I-Team Puts SDPD Complaint Policy To The Test

Undercover Journalist Investigates SDPD Complaint Policy

With nine misconduct allegations in the past two months, the San Diego Police Department is fielding questions about its complaint policy. Some call filing a complaint against a San Diego Police officer too intimidating. The I-Team went undercover to investigate what really happens when you have a problem with the police.

An undercover journalist sent to nine different SDPD stations to ask how to file a complaint about an officer was often asked to reveal the details of the compliant, including the names of any officers involved to non-Internal Affairs employees. Additionally, after her last stop, a police officer who seemed curious about the woman left the buiding to watch her leave the premises.

The I-Team thought some citizens might be uncomfortable with the line of questioning, so reporter Mitch Blacher spoke with Lt. Andra Brown of the San Diego Police Department.

"Is there a level of intimidation?" Blacher asked. "Is there a level of 'hey, maybe I shouldn't tell this officer about another officer?'"

"There could be," Brown said. "That's obviously an individual decision."

Kevin Keenen, the executive director of San Diego's branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, said that filing a complaint is an essential way to keep the police in check.

"They have the power to lock us up, to use violence... and they need to know when that power is being misused," Keenen said.

The ACLU has a problem with what the I-Team found.

"The supervisors and the chief need to get that information about complaints without it being filtered through the guy at the front desk," Keenen said.

Twice the undercover journalist was given a number to call. Only once was it the number for Internal Affairs.

"The officer told me that if something has happened I need to call the non-emergency phone number," the journalist said.

But more often than not we had to talk to a desk officer .

The journalist said about one encounter, "I asked her, 'isn't there any other way?' She said, 'no, you have to give me the information and the name of the officer.'"

"We want it to be inclusive," Brown said. "We understand that a badge and a gun or someone that's in the same profession or the same department can, maybe, be a little intimidating."

The SDPD website has a link to the Police Review Board and the number for Internal Affairs but, when asked, the SDPD said there was no official complaint form online. The I-Team found that other police departments include an anonymous complaint form on their websites.

San Diego police do have a standard form for complaints but those are filled out by officers, not the people complaining. The San Diego Police Department told 10News that every complaint is reviewed by Internal Affairs and that all Sergeants are trained to take complaints.

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