In addition to investigating misconduct, the PRC seeks to ensure that police policies and practices reflect the needs of the community. An essential function of the PRC is to provide for community participation in setting and reviewing police policies and practices.
Why Should A Complainant File With The PRC?
The PRC is independent of the Police Department and is staffed by civilian investigators. Staff works to ensure that all complaints receive a fair and objective investigation and hearing.
By bringing your complaints to the attention of the PRC, problems with specific officers or policies can be brought to light. Public input is essential to ensuring that the Berkeley Police Department serves the needs of the community.
Who Can File A Complaint?
A complaint may be filed by any person directly affected by alleged police misconduct. You do not need to be a Berkeley resident or a U.S. citizen to file a complaint.
If a criminal case is pending, complainants are advised to consult with their attorneys before filing a complaint.
How To File A Complaint
Complaints may be filed via email (should include your signature), by fax, or in person. For additional information or immediate assistance, you may call the office at (510) 981-4950.
The PRC will mail a complaint form upon request, and you can complete and return the form by mail or fax. You may download the complaint form from our website by navigating to the PRC home page, under Popular Topics, and select Complaints.
All complaints must be completed and should include the date and signature. If a complainant is unable to write for any reason, the PRC Investigator will assist in completing the form.
When Should A Complaint Be Filed?
It is important that complaints be filed as soon as possible after the incident, and they must be filed within 90 calendar days of the incident. If exceptional circumstances prevent filing within this time period, the Commission may extend the deadline an additional 90 days. However, late filing impairs the PRC’s ability to obtain vital information and to receive cooperation from the officers involved.
Important Information About Filing A Complaint
It is to essential to have as much information as possible about the incident when filing a complaint. Important facts may include:
Time, date and location of the incident;
Names and badge numbers of officers;
Names and phone numbers of witnesses; and
Any documents such as photographs, citations, hospital records, etc.
What Happens After You File A Complaint?
The PRC Investigator interviews complainants and determines the specific allegations in the complaint. The officer named in the complaint and witnesses will also be interviewed. Officers are required to cooperate with the investigation. Police reports and other relevant information are obtained. An investigative report is written, and a Board of Inquiry is scheduled.
Within twenty working days of the complaint being filed, the Chief of Police and each officer who is a subject of the complaint are notified that a complaint has been filed. At that point the police department’s Internal Affairs Bureau also begins an investigation.
Boards of Inquiry—The Hearing Process
Boards of Inquiry are composed of three commissioners. They will listen to testimony from the complainant, subject officers, and any witnesses. Both complainants and officers may be represented by an attorney or other representative, but these hearings are not a court of law and participants may elect to speak for themselves. At the end of the hearing, the Board members will deliberate and their decision will be announced at the hearing. Written findings will be sent to the complainant, the officer(s), and the City Manager.
What is the result of a hearing?
The PRC makes findings about allegations in the complaint but cannot make recommendations about discipline of officers. The City Manager makes decisions about discipline after reviewing the findings of the PRC and Internal Affairs. All complaints filed with the PRC become part of the officer’s permanent record, whether or not the allegations are sustained.
In some cases complainants have the option of choosing mediation instead of an investigation and hearing. If the complainant and the officer both agree to mediation, they will meet with a neutral third party and attempt to resolve their differences through dialogue. In appropriate cases this can be meaningful and rewarding than the adversarial process.
When members of the community have a concern about police procedure or practice, but there is no allegation of individual officer misconduct, a policy complaint may be filed. Any person may raise a policy issue with the Commission. The issue will be reviewed and the complainant will be notified about a hearing of the issue before the full Commission. Policy recommendations from the PRC are presented to the City Council, City Manager, the Mayor, and the Chief of Police.
*If 50 or more Berkeley residents file a petition concerning a policy matter, the Commission will hold a special hearing to address the issue.
PRC Community Outreach
The PRC wants to make sure that the community is informed about civilian oversight in Berkeley and how to effectively utilize the PRC process. Please contact the PRC office if you are interested in receiving outreach materials or would like to arrange for a presentation at a school, place of worship, or other community meeting or forum.