Payment plans now available. Click here for more information.

How To Report Police Misconduct

Herlinda Castagnoli
Herlinda Castagnoli USC Gould School of Law, 1L/Rising 2L
Herlinda Castagnoli graduated from Loyola University New Orleans in 2019 with a double major in Music Performance and Political Science.
Police car driving, How to Report Police Misconduct

When dealing with the police – whether you’re talking to officers, stopped by officers for a traffic violation, or arrested for a crime  – you have certain legal rights.  


When those rights are violated, you can file a complaint against the officer(s) involved. 


Complaints can be made through your local police department or with the Department of Justice (DOJ).


How do I file a complaint? 


According to, you can simply walk into a police station and file a report of officer misconduct.


But obviously, you may not feel comfortable doing so. 


Written reports can be either a letter or a complaint form.  Complaint forms are often available at the oversight agency, local police station, or online. 


In most places, you can also email a complaint, or send it through the postal service. 


Experts suggest using Certified Mail so you can prove it was received. 


To find all of your options, perform an Internet search for “police misconduct (name of your town).” 


However you send it, maintain copies of what you’ve written for personal records. 


Do I go to my local police or the Department of Justice? 


Complaints made to the Department of Justice are done when you are planning to take legal action against the police. 


Complaints made to the police department most often result in punishment or reprimand from the officer’s superior. 


What can you file a complaint against the police for? 


You can file a complaint to the DOJ for the following

  • Physical Assault 
  • Sexual Misconduct 
  • Deliberate Indifference to a Serious Medical Condition or a Substantial Risk of Harm 
  • Failure to Intervene when a fellow officer violates a person’s constitutional rights. 

Here are some common examples of misconduct that can be reported to your local police agency as listed by

  • Rudeness 
  • Excessive Force 
  • Soliciting or Accepting Bribes 
  • Drinking on Duty 
  • Harassment 
  • Deprivation of any person’s constitutional rights 
  • Making a false report 
  • Use of narcotics (on or off duty) 
  • Discrimination 
  • Altering information on an official document 
  • Careless driving 
  • Racial or ethnic intimidation 
  • Malicious threats or assault 
  • Sexual harassment 
  • Unjustified arrests 
  • Discriminatory traffic stops 
  • Criminal police misconduct 

What should the complaint say? 


Once the incident has taken place, you should write down everything that occurred immediately. You will want your description to cover the who, what, when, where, and how/why components. 


Be specific about the details. Clearly describe what happened from the beginning of the encounter to the very end, i.e. what the police officer looked like, who was there to witness the incident, what were the witnesses' names, what did they look like, what were the exact words used, what were the exact actions that took place, how did these actions take place, what was the location, and what was the time of day.


If possible, document the badge and car number of the officer. However, time of day, location, and description are often enough to identify the officer on duty. 


If there were any witnesses to the incident, you will want to request that they document an account of what they witnessed. It will be helpful to your case if they file their own complaint. 


Submit a copy of any video, audio, or picture that can corroborate your story. Keep the original for your own records. 


How should the police respond? 


The police should respond within 30 days. 


You should receive one of the following responses: 


1. Sustained


The investigation proves some or all of those allegations made in the complaint. 


In this instance, one of the following actions will occur to punish the officer: 

  • formal written reprimand
  • disciplinary probation
  •  time off without pay
  •  reduction of salary rate
  •  demotion and/or discharge. 

2. Not Sustained

The investigation failed to prove or disprove the allegations made in the complaint. 


3. Exonerated

 The investigation proves the acts did occur but that they were lawful and proper.



 The investigation did not prove that the allegations made in the complaint actually occurred. 


Sometimes, complaints do not get the desired response. But know that you did well.


All complaints are kept on file, which can be useful if someone else files a complaint against the same officer(s). 


If you want affordable legal advice about an experience you had with law enforcement, feel free to contact Court Buddy.

Legal Disclaimer

Court Buddy is here to connect you with an experienced and trusted lawyer who can help you at an affordable rate. The company assists with the management of your case and lawyer relationship. Your lawyer will assess your legal issue in a timely and confidential manner, explain why you need or do not need a lawyer, and only charge you for the legal services performed and associated out of pocket fees. This article is intended to convey general information and does not constitute legal advice.


Ready to get started? We’re here to help.

Related Blogs

  • Niki Brown
  • |
  • 02 July, 2020
How To Golf And Fish Safely During Covid-19

As states re-open and warm weather prevails, you may be itching to to get back to golfing and fishing.  Across the nation, most golf cour...

  • Sona Sulakian
  • |
  • 02 July, 2020
Food And Bar Service Rules For Face Masks In California

The deteriorating COVID-19 situation in California has prompted Governor Gavin Newsom to order restaurants in 19 counties (including Los Angeles ...

  • Carlee Sutera
  • |
  • 01 July, 2020
Texas Prisons And The Coronavirus: What You Or A Loved One Need To Know

Covid-19 is stronger than ever in certain states. Texas has their  highest hospitalization rates since the pandemic began. As of Jun...

  • Sona Sulakian
  • |
  • 01 July, 2020
Once There’s A Coronavirus Vaccine, Will We Be Legally Required To Get It?

Last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that he fears a Coronavirus vaccine may not be enough to achieve herd immunity because so many Americans o...

  • Zoey Ellis
  • |
  • 30 June, 2020
Alert! It's The Last Day Of Pride Month. Support These Organizations.

The clock is ticking on Pride Month. Here are 6 organizations that are working to protect LGBTQ rights and spread awareness.  If ...

  • Trang Nguyen
  • |
  • 30 June, 2020
DACA Continues. What Does It Mean For Dreamers Who Are College Students?

On June 18th, 2020, The Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration cannot immediately end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals prote...

Hablamos Español

Hablamos Español

Still have questions?

Call us toll-free at (866) 653-3017 to speak with a Client Success Specialist today.

Hablamos Español

Hablamos Español

Overall great experience from beginning to end! On the plus, I won my case!"

Overall great experience from beginning to end! On the plus, I won my case!"

Jonathan R, California

Court Buddy made it easy for me to handle my tough court case. I feel like I'm not alone."

Court Buddy made it easy for me to handle my tough court case. I feel like I'm not alone."

Silvia S, California