The Merrillville Police Department is committed to maintaining the integrity of its employees and accountability to the public. Each year the department receives hundreds of letters, telephone calls and personal visits from citizens who wish to commend the actions of many officers and civilian employees. There are, however, occasions when a citizen contacts the department for the purpose of registering a complaint concerning the conduct of an employee. The policy of the Merrillville Police Department is to accept and resolve citizen complaints in a manner which will demonstrate the department’s commitment to professionalism.
Complaints involving the issuance of a traffic citation or a criminal arrest must be resolved by the court.
HOW TO FILE A COMPLAINT!
The Merrillville Police Department accepts formal complaints in person from any person who alleges misconduct by a department employee. The complaint should be made by the person involved, his or her attorney or, in the case of a juvenile, a parent or guardian. Complaint forms may be obtained at the Merrillville Police Department.
WHEN AND WHERE MAY A COMPLAINT BE FILED?
A complaint may be filed at any time, however, those filed in close proximity to the time of an incident improve the investigator’s chance of gathering factual information. Complaints may be filed at the Police Department, 7820 Broadway 24 hours a day. Hours of the Department Administration are 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
WHAT DOES THE DEPARTMENT DO WITH COMPLAINTS?
The commander of an employee involved will review a complaint to determine the department’s response. The commander may decide to resolve the complaint by informal means if the complaint is such that the employee involved would not likely be disciplined. If the complaint is more serious in nature, a formal investigation will be conducted. Action taken by the employee’s commander is reviewed by the Office of the Chief of Police.
WHAT ARE INFORMAL AND FORMAL INVESTIGATIONS?
Complaints investigated informally involve a supervisor talking to the person making the complaint, any witnesses and the employee involved. The supervisor summarizes the incident and gives the results of the inquiry to the responsible commander. In cases where it is determined the complaint is valid (a violation of department rules has occurred), the commander has the authority to issue written or verbal reprimands, order re-training or counsel an employee. The commander can also make a determination that the complaint is invalid. The department considers a complaint to be invalid in situations where taking action against an employee cannot be justified. Examples of invalid complaints are: an employee and a citizen have conflicting statements where no witnesses exist who can corroborate either version; the complaint involves the issuance of a traffic citation or a criminal arrest (these matters must be resolved by the court); the complainant asks to withdraw the complaint or the complaint is proven; however, no rule violation has occurred. If the informal inquiry reveals the complaint is of a more serious nature than originally reported, the commander may choose to have a formal investigation conducted. Formal investigations are more detailed in nature in that they involve tape recorded statements, the collection of pertinent records and/or the use of forensic tools (voice stress, handwriting or other types of laboratory examinations, etc.). Completed formal investigations are reviewed by a commander who makes a recommendation to the Chief of Police concerning the appropriate outcome.