Discipline & Complaints

Discipline And Complaints

1020.1 PURPOSE AND SCOPE 

This policy provides guidelines for the reporting, investigation and disposition of complaints regarding service provided by this department and the conduct of employees. Except where otherwise provided, this policy shall apply to all sworn members of this department who are subject to discipline for cause. Generally the Commission may discipline the Chief or any sworn subordinate, including suspension, reduction in rank or discharge pursuant to §62.13(5), Stats. Sworn subordinates may otherwise be disciplined consistent with the terms of any applicable labor agreement. Such other discipline may be imposed by the Chief. The Chief or any sworn subordinate disciplined under this policy may have recourse to the Commission’s Grievance Policy.

This policy is intended to be applied consistent with the procedures, rights or status that may be contained in any applicable collective bargaining agreement or policy established by the Sauk Prairie Police Commission.

Non-Sworn Employees are employed at-will and may be disciplined or terminated at any time without notice. Non-Sworn employees who are disciplined or terminated may have recourse to the Commission’s Grievance Policy.

1020.2 POLICY

This department takes seriously all complaints regarding service provided by this department and the conduct of its employees. The Department will accept and address all complaints of employee misconduct in accordance with this policy and applicable federal, state and local law, municipal and department rules and the requirements of the collective bargaining agreement.

It is also the policy of this department to ensure that the community served can report misconduct without concern for reprisal or retaliation.

1020.3 PERSONNEL COMPLAINTS DEFINED AND CLASSIFIED 

Personnel complaints consist of any allegation of misconduct or improper job performance by any department employee that, if true, would constitute a violation of department policy, federal, state or local law, policy or rule. Allegations or complaints may be generated internally or by the public.

Inquiries about employee conduct or performance that, if true, would not violate a department policy, or a federal, state or local law, policy or rule may be handled informally by a department supervisor and shall not be considered a personnel complaint. Such inquiries generally include clarification regarding policy, procedures or the department’s response to specific incidents.

Personnel complaints shall be classified in one of the following categories:

Informal -A matter in which the employee’s Lieutenant is satisfied that appropriate action has been taken by a department supervisor of rank greater than the accused employee. Informal complaints need not be documented on a personnel complaint form and the responsible supervisor shall have the discretion to handle the complaint in any manner consistent with this policy. Supervisors may also recommend additional training to reinforce officer skills or to remediate minor deficiencies.

Formal -A matter in which the employee’s supervisor requests further investigation or in which any department supervisor determines that further action is warranted. Such complaints may be investigated by a department supervisor of a rank greater than the accused employee or referred to the Lieutenant depending on the seriousness and complexity of the investigation.

Incomplete -A matter in which the complaining party either refuses to cooperate or becomes unavailable after diligent follow-up. At the discretion of the assigned supervisor or the Lieutenant, such matters need not be documented as personnel complaints, but may be further investigated depending on the seriousness of the complaint and the availability of sufficient information.

1020.4 AVAILABILITY AND ACCEPTANCE OF COMPLAINTS 

Personnel complaint forms will be maintained in clearly visible locations in the public lobby of department facilities and on the Sauk Prairie Police Department website. Personnel complaint forms in languages other than English may also be provided as necessary or practicable. This policy shall be available for public review upon request

It is the Department’s policy to accept, investigate and resolve complaints by any person regarding the conduct of Department law enforcement officers and civilian employees related to their status as Department employees.

Citizen complaints will not be investigated if the complaint is received more than ninety (90) days after the alleged incident, unless the complaint involves an alleged criminal violation or the complainant can show good cause for not making the complaint within the specified time limit.

The investigation of a complaint will be resolved within sixty (60) days of receipt of the complaint. An extension of this time may be granted by the Chief.

This policy provides a specific procedure for processing a complaint by any person regarding the conduct of a Department law enforcement officer or civilian employee as required by §62.13(5) and §66.0511 (3), Stats. This policy’s goal is to maintain a high quality of police services, to foster a positive relationship between the Department and citizens, to provide citizens with a fair and effective avenue for resolving legitimate grievances against law enforcement officers and Department employees, and to provide Department law enforcement officers and employees due process when a complaint is filed.

Nothing in this policy and procedure shall be construed to limit prerogatives of the Chief or any other supervisory officer to take corrective action against employees whenever appropriate, nor to prevent the Chief, or designee, from taking disciplinary action against an employee, either internally or pursuant to §62.13(5), Stats., whether or not a citizen complaint is filed.

This policy is subject to any rights retained by Department law enforcement officers and employees, subject to the Wisconsin Open Records and Meetings laws.

This department will investigate all false claims made against its law enforcement officers. Knowingly making a false complaint against an officer may subject the complainant to a Class A forfeiture (Wis. Stat. § 946.66; Wis. Stat. § 66.0511 ).

1020.4.1 SOURCES OF COMPLAINTS

(a) Members of the public may make complaints in writing, by e-mail, in person or by telephone.

(b) Any employee of this department who becomes aware of alleged misconduct shall immediately notify a supervisor.

(c) Supervisors shall initiate a complaint based upon observed misconduct or receipt from any source of an allegation of misconduct which, if true, could result in disciplinary action.

1020.4.2 ACCEPTANCE OF COMPLAINTS 

All complaints will be courteously accepted by any employee and promptly given to the appropriate supervisor. Although written complaints are preferred, e-mail and verbal complaints will be accepted by any supervisor. If a supervisor is not immediately available to take a verbal complaint, the receiving employee shall obtain contact information sufficient for the supervisor to contact the complainant. The supervisor, upon contact of the complainant, shall complete and submit the personnel complaint form as appropriate.

Although not required, complainants should be encouraged to file complaints in person so that proper identification, signatures, photographs or physical evidence may be obtained as necessary.

The following should be considered before taking a complaint:

(a) If the complainant is intoxicated to the point where his/her credibility appears to be unreliable, identifying information should be obtained and the person should be provided with a personnel complaint form to be completed and submitted at a later time. However, if an intoxicated person insists on filing the complaint, the complaint shall be taken and properly processed.

(b) Depending on the urgency and seriousness of the allegations involved, complaints from juveniles should generally be taken only with parents or guardians present and after the parents or guardians have been informed of the circumstances prompting the complaint.

1020.4.3 COMPLAINT DOCUMENTATION 

When a personnel complaint form is completed in person, the complainant should legibly write a detailed narrative of his/her complaint. If circumstances indicate that this is not feasible, the complaint may be dictated to the receiving employee. In an effort to ensure accuracy in any complaint, it is recommended that a recorded statement be obtained from the reporting party. A refusal by a party to be recorded shall not alone be grounds to refuse to accept a complaint. Whether handwritten or dictated, the complainant’s signature should be obtained at the conclusion of the statement. The complainant should be provided with a copy of his/her original personnel complaint.

Formal complaints of alleged misconduct that are not reported in person shall be documented by a supervisor on a personnel complaint form. The supervisor shall ensure that the nature of the complaint is defined as clearly as possible.

A supervisor shall document all informal complaints in a log designated for such purpose. The log should include the nature of the complaint received and the actions taken to address he complaint. On an annual basis, the Lieutenant should audit the log and send an audit report to the Chief of Police.

1020.5 INITIAL SUPERVISOR RESPONSIBILITIES 

A supervisor who becomes aware of alleged misconduct or receives a formal complaint shall take reasonable steps to prevent aggravation of the situation.

In general, the primary responsibility for the investigation of a personnel complaint shall rest with the employee’s immediate supervisor, unless the supervisor was involved in or witnessed the alleged incident. The Chief of Police or the authorized designee may, however, direct that another supervisor conduct the investigation. Complaints against the Chief of Police shall be directed to the Police Commission Chairman for appropriate handling consistent with this policy.

The supervisor shall be responsible for the following:

(a) A supervisor receiving a formal complaint involving allegations of a potentially serious nature shall ensure that the Lieutenant and Chief of Police are notified as soon as practicable.

(b) A supervisor receiving or initiating any formal complaint shall ensure that a personnel complaint form has been completed as fully as possible. The original complaint form will then be directed to the Administrative Lieutenant, via the chain of command, who will forward a copy of the complaint to the Chief of Police to take any appropriate action as required.

(c) During the preliminary investigation of any complaint, the supervisor should make every reasonable effort to obtain names, addresses and telephone numbers of additional witnesses.

(d) When appropriate, immediate medical attention should be provided and photographs of alleged injuries as well as accessible areas of non-injury should be taken.

(e) In circumstances where the integrity of the investigation could be jeopardized by reducing the complaint to writing or where the confidentiality of a complainant is at issue, a supervisor shall orally report the matter to the Administrative Lieutenant or the Chief of Police, who will initiate appropriate action.

1020.5.1 REVIEW OF COMPLAINT BY CHIEF OF POLICE 

Upon review of the complaint, the Chief will determine how the complaint will be handled:

If a complaint appears to be based merely upon a misunderstanding or other conduct which does not involve violation of Department policy or would entail disciplinary action less than a formal reprimand if true, the Chief will refer the complaint to the appropriate supervisor to attempt to mediate and resolve the issue without performing a formal investigation. If mediation does not work or the complainant is not satisfied with the results of mediation, the complainant will be given the option of filing a written complaint for formal investigation.

If the complaint involves conduct which constitutes a violation of department policy which would entail disciplinary action in the form of a formal reprimand or greater if true, the Chief will assign the complaint to an appropriate person for investigation. If the complaint is verbal, the Chief will request that the complainant file a formal written complaint before the commencement of an investigation.

If the Chief determines that the complaint is insufficient to support an investigation or mediation (e.g., it is filed after the time limitation or does not include facts required by the complaint form), the Chief will not refer the complaint for further action and will advise the complainant of that fact and the basis for the disposition.

1020.5.2 COMPLAINT INVESTIGATION 

(a) Upon being assigned the investigation of the complaint, the investigating officer shall undertake all steps necessary to make a recommendation to the Chief with respect to the merits of the complaint, including obtaining statements from complainants and witnesses; advising complainants and witnesses that they may have to appear at a hearing; obtaining a detailed written report from the accused employee; providing the accused employee with the opportunity to review the complaint and explain any rights that the employee has regarding the investigation.

(b) The investigating officer shall conduct a fair and impartial investigation, respecting the rights and dignity of the parties involved.

(c) The investigating officer shall comply with the requirements of §164.02, Stats., which provides:

  1. If a law enforcement officer is under investigation and is subjected to interrogation for any reason, which could lead to disciplinary action, demotion, dismissal or criminal charges, the interrogation shall comply with the following requirements: (a) The law enforcement officer under investigation shall be informed of the nature of the investigation prior to any interrogation. (b) At the request of any law enforcement officer under interrogation, he or she may be represented by a representative of his or her choice that, at the discretion of the officer, may be present at all times during the interrogation.
  2. Evidence obtained during the course of any interrogation not conducted in accordance with sub. (1) may not be utilized in any subsequent disciplinary proceeding against the law enforcement officer.

(d) The investigating officer shall inform all Department witnesses that all questions must be fully and truthfully answered as a condition of continued employment and that failure to do so may result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination.

(e) Miranda warnings are not required if the investigation is for internal disciplinary purposes, but a Garrity warning may be required depending on the nature of the allegations.

(f) Upon concluding the investigation, the investigating officer will submit a written report to the Chief which will document the officer’s investigative actions, set forth written findings of facts and provide a recommendation to the Chief as to the disposition of the complaint.

1020.6 ASSIGNMENT TO ADMINISTRATIVE LEAVE 

When a complaint of misconduct is of a serious nature or when circumstances practically dictate that it would impose an unreasonable risk to the Department, the employee, other employees or the public, a supervisor may temporarily assign the accused employee to administrative leave pending completion of the investigation or the filing of administrative charges.

1020.6.1 ADMINISTRATIVE LEAVE

An employee placed on administrative leave may be subject to the following guidelines:

(a) An employee placed on administrative leave shall continue to receive regular pay and benefits pending the imposition of any discipline.

(b) An employee placed on administrative leave may be required by a supervisor to relinquish any badge, department identification, assigned weapons and any other department equipment.

(c) An employee placed on administrative leave may be ordered to refrain from taking any action as a department employee or in an official capacity. The employee shall be required to continue to comply with all policies and lawful orders of a supervisor.

(d) An employee placed on administrative leave may be temporarily reassigned to a different shift, generally within normal business hours, during the pendency of the investigation and the employee may be required to remain available for contact at all times during such shift and report as ordered.

(e) It shall be the responsibility of the assigning supervisor to promptly notify the employee’s Lieutenant and the Chief of Police.

(f) At such time as any employee placed on administrative leave is returned to full and regular duty, the employee shall be returned to his/her regularly assigned shift with all badges, identification card and other equipment returned.

1020.7 ALLEGATIONS OF CRIMINAL CONDUCT

Where an employee of this department is accused of potential criminal conduct, a separate supervisor or assigned investigator shall be assigned to investigate the criminal allegations apart from any administrative investigation. Any separate administrative investigation may parallel a criminal investigation and/or any prosecution.

The Chief of Police shall be notified as soon as practicable when an employee is formally accused of criminal conduct. In the event of serious criminal allegations, the Chief of Police may request that a criminal investigation by an outside law enforcement or prosecutorial agency be conducted parallel to the administrative investigation.

An employee accused of criminal conduct shall be provided with all rights and privileges afforded to a civilian under the state and federal constitutions. The employee may not be administratively ordered to provide any information to a criminal investigator, nor can any information or evidence that has been administratively compelled from an employee be provided to a criminal investigator.

Any law enforcement agency is authorized to release limited information concerning the arrest or detention of a peace officer which has not led to a conviction. However, no disciplinary action shall be taken against the accused employee based solely on an arrest or crime report. An independent administrative investigation shall be conducted based upon the allegations in the report in accordance with department policy .

. 1 COMPLAINANT NOTIFICATION 

It shall be the responsibility of the assigned supervisor to ensure that complainants are periodically contacted with information regarding the status of their complaint. Notifications shall include, but are not limited to:

(a) Acknowledgement of receipt of the complaint

(b) Updates on the progress of the investigation

(c) Final disposition of the complaint

1020.8 DISPOSITION OF PERSONNEL COMPLAINTS 

The Chief shall review the investigating officer’s report and decide upon a final disposition of the complaint. No disposition will be made without affording the employee the opportunity to respond to the complaint. The Chief will inform the employee and the complaining citizen in writing of the Chiefs disposition and basis for that decision.

Each allegation shall be classified with one of the following dispositions based on a finding of fact and considering the totality of circumstances:

Unfounded -When the investigation discloses that the alleged acts did not occur or did not involve department personnel. Complaints that are determined to be frivolous will fall within the classification of unfounded.

Exonerated-When the investigation discloses that the alleged act occurred, but that the act was justified, lawful and/or proper.

Not sustained -When the investigation discloses that there is insufficient evidence to sustain the complaint or fully exonerate the employee.

Sustained -When the investigation discloses sufficient evidence to establish that the act occurred and that it constituted misconduct. Evidence in a sustained complaint will be weighed by a preponderance of the factual evidence standard.

If an investigation discloses misconduct that was not alleged in the original complaint, the Chief shall take appropriate action with regard to any additional allegations.

If an investigation discloses improper job performance that was not alleged in the original complaint, the Chief may take appropriate action with regard to any additional allegations including referring the allegation to the employee’s supervisor.

If the Chief sustains the allegations, the Chief shall take such action against the employee as is appropriate, which may include disciplinary action pursuant to §62.13(5), Stats.

The Chiefs determination is final. However, either party may make an appeal to the Commission to the extent allowed by §62.13(5), Stats. Any disciplinary action taken by the Chief on a citizen complaint shall be reported to the Commission Chair.

The Chief, as part of the written notification of the disposition of the complaint, shall inform the complainant that, if not satisfied with the results of the investigation, the complainant may, within 30 days of the date of such notification, file a written request with the Commission Chair for a formal hearing on the complaint before the Commission. The request for a hearing before the Commission shall include the formal written complaint initially filed by the Complainant.

If the Complainant files a formal written request for a hearing before the Commission, the Commission shall handle the complaint as set forth in §62.13(5), Stats.

A sworn law enforcement officer shall have the right to request a hearing before the Commission pursuant to §62.13(5), Stats., regarding disciplinary action imposed by the Chief which results in the officer’s suspension, reduction-in-rank, or termination from employment with the Department. For discipline less than this level, the officer may seek review pursuant to the terms of any applicable collective bargaining agreement or the Commission’s Grievance Policy.

1020.9 RESIGNATIONS/RETIREMENTS PRIOR TO DISCIPLINE 

In the event that an employee tenders a written retirement or resignation prior to the imposition of discipline, it shall be noted in the file.

The tender of a retirement or resignation by itself shall not serve as grounds for the termination of any pending investigation or discipline.

1020.10 CONFIDENTIALITY OF PERSONNEL FILES

Generally investigations of personnel complaints are confidential and protected employee personnel files. The contents of which are not revealed to other than the involved employee or authorized personnel except pursuant to lawful process.

In the event that an accused employee, or the representative of such employee, knowingly makes false representations regarding any internal investigation and such false representations are communicated publicly, the Department may disclose sufficient information from the employee’s personnel file to refute such false representations.

The investigation file and reports shall be securely maintained by the Lieutenant for the period required by the department’s record retention schedule.

1020.11 SUSTAINED COMPLAINTS 

Before being placed in the employee’s file, the employee will have an opportunity to read and initial the comment or document. If the employee submits a written response, the response will be attached to the comment or document.

The employee will receive a copy of any comment or document placed in the employee’s file.

A copy of the disposition of the allegation of misconduct and a copy of the notice or adjudication of any punitive or remedial action will be the only documents related to the investigation which will be placed in the employee’s file.

If punitive action is taken, the employee or a representative authorized by the employee may, except as otherwise prohibited by federal or state law, review any administrative or investigative file maintained by the Department that relates to the investigation, including any recordings, notes, transcripts of interviews and documents.

The investigative findings in sustained investigations shall be maintained in the employee’s personnel file for the prescribed period. Complaints which are unfounded, exonerated or not sustained shall be maintained by the Lieutenant apart from the employee’s personnel file.

Disciplinary action taken against an employee shall be reported to the Police Commission.