Bret Putnam/S.F. Examiner file photoThe Office of Citizen Complaints released a study that says both officers and citizens believe the complaint process is flawed — but they disagree on who it favors.

Bret Putnam/S.F. Examiner file photoThe Office of Citizen Complaints released a study that says both officers and citizens believe the complaint process is flawed — but they disagree on who it favors.

Citizens and cops alike not pleased with police watchdog agency

Officers and those who file complaints against them are not satisfied with San Francisco’s civilian watchdog agency tasked with investigating allegations of police misconduct, according to a recent study by the Office of Citizen Complaints.

Police who were the subjects of complaints said 41 percent of the time that they were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the OCC process, according to the report. Those who filed complaints were dissatisfied 42 percent of the time.

On the other hand, 39 percent of officers and 27 percent of complainants said they were satisfied with the agency.

“What it says to me is that when you have a situation that is adversarial, that it is difficult for either party to feel satisfaction,” said Joyce Hicks, executive director of the OCC, adding that it’s hard to please people whose complaints were not sustained or not found to involve wrongdoing.

As for officers, she said they can be unsatisfied whether complaints against them are sustained or not.

Of the 708 cases closed in 2014 by the OCC, 58 were sustained, according to the report. The agency also received its second-lowest number of complaints in 22 years, with 728 new cases opened.

The OCC acts as the bridge between civilians and the Police Department, Hicks said. Not only does it investigate complaints, but makes policy recommendations and attempts to keep the department accountable.

About 1,504 complainants and 2,419 officers were asked to fill out the survey between September 2011 through March 2013 after their cases were closed, but only 6 percent of them responded — 98 citizens and 136 cops.

The more than three-decades old OCC decided to survey its workers after a scathing 2007 audit recommended a customer satisfaction survey, among major changes to management and staff, Hicks said. She was not the agency’s head at the time.

Hicks said she also realized through the survey that citizens did not understand the process and felt they needed updates on their cases. As a result, the OCC plans to send out a newsletter to complainants and create a handout that explains the process in writing.

Survey highlights

The complaint process is biased in favor of police
61: Citizens agree or strongly agree
12: Citizens disagree or strongly disagree

The complaint process is biased in favor of citizens
57: Police agree or strongly agree
13: Police disagree or strongly disagree

Other results
37: Citizens dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the objectivity of the complaint investigator
38: Citizens satisfied or very satisfied with the objectivity of the complaint investigator
54: Citizens dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the OCC considering their views before making a decision on the complaint
23: Citizens satisfied or very satisfied with the OCC considering their views before making a decision on the complaint

Source: Office of Citizen ComplaintsBay Area NewsCrimeCrime & CourtsOffice of Citizen ComplaintsPolice MisconductSan Francisco Police

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