Making Police Compliants That Stick


Making Police Complaints that Stick
The only way to make sure that your complaint against a police officer gets into their personnel file is to make the complaint directly to Internal Affairs:

By telephone or in writing to * SDPD Internal Affairs Unit: * 1401 Broadway, MS 709, San Diego CA 92101 * (619) 531-2801 Complaints made to the Citizens Review Board do not make it into the officers' personnel files unless they are marked as "substantiated" after an investigation. This means that if you have no witnesses or other evidence to support your allegations against a police officer, the complaint will very likely have no effect on that officer. Even if they do make it into the officer's personnel file, it can take a lot longer to get there than a complaint made directly to Internal Affairs.

Citizen complaints against officers in their personnel files can aid in the defense of people who arrested by those officers in the future. Defense attorneys file what is called a Pitchess motion when they allege that an arresting officer has acted illegally in a way that is relevant to their client's defense. If they win the motion, and there are complaints in that officer's personnel file for the same unlawful behavior, they may call the people who made the complaints to testify against that officer(s).

If you were a victim of, or witnessed, unlawful police behavior such as, but not limited to: brutality, excessive force, unlawful detentions or arrests, prolonged detention (being held for too long under the circumstances), racism, theft, coerced confessions, violations of police protocols, or unlawful searches, please call or write Internal Affairs. If you call, be prepared for the officer on the other end to be dismissive, but if you are firm about them taking their complaint, they have to put it in the officer's personnel file and there is an automatic investigation. The Internal Affairs rep will also ask for witness contact information. After you make the complaint, there is a possibility that you will have the opportunity to testify against that officer(s) for the next five years, or possibly longer.

If you need help with filing a complaint, or have questions about whether an officer's behavior was unlawful, please contact Adriane Bracciale at or

Topic revision: r1 - 25 Jan 2012, RaymondLutz
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