Back in 2004, College Station, Texas boasted a population of 80,214 residents. That year, the College Station Police Department (CSPD) disclosed that their Professional Standards (Internal Affairs) Division processed 67 complaints involving alleged officer or employee misconduct, 8.3 complaints per 10,000 residents.
Flash forward to 2018, the most recent year for which College Station Police Department Professional Standards Reports are available: the department served a population of 122,671 and processed a total of 11 complaints, less than one complaints per 10,000 residents, just 0.9, down 88%.
In Waco, a city similar in size to College Station, the Police Department served a population of 133,321 in 2016, the most recent year for which their Professional Standards and Conduct Reports are available online. In that year, the department assigned 54 control numbers for complaints, just over 4 complaints per 10,000 residents. In the same year, CSPD served a population of 108,895 and processed 18 complaints, just over half a complaint per resident.
The dramatic decline from 67 complaints 15 years ago to just 11 today, as the city added over 40,000 residents, may be the result of of a lack of misconduct for citizens in the community and coworkers in the department to report. However, it must be noted that the City of College Station’s Police Department does not make complaint forms available online or in their lobby.
Obtaining a complaint form recently took one citizen over 30 minutes. He repeatedly asked for a complaint form and was repeatedly dissuaded from filing a formal complaint. Both a police office staffer and a sergeant made several attempts to convince him to file an informal complaint instead, which would not show up in complaint statistics. He was even told at one point that “it might take a while for them to read it…” in regards to the formal complaint process. While many police departments make their complaint forms available and are transparent in regards to the complaint process, College Station seemingly makes obtaining a complaint form more difficult than necessary.
The same citizen who went through a 30 minute ordeal to obtain complaint forms recorded a CSPD sergeant saying that complainants may be “called in” for an internal affairs investigation. Such statements, coupled with the tone of the complaint form, may also tend to discourage complaints.
The CSPD complaint form gives the false impression that complaints must be notarized to be considered:
BEFORE ME, the undersigned authority, on this day personally appeared___________________, who after being duly sworn on oath deposes and says: My name is_______________________ and my date of birth is _______________. I am _____ years old. I have completed __ years of formal education. I do or do not read, write, and understand the English language. I reside at ________________ in the City of________________. My home and mobile phone numbers are _______________________. I am employed by __________________________, located at_____________________________. My employer’s phone number is______________. I have or have not previously complained against an employee. My complaint in this instance is against _________________ regarding an incident at ____________________ on or about the approximate date and time of ______________________. I was or was not arrested. I was or was not issued a citation. My complaint is based on the following information:CSPD External Complaint Form
Furthermore, CSPD asks complainants to sign a special statement indicating that they are aware of the definition of and penalties for perjury:
The filing of a formal complaint against an employee of the College Station Police Department by you institutes an administrative investigation which could result in disciplinary action being taken against the employee(s). Therefore, a person who makes a false statement under oath concerning a complaint filed (as required by Section 614.022, Texas Government Code) against a law enforcement officer , with intent to deceive and with knowledge of the statement’s meaning, is guilty of Aggravated Perjury under Section 37.03 of the Texas Penal Code if he / she has knowledge of the content of the complaint, the purpose of its filing, and the official character of the investigation conducted in connection therewith, and the statement is material.Additional Document CSPD Presents as Necessary to Filing a Complaint
This statement is not legally required to submit a formal complaint in Texas. However, CSPD does not make complainants aware that signing such a statement is not required for their complaint to be processed.
The CSPD forms may have the effect of making the complainant feel that they are the ones who will be investigated, rather than the employee of officer accused of misconduct.
An additional obstacle to filing an effective CSPD Professional Standards complaint is that, to be sustained, a policy violation needs to be cited. Conduct unbecoming, social media policy violations, illegal use of force, political participation in uniform… all of these and more are bases for complaints. They are spelled out in the CSPD Policy Manual. Unlike many cities, Austin among them, CSPD does not publish its policy manual online. This makes citing specific policy violations difficult for the average citizen.