Learn about the OPO's complaint investigation process
Complaint specialists in the Office of Police Oversight (OPO) independently review every complaint and follow the investigation process described here. Complaints are formally investigated when they show a potential violation of Austin Police Department (APD) policies.
Here’s what to expect:
Investigations could take up to six months to complete and may require one to four hours of your time over the course of those months. Our office will contact you with an update monthly. At the end, you will have the option of a close-out meeting to discuss the outcome of your complaint in detail.
Your complaint will be investigated by a sergeant in Internal Affairs (IA), a division of the Austin Police Department (APD), and overseen by the Office of Police Oversight (OPO).
1. The OPO receives your complaint
A complaint specialist in the OPO reviews your complaint, including any available video, audio, or other evidence. Then we send the information to IA.
2. IA begins an investigation with the OPO
IA reviews the complaint and classifies it according to APD’s policy and employee manual.
Class A complaints include, but are not limited to:
• Criminal conduct
• Serious policy violations
• Conduct that could damage the Police Department
Class B complaints include, but are not limited to:
• Policy violations such as profanity, belittling language, inadequate police service, or minor traffic violations
• Negligent damage or loss of property
• Negligent crashes
Class C complaints are not policy violations, but the officer might need training to handle the situation better.
Class D complaints are not policy violations because the evidence shows they are false.
• Administrative Inquiries are ordered by the Chief or their designee, generally for issues that could damage the Police Department.
• Supervisor Referrals are used when the complainant requests to speak with a supervisor.
• Citizen Concerns are used when a complainant contacts OPO with a concern, often anonymously. OPO then sends it to IA for investigation and further classification, if deemed necessary.
If you provided your contact information and requested we follow up with you, a staff person with the OPO will contact you within two to four business days.
3. If necessary, the Chief of Police determines the outcome, which may include disciplinary action
The nature of your complaint will determine if any policy change or disciplinary action occurs.
The decision is categorized according to APD’s policy and employee manual.
• Sustained: The evidence supports the allegation.
• Exonerated: The evidence supports the allegation, but it was not a policy violation.
• Unfounded: The evidence does not support the allegation.
• Inconclusive: The evidence isn’t enough to either support the allegation or exonerate the officer(s).
• Administratively Closed:
All of the following are true:
(a) There were no allegations or there was no misconduct.
(b) It was classified as a Class C or Class D complaint.
(c) At the discretion of the Chief or their designee. This category is also used when the officer(s) retired or resigned during the investigation.
4. We notify you of the outcome
We notify you of the outcome via email or mail. If the officer in question received a suspension of one day or more as a consequence of your complaint, we will include their disciplinary memo describing the circumstances of their suspension. We will also offer you the option of a close-out meeting to discuss the outcome with the director and a complaint specialist from the Office of Police Oversight, as well as an interpreter if you requested one.
How we store and use your data
When you file a complaint against an Austin Police Department officer, any information you share will be kept confidential, unless and until an event causes it to be made public. This could include the case going to criminal court, which means it could be subject to discovery. In such cases, we redact any contact information if it was provided, but not the names.
Your complaint is automatically emailed to you and the Office of Police Oversight and stored on a Microsoft Exchange server. It is then reviewed by a staff person in the Office of Police Oversight, then manually entered into a database shared with Internal Affairs, a division of the Austin Police Department. For purposes of trend reporting and analysis, we enter non-anonymous complaints into a separate Sharepoint database.
We also use your data to find trends and patterns in complaints and thank yous, and make policy and training recommendations to the Austin Police Department accordingly.