who were on-duty 

We investigate all complaints unless:

  • They are outside of our jurisdiction 
  • The complainant involves SF Police Department officer who was off-duty

Types of complaints

  1. Unwarranted Action - An officer's actions were unnecessary or unrelated to a legitimate police purpose.
  2. Neglect of Duty - An officer failed to complete a required task.
  3. Use of Force - An officer used more force than was reasonably needed to perform a necessary police action.
  4. Conduct Unbecoming an Officer - An officer's rude or inappropriate behavior undermined public confidence or reflected poorly on the Police Department.

Officers must appear when they receive written notice from DPA. If we find that the officer did something wrong, they will receive written charges. 

Officers’ rights

Officers accused by DPA complaints must be given: 

  • Notice of the complaint against them
  • The chance to be heard by DPA 
  • Representation during the investigation
  • Notice of DPA’s findings
Last updated May 19, 2022