© 2024 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

4 things to know about filing complaint with new police Civilian Oversight Board

Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed signs legislation creating a civilian oversight board for St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio | File photo

Updated 9:35 a.m. May 17 with news of first complaint - The Civilian Oversight Board has cleared another major hurdle. On May 9, staff began accepting complaints against St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department officers.

"We're very excited," said Executive Director Nicolle Barton. "We have had a few phone calls already, so we've contacted every one of the individuals and gave them specific instructions on what to do. We're looking for a few people to start coming in."

On May 12, Clara Williams-Norise became the first person to submit a complaint, with the help of Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, and the Coalition Against Police Crimes and Repression. She said a St. Louis police department SWAT team was too aggressive earlier this month when it searched warrant at her home in the Dogtown neighborhhood.

Here's what you need to know if you think you have been mistreated by an SLMPD officer and want to file a complaint.

1. Where to go to file a complaint

The official complaint form isavailable online.  Forms may also be picked up in person at the Public Safety Department (room 401 at City Hall), the COB office (1520 Market Street room 4209) or at the South, North and Central Patrol divisions.

Individuals have to be at least 18 years old to file a complaint. The parent or guardian of a minor can file a complaint on the minor's behalf.

The forms can be mailed back to the COB office, or dropped off in person during normal business hours.

2. Anonymous complaints aren't allowed

"We have to be able to verify who the incident happened to," Barton said. “So if somebody doesn’t have the officer’s name and badge number, for instance, and we have no way of contacting the person that was involved in the incident, we can’t track that back down to see if there was any video available or anything like that."

Everyone who files a complaint will have to provide their name, address and contact information, and sign the form. The forms also ask for a brief description about what happened, and the officer's names or badge numbers if they're known.

3. Your complaint shouldn't disappear into a black hole

Barton said the board's policies and procedures call on its two investigators to contact anyone who has filed a complaint with the COB within five days and acknowledge it's been received. COB investigators are also supposed to provide monthly updates to the complainant.

The internal affairs division gets a shot at the case first, Barton said, but that investigation has to be finished within 90 days. Those findings and evidence are then turned over to the board for review. Barton expects the board to hear its first case in August.

4. Please follow the board's procedures

The board's seven members are all leaders in their community, but Barton would really prefer it if you didn't bring a complaint to them first.

"If a board member listens to a complaint outside of our process, they would have to exclude themselves at the point that we would be reviewing and possibly investigating, so we don’t want that to happen," she said.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.