Complaint Procedure

If you are looking to immediately start the process, you can get the complaint process started online at the page File a Complaint Online.  It is important that you keep the following points in mind.


Important Points

  1. Remember, a quality investigation takes time. Please be patient. Your case must be prepared so carefully that it could stand up in court if necessary.
  2. You are protected in your right to file a complaint! It is unlawful for anyone to harass, intimidate, or penalize you in any manner, or otherwise take action against you because you filed a complaint. If you find yourself a target of harassment, call your investigator immediately.
  3. Details are important. Try to remember all details and report them to your investigator. Do not try to decide for yourself what is or is not important. Leave that to the specially trained investigator.
  4. Keep us aware of any changes in your address. We need to be able to reach you at all times.
  5. You will be required to swear or affirm that the information presented is true to the best of your knowledge.

Can I file a complaint?

If you have been the victim or witness of an act of abusive language, harassment, false arrest, false imprisonment or excessive force, or injury allegedly resulting from excessive force caused by a police officer, you may file a complaint.


How long do I have to file a complaint?

It is important that you file a complaint as soon as possible, so that the events are still fresh in your mind.

If you file a complaint of excessive force, you have ninety days from the date of the incident to file.

For filing a complaint on acts of abusive language, harassment, false arrest, and false imprisonment, you have one year from the date of the incident to file.


Where do I file a complaint?

You can file a complaint at the Office of Civil Rights and Wage Enforcement's office located at 7 E. Redwood Street, 9th Fl. Additionally, you can file a complaint at any District Police Station.  For a full list of locations where you can file a complaint, visit the page Where to File a Complaint.


What do I do when I file a complaint?

To file a complaint, you will fill out and sign a form that is witnessed by a notary public. The form has several questions including your name, age, address, the date of the incident, the name of the accused officer, the place of the incident, witnesses to the incident, and a statement of what happened.  Many of the questions that you must answer are similar to the question that appear on the online form located on the page File a Complaint Online.


What happens after I file a complaint?

A copy of the complaint is given to you, a second copy is sent to the Internal Affairs Division of the Police Department.  At this point the Board has three options:

1. Conduct its own investigation simultaneously with the Internal Affairs Division.
2. Not conduct its own investigation and wait to review the completed investigation of the Internal Affairs Division.
3. Choose to not investigate the complaint because it does not fall within the jurisdiction of the Civilian Review Board.

After the investigation is completed, whether by the Civilian Review Board or the Internal Affairs Division, the Board must review the investigation and make one of the following recommendations to the Police Commissioner:

1. Sustain the complaint (the Board finds the charges true, and the Police action was not justified);
2. Not Sustain the complaint (the Board does not find the charges to have been sufficiently proved);
3. Exonerate (the Board finds that the alleged act did occur, but was lawful, justified, and proper);
4. Find that the complaint is unfounded; or
5. Send it to the Internal Affairs Unit for further investigation.

In order to complete its investigation, the Civilian Review Board may request a Civilian Review Board Inquiry Panel Meeting.


What is a Civilian Review Board Inquiry Panel Meeting?

The board may elect to convene an Inquiry Panel to review a complaint because they 1) want to hear first-hand testimony from a complainant, witness or the accused, 2) need clarification of issue(s), 3) desire to ask specific questions of complainant, witness, or accused, or other reasons.  An Inquiry Panel consists of three Board members, one of whom serves as chair.  Panel members are appointed by the Civilian Review Board chair and rotate so that composition of the Panels change and all Board members serve equally.  Board members who are not serving on an Inquiry Panel may submit questions for panel members to ask at the Inquiry Panel Meeting.


What are my responsibilities after filing a complaint?

Once you file a complaint, it is your responsibility to cooperate with the investigating authority. You should make every effort to keep appointments and to provide information as requested.  Remember, your case cannot be processed unless you and your witness(es) follow through with the process.


What is the difference between an Internal Affairs Division investigation and a Civilian Review Board investigation?

Unlike the Internal Affairs Division of the Baltimore Police Department, the Civilian Review Board is composed of civilians representing the nine police districts of Baltimore who may either conduct an independent investigation or review the investigation of the Internal Affairs Division.  The Civilian Review Board investigators are not part of the Baltimore Police Department.


How is the final decision made?

The final decision making responsibility for discipline in any complaint rests with the Police Commissioner.  The Commissioner, however, cannot take final action until he has reviewed the recommendation of the Civilian Review Board.