A free email newsletter breaking down the issues that affect Kansans and Missourians the most.
Delivered every Tuesday and Thursday morning
If you’ve been abused or mistreated by a Kansas City Police Department officer, you can file a complaint with the Office of Community Complaints, a civilian oversight agency charged with investigating and resolving complaints.
In 2020, the office received 235 complaints. Of those complaints, 147 were formally investigated. Officers can be held accountable for actions that fall into six categories: bias-based policing, discourtesy, excessive use of force, harassment, improper conduct and improper procedure.
However, the process can be cumbersome. The Kansas City Beacon has put together a guide to submitting complaints — including how soon you should file a report, what to expect out of the investigation and what your responsibilities are as a complainant.
- Who can file a complaint?
- Whom can I file a complaint against?
- Where can I file a complaint?
- How long do I have to file a complaint?
- What are my responsibilities after filing a complaint?
- Is there a guarantee my complaint will be investigated?
- Who will investigate my complaint?
- Is there an alternative to having my complaint investigated?
- How can I keep up with the progress of my complaint?
- Can I file a complaint in other languages?
Who can file a complaint?
Anyone who experiences abuse or mistreatment by a KCPD officer can file a complaint. This includes people who are currently incarcerated and people currently charged with a crime.
Witnesses to abuse can file a complaint, but it will not be investigated unless the person directly harmed also files a complaint and cooperates with the investigation.
Youths 17 and younger can file a complaint, but if they have to sign an affidavit or be formally interviewed, an adult must be present.
Whom can I file a complaint against?
The Office of Community Oversight specifically handles complaints about KCPD employee conduct. It will not investigate allegations against the Johnson or Jackson County sheriff’s departments, for example.
An officer’s badge number or license plate number are not required to file a complaint. The more information you can provide about when and where the incident occurred, the easier it will be for the office to determine which officer you interacted with.
Where can I file a complaint?
There are 11 locations in Kansas City to file complaints in person. It also can be done online.
Four community partner locations are not a part of the Police Department — the Office of Community Complaints, Ad Hoc Group Against Crime, Northland Neighborhoods Inc. and Westside CAN Center.
How long do I have to file a complaint?
A complaint has to be filed within 90 days of the incident in question, and the office recommends the sooner the better.
Complaints lodged after 90 days will not be investigated, unless the office’s executive director accepts it. Complaints lodged after one year will not be investigated under any circumstances.
What are my responsibilities after filing a complaint?
To start an investigation, the Office of Community Oversight will interview the person who filed the complaint. If you don’t respond to requests for an interview through phone or mail, your complaint will be closed without further investigation.
The office may also close the investigation if the complainant does not provide further information upon request.
When contacted by the office about the complaint, they will also ask you to confirm how you’d like them to proceed.
Is there a guarantee my complaint will be investigated?
No. The Office of Community Oversight has the authority to designate whether a complaint warrants an investigation. Noninvestigated complaints can occur for a number of reasons, including:
- When the complaint is anonymous
- If the complaint is obviously not a violation of department policy
- When legal action has been filed by the complainant
In 2020, the office received 88 complaints that weren’t investigated.
Who will investigate my complaint?
If the office determines that a complaint should be investigated, it is passed on to the Internal Affairs Unit of KCPD. Once IA has investigated, they will hand over their findings to the Office of Community Complaints, which verifies the investigation’s findings.
There are three categories a complaint can be filed into once investigated by the Office of Community Oversight: sustained, not sustained and exonerated.
Sustained means the investigation found a violation of department policy.
Not sustained means there wasn’t enough evidence to come to a conclusion.
Exonerated means either the incident didn’t occur, or it did occur but didn’t violate department policy.
Is there an alternative to having my complaint investigated by the Internal Affairs Unit?
When you are contacted about your complaint, the office employee will ask you for guidance on how you’d like to proceed. There are two alternatives to an Internal Affairs investigation: mediation and conciliation.
Mediation is a process where the officer and the complainant talk and come to a resolution without an investigation. Either party can decide they’re unsatisfied with the mediation result, but a complainant cannot request an investigation after going through mediation.
Conciliation is when the complaint is sent to the officer’s supervisor, instead of the Internal Affairs Unit, who conducts a smaller investigation into the issue.
If you’re interested in pursuing either mediation or conciliation, inform the office when filing a complaint.
How can I keep up with the progress of my complaint?
You can view the status of your complaint online by using your tracking number.
Can I file a complaint in other languages?
The office has downloadable forms in Spanish and Vietnamese (also available below). In addition, the website — kccommunitycomplaints.org — can be translated into dozens of other languages, including Chinese, Hindi and Spanish.